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Netflix’s Russian Doll isn’t just a job for the cast and crew.
At the season two premiere at The Bowery Hotel in New York City on Tuesday, the cast spoke about the show’s deeper meaning and how it has led to a lot of introspection.
“There are so many holes in my own family history existence that I want to see filled, but those answers are not as easy to find as you think,” Charlie Barnett, who plays Alan, told The Hollywood Reporter of the journey of season two. “It takes a deep dive inward that allows you to solve it for yourself. You can’t solve for your past. You can’t solve for your parents or your grandparents. You can solve it for you.”
Series co-creator Amy Poehler believes that a lot of people have been in a Russian doll of sorts in the last few years, making the show resonate with its viewers even more than when she, Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland first pitched the show years ago. Over the course of production on season two, the cast and crew discussed that theme and how it applied to the characters in the show.
“We took really big swings. We go a little deeper. Nadia, Natasha’s character, goes inside and keeps discovering that layer,” Poehler told THR. “We talked about the theme of the show as trying to figure out: What is your little core Russian doll? Who are you really at the very, very, very middle?”
The first season followed Nadia (Lyonne) who’s stuck in a time loop on her 36th birthday where she’s forced to confront her painful past in a gritty and witty exploration of death, destiny and do-overs, according to Netflix. The second season again plays with time — this time, via the New York City subway and Waris Ahluwalia said the cast and crew had to take safety training classes with MTA authorities and took field trips into the subway tunnels.
“I hope that audiences can walk away from it with a newfound appreciation for their own identities and their own families, and asking the question of who we are and, why we are this way? And, how did we end up this way?” Russian Doll star Greta Lee told THR.
For Elizabeth Ashley, who plays Ruth, the important message she hopes audiences take from the sci-fi series is that people can persevere and endure anything, even if it goes against all odds.
As for what fans can expect from season two, now streaming on Netflix, Ephraim Sykes says they’re in for “a wild and crazy ride” that will show how loose ends are tied together and pieces fall into place.
“It’s a very crazy show, and it’s always saying something,” Sykes told THR. “I’m just excited to see how people take to it and how much fun they have while they get to think about a lot of things.”
One thing the cast members on the red carpet agreed on was that working with Lyonne — who served as star, writer, director and showrunner on season two — was an incredible experience.
Barnett, who starred opposite Lyonne in season one as well, says he noticed a change in the way she approached the season this time around.
“Obviously, she was doing everything both seasons, but there was a different kind of gravitas,” he said. “And I think belief in her own self as a leader, which was fucking educational, so educational for me to learn, watch and grasp — and fun, too.”
Sykes echoed Barnett’s sentiment, taking it a step further and calling Lyonne a “genius.”
“Her mind works in a way that I’ve yet to have met or work with anybody whose brain sort of operates at that level,” Sykes said. “It’s so abstract and just gorgeous and beautiful and poetic still.”
Lyonne knows a big part of the fun of Russian Doll is watching the secretive plot unravel throughout the season, but she understands spoilers sometimes get out.
“I’m so grateful that people care at all,” she told THR. “And at the same time, I want to find a way to preserve amounts of that pure experience of it, just so you get that fun feeling of ‘What the hell?’ because otherwise you’re just watching things unfold that you’re expecting.”
Lyonne says the biggest challenge the cast and crew faced during production was working around COVID, which presented very specific struggles and caused several delays.
The use of masks and other personal protective equipment to keep the team safe made things “tense” onset because it wouldn’t allow people to read the room or get a sense of how someone is feeling.
“There’s this underlying level of just global fear that’s happening moment to moment,” Lyonne said. “Something utterly mundane suddenly feels like, ‘Is it worth risking my life for?’ We’re all going through this kind of new world together.”
Just like Russian Doll.
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