Natasha Lyonne is on fire! With three films having opened in the past week, and many other projects in the works, her star will not be burning out any time soon. Catch her now in Clea DuVall’s Intervention, Kevin Smith’s Yoga Hosers, and Anitbirth which she both produced and starred in alongside longtime friend, Chloë Sevigny. In addition to her latest releases, just finished three films for Netflix including David Wain’s A Futile & Stupid Gesture, Handsome opposite Jeff Garlin and Amy Sedaris, and Girlfriend’s Day co-starring Bob Odenkirk. Natasha is also currently co-producing an upcoming series with Amy Poehler for BBC America entitled Zero Motivation. Earlier this week she surprised us by appearing as the lead in Against Me!’s new music video “333.” Not only a fantastic screen actress, Natasha hit the stage alongside Ethan Hawke in The New Group’s Off-Broadway production of Blood from a Stone. She is also, of course, still starring as beloved character Nicky Nichols on the hit Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, proving that you really can do it all.
In between her incredibly hectic schedule, the Emmy nominated actress managed to squeeze in a photo shoot for The Untitled Magazine with photographer Tina Turnbow, and an interview with editor-in-chief Indira Cesarine on her latest projects, creative process and how she finds time for it all! Read the full interview below:
IC: You are insanely prolific lately. You have two films opening both on September 2nd, which sounds vastly unusual for any actress to have two on the same day. Can you tell me about Antibirth, which you’re starring in alongside Chloë Sevigny and which you also produced?
NL: Antibirth has been a long time passion project of mine. Admittedly my passions run to the out-there and obscure but in my opinion this movie is a very good time. I think Chloë and I are very proud of it and the fact it really happened and is coming out in the world. It’s sort of a cult film and I don’t know if it’s gonna be everybody’s favorite movie but the people that are gonna love it are gonna love it like crazy. Which is great, I certainly believe in that kind of interactive experience with the arts.
IC: What’s the film about?
NL: Well, [Danny Perez] wrote it for us and he’s a really interesting guy. It’s a bit of a commentary on American consumerism and the toxic nature of addiction and how we’re all sort of impacted by that. The way he tells that story is in a very exciting fashion, which is really through a rude, really toxic system and the character I play and her toxic system and the pregnancy that ensues.
IC: Your character, Lou, can you tell me about who she is, what her role is in the film and her relation to Chloë?
NL: I only studied three people to get into character; Dustin Hoffman as Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy, Denzel Washington in Training Day, and some of the performances of Sam Kinison. She’s like beyond self destructive, she really could not give a fuck. She’s eating junk food and drinking slurpees while doing a pregnancy test that she is dreading taking because the worst news she could ever have is that she might be pregnant. She’s definitely self aware enough to know that she would not make a great mother. Chloë plays her best friend and side kick who actually is a single mother and ends up becoming a dark force in Lou’s life. Very unlike our real friendship where Chloë is the safest haven I have in this world.
IC: That’s great that you were able to work together on this. How long has the film been in production?
NL: We’ve been trying to get it made for almost 5 years. It’s a long time coming. It’s really out there so it’s not an easy to movie to get financed. Certainly, Orange Is The New Black really helped of course. So, I’m really grateful for that.
IC: You were recently nominated for an Emmy for your role on that show, right?
IC: So tell me about Yoga Hosers, that’s such a funny name. It must be a comedy, I hope.
NL: Yeah, it’s Kevin Smith! It’s a bit of a spin on a movie he made a couple years ago called Tusk that had Justin Long becoming a walrus. Johnny Depp plays the same character in both and the movie is really about two young girls that have to fight a bratwurst nazi in a local Canadian version of a 7-Eleven. It’s really out-there and I was so excited to get to work with Kevin Smith and also Tony Hale who I’m a huge fan of. I got to play his girlfriend, sort of trophy bride. That was really fun because he’s so great. I have a small part in the movie but it was a very fun, different kind of character for me. I don’t know if there’s anyone funnier than Tony Hale walking around. We had these semi-sex scenes that were a pretty good time. Which is how you want a sex scene to be and even real sex to be – a pretty good time.
