Natasha Lyonne interview: ‘Russian Doll’
Natasha Lyonne has peeled back another layer in the mind-bending saga of “Russian Doll.” Returning for its second season three years after the first, the show picks up with Nadia finally removed from the time loop she was stuck in but finding a train that allows her to travel back in time and rewrite the past for the benefit of her family. However, she eventually finds that there is a cost to altering her legacy. “We wanted to stick with an ongoing meditation on the funny natures of time and so, time travel became salient,” says Lyonne in an exclusive new interview for Gold Derby. “I thought it was funny that the elevator pitch would be ‘Groundhog Day’ Season 1 and ‘Quantum Leap’ in Season 2.” Watch the full video chat above.
In conceiving Season 2, Lyonne — who is also the showrunner on top of starring, writing and directing — was inspired by the book “The Order of Time” by physicist Carlo Rovelli. The book contains such heady concepts as why we can remember the past but not the future, and the actress began to think about how our present-day experiences can trigger a memory of the past, which is its own form of time travel. “You can be walking into a room and the air changes or somebody has a weird, very small interaction and suddenly you’re kind of thrust back to being bullied in junior high or something,” she explains. “And you don’t know why, and you’re just trying to stay and pretend you’re a person.”
In Season 2, Nadia is grappling with the harsh reality that her close friend Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley) is dying, and she escapes to the past where she finds herself trapped in her mother’s body and interacts with a younger version of Ruth. Lyonne likens Nadia’s time travel adventure to a “freelapse,” a term used in recovery to describe an accidental relapse, going back to a time before she was even born, where she can avoid her current situation. “Nadia can’t really show up for this present moment and discovers this kind of way out,” she observes. “‘This is like a freelapse into a train, into a game, where maybe I can actually change things, sort of egoically.'”
The season ends with Nadia having missed Ruth’s final days but reaching some sense of closure as she finds herself surrounded by her chosen family. Like the end of Season 1, there is a feeling of finality, but Lyonne assures that she and the writers have some “very funny, wild ideas” for a potential third season. “It’s always been sort of conceived of as somewhat anthological, and the ways and hows of that usually shift,” she admits. “So our ideas, I think they’re not bad, but who knows.”