Natasha Lyonne

Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein (/liˈn/;[1] born April 4, 1979[2]), known professionally as Natasha Lyonne, is an American actress, writer, producer and director. She is best known for her portrayal of Nicky Nichols in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black (2013–2019), for which she received an Emmy Award nomination in 2014, and for her role as Jessica in the American Pie film series (1999–2012). She is also a co-creator, executive producer and writer for the 2019 Netflix series Russian Doll, where she plays the lead role of Nadia Vulvokov.

Natasha Lyonne
Lyonne at the 2014 Peabody Awards
Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein

(1979-04-04) April 4, 1979
ResidenceNew York City, New York, U.S.
OccupationActress, writer, producer, director
Years active1986–present
Partner(s)Fred Armisen (2014–present)

Lyonne has appeared in over 50 films, including Everyone Says I Love You (1996), Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), Detroit Rock City, But I'm a Cheerleader (both 1999), Scary Movie 2, The Grey Zone, Kate & Leopold (all 2001), Party Monster, Die Mommie Die! (both 2003), Blade: Trinity (2004), Robots (2005), All About Evil (2010), Sleeping with Other People, Hello My Name Is Doris, Addicted to Fresno (all 2015), Yoga Hosers, Antibirth, The Intervention (all 2016), and Show Dogs (2018).

Early life

Lyonne was born in New York City,[1] the daughter of Ivette Buchinger[1] and Aaron Braunstein, a boxing promoter, race car driver and radio host,[3] distantly related to cartoonist Al Jaffee.[1]

Lyonne's parents were from Orthodox Jewish families, and she was raised Orthodox.[4][5][6] Her mother was born in Paris, France,[7] to Hungarian Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors.[8][9][10][11][12] Lyonne has darkly joked that her family consists of "my father's side, Flatbush, and my mother's side, Auschwitz."[1] Her grandmother Ella[13] came from a large family, but only she and her two sisters and two brothers survived, which Lyonne credits to their blond hair and blue eyes.[1] Lyonne's grandfather, Morris Buchinger, operated a watch company in Los Angeles. During the war, he hid in Budapest as a non-Jew working in a leather factory.[1]

Lyonne lived the first eight years of her life in Great Neck, New York.[8][14] She and her parents then moved to Israel, where Lyonne spent a year and a half. During her stay in Israel, Lyonne participated in the production of the Israeli children's film April Fool, which began her interest in acting.[4][15] Her parents divorced, and Lyonne and her older brother Adam returned to America with their mother.[8] After moving back to New York City, Lyonne attended The Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Upper School of Ramaz, a private Jewish school,[16] where Lyonne said she was a scholarship kid who took honors Talmud classes and read Aramaic. She was expelled for selling marijuana at school. Lyonne grew up on the Upper East Side, where she felt she was an outcast.[1] Her mother then moved their family to Miami, where Lyonne attended Miami Country Day School.[17][18] She never graduated from high school; she left before her senior year to attend a film program at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. Her high school graduation depended on completing her first year at Tisch, but she left the program because she could not pay the tuition.[6]

She attended New York University for a short time, studying film and philosophy.[14]

Lyonne was estranged from her father, who was a Democratic candidate for City Council for the sixth District of Manhattan in 2013,[3][19] and lived on the Upper West Side until his death in October 2014.[20] Lyonne has said she is not close to her mother and has essentially lived independently of her family since age 16.[4]


As a young child, Lyonne was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency.[21] At the age of six, she was cast as Opal on Pee-wee's Playhouse, followed by film appearances in Heartburn, A Man Called Sarge, and Dennis the Menace. On working as a very young child actor, Lyonne said: "I didn't have the best parents. I don't think they are bad people. Even if they were ready to have children, it is kind of a wacky idea to put your child in business at six years old."[7]


At 16 years of age, Lyonne was cast in the Woody Allen-directed Everyone Says I Love You (1996). This led to appearances in a variety of films over the next 10 years, including starring roles in the independent features Slums of Beverly Hills (1998), for which she received two Teen Choice Award nominations,[22] and But I'm a Cheerleader (1999). During this time, she appeared as Jessica in the highly successful teen comedy American Pie (1999), reprising the role in two of its sequels. Lyonne's other films during this period included Detroit Rock City, Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby (both 1999), Scary Movie 2, The Grey Zone, Kate & Leopold (all 2001), Party Monster (2003), and Blade: Trinity (2004).