IC: And your film Intervention…
NL: Yeah! Clea DuVall wrote, directed, produced, and starred in the movie.
IC: That came out this week already?
NL: Yep, and people seem to be responding to it really well which is really rewarding for me because Clea is my best friend. It’s thrilling to see. She wrote it for Melanie Lynskey who is the star of the movie and is incredible and easily one of the best actresses of my generation. I’m a huge fan of hers and she’s brilliant in the movie where she stages an intervention on a very unhappy couple, Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza. They are finding that they need to get a divorce and they go away for a weekend. I play Clea’s girlfriend and Clea won’t commit to me in a real way. Clea is Cobie’s sister. It was great, we all got to get together in Georgia in the dead of summer. I don’t recommend going there then, it’s very hot and not my ideal weather! But it is very much my ideal cast. Melanie and I couldn’t handle how profound it was to watch Clea get these standing ovations from audiences at Sundance, we were just like….weeping. When you’ve been so close with people that are such great talents and not always recognized…I mean there’s only like 6 people that get consistent mainstream recognition and pay for their work. So, when you see someone you know and have always known as your favorite person really get their day in the sun, especially for something she made and not only acted in, it’s just like the most thrilling, satisfying, life-affirming experience. It’s the dream that you get to work with the people that you share both aesthetics and deep love for.
IC: You also just wrapped three films for Netflix. I don’t know how you have time to do all of these projects!
NL: First of all, I’m for sure, deeply grateful. Make no mistake. I’ve definitely had some very dry spells in this career that has been going on since I was six! Thirty one years I’ve been doing this. It just takes one Frank Langella autobiography to discover that it’s a common thing to have dry spells and hot patches. So I’m very aware of what both sides feel like and I’m super, deeply grateful that I seem to be getting a lot of work now. More than that, work where I get to be a part of the creative force which is especially thrilling to me as I’m growing up in this business. The Netflix movies are all awesome. One of them is with Jeff Garlin where he plays a detective named Handsome, and he wrote the part for me, I’m his detective partner. Amy Sedaris is in it who I’m a huge fan of, meeting her was so thrilling. I was in total awe.
The other one is the story of the history of National Lampoon [A Futile & Stupid Gesture]. I love David Wain who’s the director of that and there’s really special actors in it as well. I play Ann Beatts who’s a real person, one of the first female writers of SNL and of course, National Lampoon. Will Forte stars in it with Domnhall Gleeson. It’s a great movie. The Bob Odenkirk movie, I have a really small part in that, it’s just a couple of scenes with him. I definitely identify with Odenkirk and Garlin, both. I’m excited about the idea of writing themselves roles as detectives. My dream role for sure is Marlowe, Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye or Jack Nicholson in Chinatown. I would prefer to be Elliott Gould or Jack Nicholson but I mean if I looked like Faye Dunaway I would certainly be happy to play her. As it stands Philip Marlowe is the dream role, it always has been for me. Elliott Gould in The Long Goodbye is one of the best things ever. I think both Bob and Jeff saw the great stuff in that. They are very different movies but both really, really special. The thrill of getting to work with people that you’re such a huge fan of is really exciting and I got to do a lot of that during this hiatus and it’s really been a dream getting to sit on set and watch idols perform and working with them. Hopefully I will slowly keep getting to be a better player.
IC: Tell me about the series you are co-producing called Zero Motivation, about women in the Israeli defense forces. That sounds fascinating.
NL: [Zero Motivation] is really such a great movie, I can’t recommend strongly enough to watch the film. Talya Lavie directed and wrote it. It’s a movie I saw when I was on the jury at the Tribeca Film Festival a few years ago, I was so obsessed with it. It was like witnessing Wes Anderson for the first time or something. It was really so special, hilarious and heart-wrenching. We’re gonna turn it into an American show for the BBC and Amy Poehler loved the movie too so we started working on it together. Hopefully it’ll really come together. It’s probably a few years off still, but it’s so special and I really hope that people get to see it.
