Famous People

Natasha Lyonne on GBFs, Obsessive Internet TV Watching and Bon Qui Qui

By Max Kessler
Photo by Jesse Lirola/BFANYC.com
You'll be seeing a lot more of Natasha Lyonne  who has a slew of movies coming out this year -- from gay teen comedy G.B.F. to hoarder drama Clutter -- and a big role in Netflix TV series Orange Is the New Black. We had the opportunity to catch up with the busy actress and talk about her experience losing a gay best friend, helping Alexander Wang resurrect Bon Qui Qui, and obsessively watching TV online.

Tell us about your role in G.B.F.
I think it's going to be a terrific movie. What happens is that the popular girls at school read in a magazine that the hottest new trend for fall is not a handbag but, in fact, a gay best friend. They all try to out someone in school so they can have the hot accessory. Their hearts are in the wrong place and that's disturbing, which I think is a really good jumping off place for a movie. I play Ms. Hoegel, the head of the Gay-Straight Alliance. She was abandoned long ago by her gay best friend. My sense is that she couldn't be with him forever because he was gay, and not straight. Now with the hole that he's left, she has Mr. Anderson Coopurrr, her cat. I think her goal [in the film] is to keep the kids on track with not being so narrow-minded or Salem Witch-hunty about their pursuits. I think [G.B.F.] is going to become part of the canon of teen movies...something like this has been lacking.

Is that lack of gay teen movies what drew you to G.B.F.?
Yeah, absolutely. And it really jumped out to me as a complete script. I was friends with [director] Darren Stein and I'd worked with him before and was really desperate to be a part of the movie because you could just tell it was going to be special.

We watched it last night -- you really stole the show in every scene you were in.
Well, that's too bad for the show. [Laughs.

Have you ever had an experience with a G.B.F. abandoning you?
I had an old friend. We would always hang out together; all day we would go to the Film Forum to see every movie, and then he would sleep over, and then we'd be in bed together, and, you know, this was back when I was drinking, etc. I'd be thinking, "Come on! Do something already!" Then years later it was revealed [that he was gay]. I'd still like to think there was a part of him that was attracted to me. Sexuality is a little bit more fluid than [gay or straight]. Basically what I am saying is that I am still angry at him for not sleeping with me. It's fine if he wants to be gay, but I'm a person, too, and it would've been nice for him to at least try! [Laughs.] So that would be my advice to gay men: once in a while it would be nice to fuck your girlfriends. You know, it would just be a nice gesture.

I have gay people in my life all around and I don't think any of them want to sleep with me, unfortunately. Which is a little bit disturbing, you know what I mean? I feel like I should really be cleaning up at least on the lady circuit but even they have never made a move on me...that's unfortunate. It just feel it would be nice if everyone hooked up just a little bit. Not that I'm a slut!

Tell me about being in Alexander Wang's amazing resurrection of Bon Qui Qui.
I love Alexander Wang but actually my friends asked me to do it. I met him the day [of the shoot]. The upshot, though, is that he's really been hooking me up with some great outfits these days. He's a really funny guy. And let me tell you something: that A$AP Rocky is hot in person. I sat next to him at the [Alexander Wang] show and I was like, "You seem like a real decent fellow -- a real decent fellow." [Winks.]

Tell us about this upcoming Netflix dramedy you're in, Orange is the New Black.
It's a women's prison show based on the true story of this woman who is living this kind of bourgeois life in Park Slope -- selling soaps to Barney's -- but it turns out her girlfriend from years back, when she was wilder, was a drug smuggler and turns her in when she gets busted. So now she has to spend a year in women's prison and [I play] her seasoned [cell mate] who shows her the ropes.

Did the show make you more interested in the conditions of women's prisons?
No, I mean I've done my time. Luckily, I've had to do less research than most. I guess I've never done real prison time. I've only spent some time in The Tombs. Anyway, what I really identify with is that the human spirit will prevail no matter what the situation. I always think about Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning. Even in the most painful circumstances, humanity will find a way -- that's at the core of this. But the situations we're in are scenes you've never seen before. There's nothing about this show that feels like it has ever been done before and that's very exciting.

Do you think Internet TV is the way of the future? Do you think all TV will be like that?
I thought that maybe I was obsessive-compulsive because I have TV sets in my house that my godmother won at the Borgata at the slot machines -- she's a high roller -- but I only watch TV in bed on my computer. And I compulsively watch it -- I've seen all 12 seasons of NYPD Blue. I went through a period when I thought I was Franz Kafka metamorphosing into Dennis Franz. It was a trying period. [Laughs.] I thought I was alone in it, then came to find there was a whole world in that. What's exciting about it is it's like the Wild West of television. There are no rules or boundaries. 

And, since Orange is the New Black combines comedy and drama, do you find you have a different approach when it comes to the two different genres?
I don't really play comedy or drama differently. It's more about trying to block out the noise, and putting yourself in the situation that you're in within that world. You need blinders to tune out all of the cameras and the hair and makeup and the shenanigans. And then you need wideners to really put yourself into this whole imaginary universe. It's almost like quantum physics or something, really getting in the space of it.

I remember one time I was doing this play, Tigers Be Still. My character was a drunk who'd been dumped on the sofa. At one point in the show my character gets on her knees, drunk, to feed her ex-fiance's dog that she'd locked in the closet. As I got up from doing that I realized I had been in this altered state and I actually was that character. And then I was like, "Holy shit, that's acting!" That's that magical thing that people get hooked on. Not, "Geez, I want to make it when I grow up" bullshit, but more this sort of other space where actually you're able to tap into this separate world where that stage was a real apartment and she was a real girl who really got cheated on bad and was drunk and had to feed a dog.

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