Natasha Lyonne and other members of the cast of “RUSSIAN DOLL” discuss Netflix’s twisty new show at the show’s in New York
Premiering on Netflix on February 1st (the day before Groundhog Day) is the new series Russian Doll. On her 36th birthday, Nadia leaves her party with a guy and is hit by a cab while crossing the street when she sees her missing cat. After dying, she comes to at the same party. Escaping from the madness of it, Nadia attempts to figure out what happened. But after dying AGAIN, she wakes up at the same party AGAIN and starts off a twisty and fun comedy/mystery that will have you guessing. Nadia is played by Natasha Lyonne, who also works as the writer, director, and creator of the show on top of starring in it. Russian Doll is also created by Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland, with a cast of some of the best talents New York’s comedy and acting scenes have to offer.
At the Russian Doll premiere at the Metrograph on January 23rd, The Knockturnal spoke with Lyonne herself, as well as with three other actors in the series about what goes into the show and what it’s like to work on something that is designed to keep you guessing from start to finish.
The Knockturnal: You worked in a writers room of mostly all women—
Natasha Lyonne (‘Nadia’/Writer/Director/Creator): All women.
The Knockturnal: All women, thank you. And the directors were all women too.
Natasha Lyonne: Yup, all women.
The Knockturnal: That’s great. What was it like to have and be in control of such a women-forward project?
Natasha Lyonne: I mean, it’s an incredible way to work. I think it sort of did happen in some ways by coincidence. They were just the most ideal people for the job. It was always going to be Leslye [Headland] and myself who were directing and then bringing in Jamie Babbitt, who of course I’ve worked with on But I’m a Cheerleader, who I adore. From there we knew we wanted Jocelyn Bioh, who wrote that incredible play Schoolgirls, to be one of our writers–she also has a cameo in the show. And it just slowly started evolving into this female forward project. And I think Amy Poehler and Paper Kite [Poehler’s production company] have really been at the forefront of really stressing that organically, and I think there’s something about that process that oddly creates a much more human character, certainly for a women where gender is no longer in the conversation, it is just an experience that we’re having.
The Knockturnal: You play Natasha Lyonne’s mother in flashbacks, right? What is it like playing an outlandish and troubled character?
Chloë Sevigny (‘Nadia’s Mother’): Yes! You know, Natasha is my close friend and she said that this part really informs who her character is in the show, and there’s a lot of weight to it even though she only appears briefly. So I just wanted to bring some gravity to her character and to show what shaped and formed her and who she really is. And I respect the project and the writing and everybody involved. So I came and I tried to do my best.
The Knockturnal: From Last Days of Disco to Zodiac to Lean On Pete to this, you’ve worked with some amazing filmmakers and on some amazing projects. What gets you to want to work on something, to want to play a role?
Chloë Sevigny: Usually it’s the other people involved, like the directors like you said, more even than the character. Just the overall project. That’s something that I’ve consistently strived towards, [working with] the people I’m inspired by, be it writers and directors or other actors involved in the project. You know, I love Netflix, I did Bloodline with them, and Natasha’s a close friend of mine. They’re making interesting original programming that’s challenging, and so it’s kind of the total package this time.
The Knockturnal: What else are you working on now?
Chloë Sevigny: I’m doing a show for Hulu right now called The Act with Patricia Arquette and Joey King, and that airs in March.
The Knockturnal: What can you tell us about your character in the show?
Ritesh Rajan (‘Faran’): My character, his name is Faran and he runs a local deli that the main characters frequent. So Natasha’s character is always coming in, she’s a regular, and Charlie’s [Charlie Barnett, who plays Alan] character and I are best friends. Our paths kind of intersect, so as the days repeat, the onion slowly starts to unravel and you go “OH!” There’s a lot more than meets the eye. I’m really looking forward to the audience going on this spiritual journey with us.
The Knockturnal: The show has been under wraps for a while, not revealing too many of the secrets of what was going on before the trailer was released. How did you keep from spoiling the show yourself?
Ritesh Rajan: You know, for me, it wasn’t specifically hard. I had to do all of my shoots at night. So during the day, I didn’t have time to talk to people because I was asleep [laughter]. So I lived the vampire life for a few months, so no one was communicating with me, I wasn’t communicating with anyone. But no, I was just very excited for people to see the show and I didn’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone.
The Knockturnal: What are you most excited for audiences to see from the show?
Ritesh Rajan: Without giving away too much, I just think that it’s a very smart show. Everyone has so much character and punch and color, and it’s just a lot of heart. And it’s very funny, it’s got that New York-vibe. The tone is spot on.
The Knockturnal: You play the young version of Natasha Lyonne. Did you work a lot with her?
Brooke Timber (‘Young Nadia’): Yes, because she was the older version, so I had to see how she was doing when she was older, so I had to do what she was doing when she was younger.
The Knockturnal: Are you looking forward to seeing the Russian Doll premiere?
Brook Timber: Yes, definitely… I’m very excited.