IC: Sounds like a really intense project.
NL: Well, I don’t know that it’s so intense. That’s what’s brilliant about it. It’s a great point of view. It’s kind of like the British show The Office meets the army. It’s girls working on an Israeli army base. It’s a really exciting project to get to work on and I’m thrilled I get to work on things I find inspiring with such talented women, I mean that project is full of them. Talya Lavie is involved, the writer/director of the original, and Amy [Poehler]. I’m lucky that she’s my friend but she’s also somebody that I look up to so much in this life – she’s just the best person ever. Tami Saghar who’s working on it and writing it is incredible. It’s just been a really special project to get to be a part of.
IC: You also do a ton of stage work. You played alongside Ethan Hawke in an off-Broadway production not too long ago? Do you prefer stage or film?
NL: That’s a few years ago now, but it was great. It was at the New Group where I also did this Mike Leigh play a few years before that. I really don’t have has much experience doing theatre by any stretch as I do movies, I really grew up with movies. I dropped out of Tisch as a film major from a philosophy major. I always had an eye on filmmaking in whatever capacity but doing plays is really so helpful for me to re-ignite my passion for acting. The way to get a lot done in this business is to check your ego at the door. It’s a business riddled with ego as most events in life are, but the way sanity mixes in with it really turns the entire experience into self-expression ass opposed to inspiration and multi-tasking. I think that OITNB was a very helpful turning point for me – wearing those uniforms and being surrounded by all kinds of women on a show run by Jenji Kohan who’s like the ultimate puppet master and such a giant brain. There was something about doing theatre and then going into OITNB that really set the tone for this kind of second chapter of acting and being in this business where it’s really more about insides rather than outsides. Once that happened I found that I had a lot more time to do so many more things. Not to say that I was ever a super outside space person but I think one of the joys of not being a teenager, or in my early twenties, is having that responsibility being removed of just being the girl all the time. You know just getting to be a person and a creator and participant rather than just an actress for hire which is exhausting and needs a lot more down time. It’s much less of a head trip to do it this way so you can get a lot more done.
IC: You’ve also had a huge rollercoaster ride with your health. You had open heart surgery! How has that impacted your life? Has it given you inspiration and a new lease on life having survived such a dramatic health scare?
NL: Well, it wasn’t really a health scare, as odd as that sounds, it was more of a planned, organized thing so it felt more like a procedure than like a high-stakes episode. Luckily we’re dealing with modern technology and great doctors, the most miraculous part of that was not really missing a beat. As far as my previous stuff…obviously it’s been well documented, all of my history with drugs, etc. The great news for me at this point is that I can’t believe how much time is going by that it isn’t the main story of my life anymore. We all go through our own ride and in many ways mine is very literal but we certainly all have our own experiences in this life, it’s like the nature of a life or a childhood or whatever – is having to figure out how to be people. The good news of it all is coming out the other side and now there’s a degree of perspective, and more than that the attitude and awareness that things aren’t always hunky-dory. Feeling like staying in a state of inspiration as best I can is very fulfilling for me. All I really know is how to communicate in the arts, it’s the only language that really makes sense to me and gives me a little sense of belonging is reading books that I love and watching movies I love and listening to music I love. I find it a really grounding and exciting thing to do with my life, and like I said I have a real sense of perspective of how fortunate it is to be on a hit TV Show and have two movies coming out with my two best friends in the world. I have exciting projects lined up and I get to go to a spin class every day like it’s no problem, you know? It’s a nice thing. It’s really important for me to be in the moment about it all and not get too lost thinking about the past or the future especially when there’s so many exciting things to show up for in the here and now.
Interview by Indira Cesarine
Photography & Makeup by Tina Turnbow
Stylist: Thomas Carter Phillips
Hair by Matthew Monzon