A series about reliving your death over and over again has the making for a great comedy but it also runs the risk of, as the premise suggests, repetitive. But the Netflix comedy Russian Doll steps up to the challenge with co-creators, executive producers and writers Leslye Headland, Amy Poehler and Natasha Lyonne (who also stars) leading the charge. At Deadline’s Contenders event, the trio talked to Dominic Patten about the deja vu-centric show and how it has created a whole new bingeing experience.
Russian Doll follows a young woman named Nadia (Lyonne) on her journey as the guest of honor at a seemingly inescapable party one night in New York City. One night she falls down the stairs and dies and then she is transported to a certain point in the same evening when dies again…and then it happens again…and again. The whole series is an existential journey of Nadia figuring out what the hell is going on. Seeing that it is a repetitive show, it brings new meaning binge-watching.
When creating the show Headland and her fellow creators posed the question: How do we make the ultimate binge show?
Headland said that one of the goals of the show was to not only create a show where everyone watches the entire series in one sitting, but to have them sit there and watch it again and again. “That’s the next place for binge-watching — it’s like an album you listening to [over and over again],” she said.
Headland points out that they stuck to the classic structure of a TV show, but it still unpacks a lot in each episode, which requires multiple viewings.
“We were talking about the idea of exploiting the feeling of having to make choices over and over again and the existential crisis that goes with it,” said Poehler of creating the show.
Lyonne adds that throughout the eight episodes, there is a “crescendo and a finish” that sticks the landing. Of the episodes, she cites the one where Chloe Sevigny plays her mother and how it reflected her own life. “We’re going deeper and deeper into the Russian doll within us — seeing the meta-levels of that is very moving.”
Russian Doll features an all-female writing team with all episodes directed by Headland, Lyonne, and Jamie Babbit. The series also features Greta Lee, Yul Vazquez, Elizabeth Ashley and Charlie Barnett. Dascha Polanco, Brendan Sexton III, Rebecca Henderson, Jeremy Bobb, Ritesh Rajan and Jocelyn Bioh also guest star.
The series is produced by Universal Television, Poehler’s Paper Kite Productions, JAX Media and 3 Arts Entertainment.