Lyonne's subsequent film appearances include All About Evil (2010), 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011), Girl Most Likely, Loitering with Intent, Sleeping with Other People, Hello My Name Is Doris, Addicted to Fresno, #Horror, Yoga Hosers, Antibirth, The Intervention, and Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie.

In 2019, she will appear alongside Lucas Hedges and Shia LaBeouf in LaBeouf's autobiographical film Honey Boy.[23]


Lyonne made her New York stage debut in the award-winning New Group production of Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years.[4][24]

She was part of the original cast of the award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a play by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, based on the book by Ilene Beckerman.[25]

In 2010 Lyonne received positive reviews for her performance in Kim Rosenstock's comedy Tigers Be Still at the Roundabout Theatre Company: "a thorough delight in the flat-out funniest role, the grief-crazed Grace, so deeply immersed in self-pity that she has cast aside any attempts at decorum".[26][27]

In 2011, Lyonne starred opposite Ethan Hawke and Ann Dowd in New Group's production of Tommy Nohilly's Blood From a Stone.[28][29] The following year, she participated in New Group's benefit performance of Women Behind Bars.[30]

On working in the theater: "There's something about theater that squashes the self-critical voices because you have to be in the moment. I'm glad that I didn't do this before I was ready, before I was capable of showing up every day. That is not a skill set I had before".[29]


Lyonne has made guest appearances on the series Grounded for Life, Weeds, New Girl, Will & Grace, and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

Since 2013 she has appeared as Nicky Nichols on the critically acclaimed Netflix series Orange Is the New Black. The role is Lyonne's first television job as a series regular.[31] She received a nomination for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series in 2014,[32] and has twice been awarded the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series, along with her co-stars.

In 2014 Lyonne was cast in Amy Poehler's NBC comedy pilot Old Soul, directed by David Wain.[33] In 2016 she began voicing the character Smoky Quartz on the Cartoon Network show Steven Universe. She has also appeared as various characters on IFC's sketch comedy series Portlandia. In 2018 she voiced the character Gaz Digzy on Adult Swim's comedy series Ballmastrz: 9009. More recently she has voiced characters on The Simpsons and Netflix's Big Mouth.

Her performance in the 2019 Netflix series Russian Doll has been praised as "astonishing".[34] Alan Sepinwall of Rolling Stone called it "brilliant".[35]

Directing and producing

In 2017, Lyonne was approached by Kenzo's creative directors Carol Lim and Humberto Leon to direct the 5th installment in their short film series. For this, her directorial debut, she began writing a script with Maya Rudolph in mind to star.[36] The surrealist short film was titled Cabiria, Charity, Chastity and starred Rudolph, Fred Armisen, Greta Lee, Leslie Odom Jr., and Macaulay Culkin.[37]

In September 2017, Lyonne's project Russian Doll was given an 8-episode straight to series order by Netflix.[38] The comedy, co-created and executive produced by Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, premiered on February 1, 2019.[39] Lyonne has multiple roles in the series. She is credited as the lead actress and is one of the executive producers of the series with directorial and writing credits.[40]

Lyonne also directed an episode of Orange Is the New Black for its seventh and final season.

Personal life

Lyonne lives in New York City.[41] When she was 18, Lyonne used the paycheck from her work on Everyone Says I Love You to buy a small apartment near Gramercy Park.[8] At this time, she skipped her senior year of high school to attend NYU Tisch as a double major in film and philosophy.

