It’s been three whole years since audiences experienced the psychedelic dramedy of “Russian Doll,” but, if the rapturous response to the Netflix show’s Season 2 trailer is any indication, fans are more than ready to jump into a new adventure with the show’s co-creator, executive producer, director, writer, showrunner and star Natasha Lyonne.
“It’s scary releasing trailers and things like that, because you’re trying to figure out the right amount [to show], if you want people to be able to go in cold,” Lyonne told Variety at a rooftop celebration for the show at Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel on Friday night. “And yet, there’s a thirst, a hunger that dictates that this is the way that we do things.”
The clip in question reintroduces Lyonne’s onscreen alter ego Nadia Vulvokov, who’s emerged from the first season’s purgatorial storyline only to find herself transported back to 1980s New York. “The universe finally found something worse than death,” Nadia says. “I broke time.” Later, when a mysterious character asks if she’s a time-traveler, she quips, “I prefer the term ‘time prisoner.’”
The many questions beginning to flood the trailer’s comments include: What has Charlie Barnett’s Alan been up to, other than growing that new mustache? Who is “Schitt’s Creek” star Annie Murphy playing? And who is the mysterious woman who pops up as Nadia says, “Inexplicable things happening is my entire modus operandi?”
“I do really enjoy the interactive element of the whole thing,” Lyonne said of all the speculation. “It’s fun being a part of something that people watch. They interface with the show, and that’s very satisfying in a way, because it makes you feel like they’re really watching the work.”
“I’m just excited for them to see what we mean by ‘Crazy Train,’ because we’re not kidding,” she quips, adding the two words she’d use to tease the arc: “Choo choo.”
To take the analogy one step further, if “Russian Doll” is a runaway locomotive, Lyonne is the conductor.
The show’s first season was a massive commercial and critical hit, earning three Primetime Emmy awards, plus 10 more nominations, including Lyonne’s nods for outstanding lead actress, writing and comedy series. That level of success could create a lot of pressure, but Lyonne says that the “Russian Doll” crew is a bit looser this time. And while some of us are still laughing at that “time prisoner” crack in the trailer, she promises more stellar one-liners to come.
“I’m always saying in the edit, ‘Remember that people have cell phones, and they’re not afraid to use them,’ so I like to try to keep it jazzy and keep it moving,” she explained. “One of the things I do is fill in the spaces with ADR. One of my favorites this year, was, apropos of nothing, I say, ‘What are these? A couple of John Candies?’ about some pills, and it really makes me laugh. There’s moments like that throughout this season that are unexpected to all of us.”
Of stepping back into Nadia’s shoes after so much time away, she commented, “It’s a funny thing. She really fits me like a glove. In many ways, I feel like, whoever this person is, with the black clothes and the smoking and the big hair, it’s sort of like I’d been building her for years.”
But because of the number of jobs Lyonne holds in the production, the experience is made up of a Russian doll’s worth of perspectives.
“When I’m in the writers room, I’m much more of a stressed out person who looks tired and worn down,” Lyonne noted. “In prep, all of a sudden it’s that person, but with a lot of parkas, because directing loves parkas and sneakers.”
“Then this third character emerges — now I’m inside of Nadia and it’s go time,” she continued. “It’s always such a trip, because at first, I’m feeling out the spaces of her, and then I realize that the joy of the character is there’s so much room to make big and small choices. And then, in the edit, this hobgoblin emerges who just lives on Sweetgreen.”
Lyonne directed the first season’s eighth episode, “Ariadne,” but this go-round she’s directing about half the show’s time-turning seven hours. Fellow executive producer Alex Buono took on the other half of the season.
“I love him so much,” she gushed of Buono. “I always tell Alex, ‘I know that you have your life and you have a best friend, but just know that you’re my best friend.’ Because I don’t think I’d ever been able to get quite to the end of a thought so concretely as I was able to with Alex. There was something so special about our partnership this season. There’s these things that we wanted to do, and we actually made them happen, so he’s incredible.”
Lyonne was joined for the rooftop party by “Russian Doll” co-creator and executive producer Amy Poehler. As guests sipped on the night’s custom cocktail — the aptly named “Russian Doll,” a twist on the Moscow Mule — the pair mingled with colleagues and friends including D’Arcy Carden, Colman Domingo, Brett Gelman, Gaby Hoffman, Miranda July and Abbi Jacobson.
Also on hand for the celebration were Ambyr Childers, Glenn Danzig, Thomas Dekker, Brett Dier, Ronan Farrow, Kristen Hager, Matt Jones, Alexis Knapp, Hayley Law, Tom Payne, Danielle Perez, Elena Rusconi, Madison Shepard, Olivia Scott Welch and Anne Winters.
The second season of “Russian Doll” begins streaming April 20 on Netflix.