Russian Doll Season 2 introduces a new time bending aspect to the Netflix comedy, which also speaks Nadia’s (Natasha Lyonne) new life crisis. Lyonne and co-creator/EP Amy Poehler spoke about the upcoming season on a Deadline Contenders panel on Saturday.
In season 1, Nadia repeated her birthday every time she died. In season 2, she travels back in time.
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“Season 1 is very much about a character who moves from nihilism and [being] a lone wolf, finds a connection and therefore a way out,” Lyonne said. “Season 2 is sort of a deeper level, a smaller doll in which the question is: now that I’ve figured out that catch, how do I go about living? What does it mean to have a meaningful life where you show up and are a participating member of society?”
Lyonne, who also co-created the show and executive produces, wrote and directed many season 2 episodes. Poehler credited Lyonne with delving deeper into the time bending premise of Russian Doll.
“Natasha’s writing and performance in season 2 is really about going deeper,” Poehler said. “The show also goes underground in a really interesting way. Everyone’s going a little under, getting a little deeper, excavating. We’re taking off another layer trying to figure out what that little tiny last piece is.”
Lyonne referenced the guru Ram Dass’s philosophies. She said the time travel in Russian Doll represents the baggage everyone carries from their past.
“It’s almost impossible to be in this present moment they keep pitching you in therapy and self help books when you’re so bogged down by the past,” Lyonne said. “You go through life and throw all the discomfort in the backseat. Then you slam on the breaks and it all comes crashing to the front.”
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Nadia must cope with her adoptive mother Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley)’s ailing health. Becoming the caretaker to her caretaker weighs on Nadia when she visits the past.
“The pains of growing up becomes our time to become the caretaker, it feels ultimately very universal,” Lyonne said. “I don’t think Nadia really has the ability to show up for this very present event, the maturity in a way.”
Lyonne also said that if season 1 was a take on a Groundhog Day time loop, she wanted season 2 to approach time travel differently than the popular Back to the Future. Lyonne credited writer Allison Silverman with recommending the book Kindred, which is being adapted as an FX series.
In real life, Lyonne said she can return to feelings of her youth if she finds herself in a triggering situation.
“Because we have these unresolved questions embedded just below our consciousness, we can walk into a room and the air changes,” Lyonne said. “Suddenly I’m thrown back to being a kid in 5th grade and why are they making fun of me? I had this burst eye vessel from stress so I wore sunglasses. Is that not time travel too? We’re doing it all the time.”
Production on season 2 was also delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Poehler said the two years of lockdowns affected everyone’s sense of time.
“I’m sure people are thinking about before COVID,” Poehler said. “Was that two years ago, five years ago? 2021, was that last year? We’re all over the place right now. That feeling, that almost nostalgia and homesick feeling and nauseous feeling comes when time starts to swirl around.”
Russian Doll Season 2 premieres April 20 on Netflix.
Check out the panel video above.
Deadline Contenders Television is sponsored by Apple TV+, Eyepetizer, Final Draft, Los Siete Misterios and Michter’s. Partners include Desalto, Film AlUla, Four Seasons Resort Maui, Jason Mizrahi Design, ModMD, The American Pavilion, and Tidelli.
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