Lyonne has been in a relationship with Saturday Night Live alumnus Fred Armisen since 2014.[42][43]

Health problems

During the early 2000s, Lyonne experienced legal problems and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol,[44] and for incidents involving her neighbors.[45] In 2005 she was evicted by her landlord, actor Michael Rapaport, following complaints by other tenants about her behavior.[46]

In 2005, Lyonne was admitted to Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan under a pseudonym, suffering from hepatitis C, a heart infection, and a collapsed lung; she was also undergoing methadone treatment for heroin addiction.[47] In January 2006 a warrant was issued for her arrest after she missed a court hearing relating to her prior problems. Her lawyer said an emergency had arisen but did not give details. Later that year Lyonne was admitted to a drug and alcohol treatment center, and she appeared in court afterward. A judge sentenced her to conditional discharge.[4]

Lyonne underwent open-heart surgery in 2012 to correct valvular damage caused by her heart infection,[48] which could have resulted in sudden death if untreated.[49] She recovered from the surgery, and discussed her past health problems on The Rosie Show in March 2012.[50]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Heartburn Rachel's Niece Uncredited[6]
1990 A Man Called Sarge Arab Girl
1993 Dennis the Menace Polly
1996 Everyone Says I Love You Djuna "DJ" Berlin
1998 Slums of Beverly Hills Vivian Abromowitz
Krippendorf's Tribe Shelly Krippendorf
Modern Vampires Rachel
1999 American Pie Jessica
Detroit Rock City Christine Sixteen
Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby Crystal "White Girl" Van Meuther
But I'm a Cheerleader Megan Bloomfield
The Auteur Theory Rosemary Olson
2001 Plan B Kaye
Fast Sofa Tamara Jenson
Scary Movie 2 Megan Voorhees
American Pie 2 Jessica
The Grey Zone Rosa
Kate & Leopold Darci
2002 Comic Book Villains Judy Link
Zig Zag Jenna the Working Girl
Night at the Golden Eagle Amber
2003 Die, Mommie, Die! Edith Sussman
Party Monster Brooke
2004 America Brown Vera
Madhouse Alice
Blade: Trinity Sommerfield
2005 Robots Loretta Geargrinder Voice
My Suicidal Sweetheart Grace
2008 Tricks of a Woman Sally
2009 The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle Tracy
Jelly Mona Hammel
Goyband Fani
Outrage: Born in Terror Molly
Heterosexuals Ellia
2010 All About Evil Deborah Tennis
2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth Tina
Night Club Mrs. Keaton
2012 American Reunion Jessica
2013 7E Yael [51]
He's Way More Famous Than You Herself
The Rambler Cheryl
G.B.F. Ms. Hogel
Girl Most Likely Allyson
Clutter Lisa Bradford
2014 Loitering with Intent Kaplan
2015 Addicted to Fresno Martha Jackson
Sleeping with Other People Kara
Hello, My Name Is Doris Sally
Bloomin Mud Shuffle Jock
#Horror Emma
2016 Yoga Hosers Tabitha Collette
The Intervention Sarah
Antibirth Lou
Adam Green's Aladdin Mom
Jack Goes Home Nancy
2017 Girlfriend's Day Miss Taft
Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie Det. Fleur Scozzari
2018 A Futile and Stupid Gesture Anne Beatts
Family Juggalette
Show Dogs Mattie
2019 Honey Boy Mom
Ad Astra Tanya Pincus
2020 Irresistible Post-production
TBA The United States Vs. Billie Holiday Post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1986 Pee-wee's Playhouse Opal Season 1
2000 Will & Grace Gillian Episode: "Girl Trouble"
If These Walls Could Talk 2 Jeanne Television film
2001 Night Visions Bethany Daniels Episode: "If a Tree Falls"
2002 Grounded for Life Gretchen Episode: "Relax!"
2007 The Knights of Prosperity Female Co-Star Episode: "Operation: Rent Money"
2009 Loving Leah Esther Television film
2011 New Girl Gretchen Episode: "Wedding"
Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Gia Eskas Episode: "Educated Guess"
2012 Weeds Tiffani 2 episodes
2013 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Mrs. Barbato Episode: "Comic Con-Air"
2013–19 Orange Is the New Black Nicky Nichols Main cast; 81 episodes
Directed season 7, episode 9: "The Hidey Hole"
2015 Girls Rickey Episode: "Iowa"
Comedy Bang! Bang! Katie Episode: "Dax Shepard Wears a Heather Grey Shirt and Black Blazer"
Sanjay and Craig Chido (voice) Episode: "Bike-o Psycho/Boulder Rollers"
2015–16 Inside Amy Schumer Various 2 episodes
2015–18 Portlandia Various 5 episodes
2016 The $100,000 Pyramid Herself Episode: "Natasha Lyonne vs. Terry Crews"
2016–19 Steven Universe Smoky Quartz (voice) 3 episodes
The Simpsons Sophie (voice) 3 episodes
2018–present Ballmastrz: 9009 Gaz Digzy (voice) 10 episodes
2018 Corporate Gretchen Episode: "Corporate Retreat"
Animals. VHS Copy of Can't Hardly Wait (voice) Episode: "Stuff"
2018–19 Big Mouth Suzette (voice) 3 episodes
2019–present Russian Doll Nadia Vulvokov Main role; 8 episodes
Also producer, writer, and director
2019 Documentary Now! Carla Meola Episode: "Long Gone"
Explained Narrator (voice) Episode: "Pirates"

