- “Orange Is the New Black” star Natasha Lyonne has a new show premiering on Netflix on Friday called “Russian Doll.”
- INSIDER spoke with co-creators Lyonne and Leslye Headland ahead of its premiere about the show’s inspiration and how the show came to have all female directors and a writer’s room comprised of all women.
- Lyonne tells INSIDER it kind of happened by accident, but she hopes it allowed them to “make something original” as a result.
“Orange Is the New Black” star Natasha Lyonne has a new show coming to Netflix Friday, “Russian Doll,” and the dark comedy was written and directed completely by women.
“It was an incredible way to work and it was very important to me,” Lyonne told INSIDER. “We had Amy [Poehler] and myself as writers early on and then we had this incredible triangle when we found [co-creator] Leslye [Headland], we really kind of found the brain trust.”
From there, Lyonne said having an all female writers’ room on the show, which follows her lead character reliving the same birthday party over and over again, was kind of just a coincidence.
“We sort of had accidentally just chosen [women]. These shows work in blocks, so this one’s getting three episodes [to direct] and this one’s getting three episodes,” said Lyonne. “The true sort of accidental joy of doing it was how quickly gender disappears once you’re surrounded by incredible women – that they end up accidentally creating something that’s far more human than it is a gendered caricature of the world.”
“Russian Doll” isn’t the first show to boast an all-female writer’s room. BET’s “Hit the Floor” and Amazon’s “I Love Dick” are among several other shows that were written completely by women. Some of the other writers and directors involved in “Russian Doll” include playwright Jocelyn Bioh and Jamie Babbit, who Lyonne worked with on 1999’s “But I’m a Cheerleader.“
“One thing that I think is great about having an all female writing and directing team is that when you’re making a show like this one, where the female protagonist’s wants and needs are not based in, basically, their relation to a man, or straight male culture, or men’s influence on them, meaning it isn’t about finding a romantic partner, it isn’t about balancing parenthood and motherhood. It isn’t about trying to infiltrate a workforce where almost in every industry we’re underpaid and underrepresented,” co-creator Leslye Headland told INSIDER.
She continued, “Those are all worthy themes, but I think when you’re dealing with a show about a female protagonist that’s coming from a deep, kind of existential or spiritual place, and that’s where her conflict is, there’s a shorthand between female writers and female directors, that’s just because they have that experience of being a human in the world with those wants and needs and feelings, that you just don’t have to explain.”
“One thing that I find, even with the most supportive and open-minded male producers or filmmakers, is that a lot of the times I do have to explain to them that the way I feel about a particular theme, or protagonist’s actions, or whatever it is, that I have a particular problem with it because of ‘X,'” Headland said.
She continued, “Even if it’s coming from the nicest place of, ‘I’m sorry, can you explain that to me?’… It’s because the way that I define my journey as a human being is not necessarily in the construct or within the parameters of what your experience as a man is … [With a female writer’s room], I can basically skip that step and say, ‘You guys understand what I mean, right?’ And they’re all like, ‘Yes,’ and we can move on. I think that’s what happens when people are allowed to tell their own stories from their own point of view, regardless of their race, gender, or sexual orientation, or the way they identify.”
“Russian Doll,” named in part after the tiny stacking dolls, explores the depths of Nadia’s (Natasha Lyonne) psyche as we slowly learn more and more about her history and what makes her tick. Headland talked through the idea with Poehler and Lyonne for almost a year and a half before the series was pitched to Netflix.
Lyonne herself also directs an episode of the series.
“On this show, Natasha, this is not her first time directing, but her first time directing TV. I was like, ‘Oh wow, I never would have thought to do that.’ Part of the freeing aspect of that is not having someone standing over you going like, ‘Look, this is the way things are done, and you have to do it this way,’ said Headland of working with all female directors and writers. “Yeah, it’s just very freeing in a way.”
“I think we were really lucky to get to collaborate and work in this way and, hopefully, people feel like we got to make to make something original as a result,” said Lyonne.
All eight episodes of “Russian Doll” will be available to stream on Netflix starting Friday. You can watch a trailer for the show below.
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