Natalie Portman Is Trapped in a ’60s Crime Nightmare in Lady in the Lake Trailer

by Claire Valentine

Mikey Madison and Natalie Portman in 'Lady in the Lake'
Apple TV +

As Reese Witherspoon once wisely said, women’s stories matter. That’s clearly what Natalie Portman thinks, too, as the actress has found her next role in Lady in the Lake, a surrealist seven-part limited series drama centered on a 1960s Jewish housewife and her struggle to solve a crime and rediscover her dreams of being a writer.

The series is based on the 2019 novel of the same name by Laura Lippman, who was inspired by two real-life murders that happened during her youth in Baltimore. One was of a young white Jewish girl whose death was widely publicized, while the other was of a young Black woman whose disappearance and murder were largely ignored by the mainstream press.

According to a description for Lady in the Lake, when the disappearance of a young girl on Thanksgiving Day grips the city of Baltimore, the lives of two women converge on a fatal collision course: Maddie Schwartz (Portman), who seeks to shed her secret past and reinvent herself as an investigative journalist, and Cleo Johnson (Moses Ingram), a mother navigating the political underbelly of Black Baltimore while struggling to provide for her family.

The first trailer for the series, below, shows Maddie becoming increasingly obsessed with Cleo’s death, putting her at odds with her husband and her otherwise buttoned-up life. “I saw you once, Maddie Schwartz,” Ingram’s Cleo says in the trailer. “Before any of this began, I saw you. Alive, I was Cleo Johnson. But in my death, I became the lady in the lake. Your writing dreams ruined your life. Now, you wanted those same dreams to rewrite it. But why did you need to drag my dead body into it?”

Lady in the Lake appears to be a dark thriller with no easy answers (and plenty of Mid-century looks and pillbox hats). Most recently, Academy and Golden Globe Award-winner Portman starred opposite Julianne Moore in Todd Haynes’s Mary Kay Letourneau-inspired melodrama, May Decembera film that despite its campy comedy also had a sinister edge.

Ingram’s role was originally set to be played by Lupita Nyong'o, who exited the project in 2022. Ingram, who is from Baltimore where Lady in the Lake is both set and shot, was nominated for an Emmy for playing Jolene in 2020’s hit miniseries The Queen’s Gambit.

Alma Har'el created and directed the series, whose cast also includes Mikey Madison (from Cannes hit Anora), Y’lan Noel, Brett Gelman, Byron Bowers, Noah Jupe, Josiah Cross, and Pruitt Taylor Vince. Lady in the Lake will premiere on Apple TV+ with two episodes on July 19.