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1999 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Most Promising Actress Slums of Beverly Hills Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Film – Breakout Performance Nominated
Film – Funniest Scene (shared with Marisa Tomei) Nominated[52]
2000 Young Hollywood Awards Best Ensemble Cast American Pie Won
2008 Monaco International Film Festival Angel Award, Best Supporting Female Actor Tricks of Love Won
2014 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Orange Is the New Black Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series Won
2016 Won
2017 Nominated
Fangoria Chainsaw Awards Best Actress[53] Antibirth Nominated
2019 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Comedy Series (as Executive Producer) Russian Doll Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series Nominated
Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series Nominated
Television Critics Association Awards Individual Achievement in Comedy Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Comedy Nominated
Outstanding New Program Won
Saturn Awards Best Actress in a Streaming Presentation Nominated
Gotham Award Breakthrough Series - Shortform Nominated
Writer Guild of America Award Comedy Series Pending
New Series Pending
Satellite Award Best Actress in a Series, Comedy or Musical Pending
Golden Globes Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series, Musical or Comedy Pending

See also


  1. Maron, Marc (October 14, 2013). "Episode 432 - Natasha Lyonne" (audio podcast). WTF Podcast. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  2. "Natasha Lyonne Biography". Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  3. Barkan, Ross (August 29, 2013). "Offbeat Boxing Promoter Tries to Roil West Side Council Race". Politicker. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  4. Simonson, Robert (January 6, 2008). "When Living at All Is the Best Revenge". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
  5. Hoffman, Barbara (January 3, 2010). "In my library: Natasha Lyonne". New York Post. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  6. Raab, Scott (June 12, 2015). "Natasha Lyonne on Orange Is the New Black and Provocative Fan Requests". Esquire.
  7. "Spoonful of Sugar". Heeb Magazine. Heeb Media, LLC. December 16, 2008. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  8. Hass, Nancy (July 9, 2000). "Shopping with: Natasha Lyonne; Rough, Tough, But on a Road To Ladylike". New York Times. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
  9. Landman, Beth; Spiegelman, Ian (November 27, 2000). "A Dark Grey Zone for Natasha Lyonne". New York (Intelligencer). Archived from the original on June 27, 2006. Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  10. Aschenbrand, Periel (September 7, 2016). "The Chosen Ones: An Interview With Natasha Lyonne". Tablet Magazine. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  11. "Jews Making News: Natasha Lyonne for New Amy Poehler Pilot". Atlanta Jewish Times. March 27, 2014. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  12. "Breakout Talent : Natasha Lyonne - Spitfire Girl". Backstage. February 21, 2001. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  13. "USC Shoah Foundation Institute testimony of Ella Buchinger". United States Holocaust Museum. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  14. "Talking with...Natasha Lyonne". Pamela's Film and Entertainment Site. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  15. "Slum Pickings". People. September 7, 1998. Archived from the original on March 5, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  16. Heyman, Marshall (October 25, 2010). "Natasha Lyonne Turns a Page". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  17. Cindy Pearlman (July 2, 2000). "Natasha Lyonne". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 3.
  18. Dreher, Rod (January 12, 1997). "Her Heart Is In New York". Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale). p. 2D. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  19. "'American Pie' star files case against dad". Digital Spy. January 12, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  20. "Natasha Lyonne's estranged father passes away". October 14, 2014. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  21. Vilkomerson, Sara (March 30, 2012). "The hell-and-back journey of Natasha Lyonne: 'I was definitely as good as dead'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  22. "Natasha Lyonne - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved November 8, 2018.
