Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein was born in New York City in 1979 and entered show business at a young age when her parents signed her up at the Ford Modeling Agency and she got acting roles in the TV series Pee-wee’s Playhouse and Mike Nichols’ film Heartburn in 1986. She first pursued an acting career seriously in the late eighties when she and her family emigrated to Israel and Lyonne got a role in a few Israeli films. After the divorce of her parents forced her to move back to NYC with her mother and older brother, Lyonne attended a private school for Jewish kids and was a good student but she got expelled for selling pot. She later dropped out of day school in Miami to pursue acting at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, although that also lasted shortly because she could not afford the tuition. Nevertheless she had a passion for performing and she pursued it.

In the nineties Lyonne got a role in the 1993 commercial hit Dennis the Menace before her breakout role in Woody Allen’s Everyone Says I Love You (1996) which led to a role in Tamara Jenkins’ indie cult classic Slums of Beverly Hills (1998) alongside Alan Arkin and Marisa Tomei as well as the role of Jessica in the raunchy teen comedy and smash hit American Pie (1999), a role she would reprise in American Pie 2 (2001) and American Reunion (2012), and her starring role in But I’m a Cheerleader (1999) as Megan Bloomfield, a high school cheerleader sent to conversion therapy camp to “cure” her lesbianism. That film got a negative reaction from mainstream audiences but got a positive reaction from LGBTQ audiences who appreciated its satire and turned it into a cult classic.

Ever since then, Lyonne has been acting across film and television almost every year working non-stop, sometimes even as a writer, director and producer. Many people saw her in Scary Movie 2 (2002), the Marvel film Blade: Trinity (2004) and the sci-fi drama Ad Astra (2019) and her voice can be heard in the animated films Robots (2005) and DC League of Super Pets (2022), but she also starred in a few critically adored independent films like My Suicidal Sweetheart (2005), The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle (2009), G.B.F. (2013), Hello, My Name Is Doris (2015) and Honey Boy (2019), mostly dominating the underground indie scene. Lyonne likely has more mainstream familiarity on television, playing Nicky in Jenji Kohan’s black comedy Orange Is the New Black (2013-19) on Netflix, voicing Gaz Digzy in Adult Swim’s sci-fi comedy Ballmastrz: 9009 (2018-20) and playing Nadia in the mind-bending Netflix series Russian Doll (2019-present) for which she is also the co-creator and serves as a writer, director and executive producer. Lyonne also had guest roles in popular shows like Will & Grace, New Girl, Weeds, Girls, Inside Amy Schumer, Portlandia, Steven Universe, The Simpsons and Big Mouth, and directed episodes of Shrill, High Fidelity and Loot as well as co-creating and directing author and comedian Sarah Cooper’s comedy special Sarah Cooper: Everything’s Fine for Netflix.

Natasha Lyonne has gotten an Emmy nomination for her role in Orange Is the New Black as well as various acknowledgements, accolades and nominations from organizations like the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild for her role in Russian Doll. Meanwhile I am currently watching her solve crimes Columbo-style as the sharp-eared human lie detector Charlie Cale in Rian Johnson’s case-of-the-week murder mystery series Poker Face (2023) on Peacock, which, based on how Rian Johnson created the show especially for her and how much I’m enjoying watching it, only reaffirms my love for Natasha Lyonne as an actor. She deserves all the praise she gets.