  23. Honey Boy, retrieved November 12, 2018
  24. "Natasha Lyonne to Star in Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years". October 18, 2007. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  25. Isherwood, Charles (October 2, 2009). "Spandex Agonistes: Why Don't You Try It On?". New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  26. Isherwood, Charles (October 6, 2010). "Escaped Predator? What Else Is New?". The New York Times. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  27. Van Meter, William (October 24, 2010). "89 Minutes With Natasha Lyonne". New York (Intelligencer). Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  28. Isherwood, Charles (January 12, 2011). "Discord Dished Up at Every Meal". The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  29. Wilson, Gemma (December 24, 2010). "What's Up, Natasha Lyonne? The Blood From a Stone Star Opens Up on Surviving Her Own Career". Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  30. Hetrick, Adam; Gans, Andrew (May 7, 2012). "Cynthia Nixon, Natasha Lyonne, Charles Busch and Rosie O'Donnell Are Women Behind Bars May 7". Playbill. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  31. Brown, Emma (July 9, 2013). "Natasha Lyonne, Locked Up". Interview Magazine. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  32. Yamato, Jen (August 12, 2014). "EMMYS Q&A: 'Orange Is The New Black's Natasha Lyonne On Redemption And Her First Emmy Nod". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  33. Andreeva, Nellie (February 27, 2014). "Ellen Burstyn To Star In Amy Poehler's NBC Comedy Pilot 'Old Soul'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  34. "Russian Doll: Season 1". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
  35. Sepinwall, Alan (January 29, 2019). "'Russian Doll' Review: Natasha Lyonne Is a Revelation". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  36. Richards, Katie (September 14, 2017). "Kenzo Follows Its Spike Jonze Film With a 13-Minute Surrealist Gem From Natasha Lyonne". Adweek. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  37. Cabiria, Charity, Chastity, 2017, retrieved November 12, 2018
  38. Andreeva, Nellie (September 20, 2017). "Netflix Greenlights Comedy From Natasha Lyonne, Leslye Headland & Amy Poehler". Deadline. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  39. "Netflix's Russian Doll: TV's answer to Groundhog Day?". The Guardian. February 2, 2019. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  40. "Natasha Lyonne". IMDb. Retrieved November 12, 2018.
  41. Yuan, Jada (August 3, 2013). "A Day Apartment Hunting With Natasha Lyonne". New York (Vulture). Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  42. Marquina, Sierra (August 26, 2014). "Natasha Lyonne and Fred Armisen Are Dating: Details". Us Weekly.
  43. Jefferson, Whitney (September 19, 2016). "Fred Armisen And Natasha Lyonne Attended The Emmys In A Hearse". BuzzFeed. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  44. "Pie Star Lyonne Arrested for Drink Driving". ABC News. August 29, 2001. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  45. Silverman, Stephen M. (April 19, 2005). "Arrest Warrant Out for American Pie Star - Natasha Lyonne". People. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  46. "Michael Rapaport Driven to Despair by Natasha Lyonne". April 21, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  47. "American Pie star's fight for life". Access Hollywood. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  48. "Natasha Lyonne Having the Last Laugh". People. August 11, 2014. Archived from the original on September 18, 2019. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  49. Gross, Terry (March 27, 2019). "Natasha Lyonne Finds Herself Inside 'Russian Doll'". NPR. Retrieved September 18, 2019.
  50. "Natasha Lyonne's Major Medical Scare". The Rosie Show. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  51. "7E" via
  52. "Teen Choice Awards 1999". IMDB.
  53. "Never mind Oscar, here's the 2017 FANGORIA Chainsaw Awards Nominees Ballot!". Fangoria. Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  54. "Watch Against Me!'s Sixties-Inspired '333' Video Starring Natasha Lyonne". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 24, 2017.
  55. Against Me! (September 2, 2016), Against Me! - "333", retrieved April 27, 2017
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