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Natasha Lyonne

Natasha Lyonne
Lyonne at the 2014 Peabody awards
Born Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein
(1979-04-04) April 4, 1979
New York City, New York, U.S.
Occupation Actress
Years active 1986–present

Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein[1] (born April 4, 1979),[2] better known as Natasha Lyonne, is an American actress. She is best known for her role as Jessica in the American Pie series and her appearances in the films Everyone Says I Love You, Slums of Beverly Hills, But I'm a Cheerleader, and Blade: Trinity. She currently portrays Nicky Nichols in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, for which she received a nomination for the 2014 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series.


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Film 2.1
    • Theater 2.2
    • Television 2.3
  • Personal life 3
    • Legal issues 3.1
    • Health issues 3.2
  • Filmography 4
    • Film 4.1
    • Television 4.2
  • Awards and nominations 5
  • Notable interviews 6
  • Other 7
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Early life

Lyonne was born in New York City, New York, the daughter of Ivette (née Buchinger)[1] and Aaron Braunstein, a boxing promoter, race car driver, and radio host,[3] who was distantly related to cartoonist Al Jaffee.[1]

Lyonne's parents were both from Orthodox Jewish families, and she herself was raised Orthodox.[4][5][6] Her mother was born in Paris, France,[7] to Hungarian Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors.[8][9] Lyonne sometimes darkly jokes that her family consists of "my father's side, Flatbush, and my mother's side, Auschwitz."[1] Her grandmother Ella[10] came from a large family, but only she and her two sisters and two brothers survived, which Lyonne credits to their blonde hair and blue eyes.[1] Lyonne's grandfather, Morris Buchinger, operated a watch company in Los Angeles. During the war, he hid in Budapest as a non-Jew working in a leather factory.[1]

Lyonne spent the first eight years of her life living in Great Neck, New York.[8][11] Then she and her parents moved to Israel, where Lyonne spent a year and a half.[4][12] Her parents divorced, and Lyonne and her older brother Adam returned to America with their mother.[8] After this move back to New York City, Lyonne attended Ramaz School, also known as The Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Upper School of Ramaz, a private Jewish school,[13] where Lyonne said she was a scholarship kid who took honors Talmud classes and read Aramaic. She was expelled for selling marijuana at school. Lyonne grew up on the Upper East Side, where she felt she was an outcast.[1] Her mother then moved their family to Miami, where Lyonne graduated from Miami Country Day School.[14][15] Lyonne was estranged from her father, who lived on the Upper West Side until his death in October 2014 and in 2013 was a Republican candidate for City Council for the sixth District of Manhattan.[3][16] Lyonne has said she is not close with her mother and has essentially lived independently of her family since age 16.[4]

When she was 18 years old, Lyonne used the paycheck from her work on the Woody Allen film, Everyone Says I Love You to buy a small apartment near Gramercy Park.[8] She attended New York University for a very short time, studying film and philosophy.[11]


As a young child, Lyonne was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency.[17]

At the age of six, she was cast as Opal on Pee-wee's Playhouse, followed by film appearances in Heartburn, A Man Called Sarge, and Dennis the Menace. On working as a very young child actor, Lyonne said: "I didn’t have the best parents. I don’t think they are bad people. Even if they were ready to have children, it is kind of a wacky idea to put your child in business at six years old."[7]


When she was 16, Woody Allen cast her in Everyone Says I Love You, which led to appearances in almost 30 films over the next 10 years, including starring roles in the independent films Slums of Beverly Hills and But I'm a Cheerleader. Lyonne's other films include Detroit Rock City, Scary Movie 2, The Grey Zone, Kate and Leopold, Party Monster, and Blade: Trinity. She has also made television appearances on shows such as NBC's Will and Grace. In what is perhaps her most well known role, she appeared as Jessica in the American Pie film series.

Lyonne made films The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle and Goyband. Since then, Lyonne has worked steadily in the New York theatre scene, as well as in film and television. Her newer film appearances include All About Evil, 4:44 - Last Day on Earth, Girl Most Likely, The Rambler, and Clutter.


Lyonne made her New York stage debut in the award-winning New Group production of Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years.[4][18]

Lyonne was in the original cast of the award-winning Love, Loss, and What I Wore, a play written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron and based on the book by Ilene Beckerman.[19] She received rave reviews for her performance in Kim Rosenstock’s comedy,Tigers Be Still at the Roundabout Theatre Company: "a thorough delight in the flat-out funniest role, the grief-crazed Grace, so deeply immersed in self-pity that she has cast aside any attempts at decorum."[20][21]

In 2011, Lyonne was in Tommy Nohilly's Blood From a Stone, from the New Group.[22][23]

Lyonne participated in New Group's benefit performance of Women Behind Bars.[24]

On working in the theater: "There’s something about theater that squashes the self-critical voices because you have to be in the moment. I’m glad that I didn’t do this before I was ready, before I was capable of showing up every day. That is not a skill set I had before."[23]


Lyonne at The Paley Center For Media's PaleyFest 2014 Honoring Orange Is The New Black

Lyonne has made guest appearances on the series Weeds, New Girl, and Law & Order Special Victims Unit.

In late 2012, Lyonne was reported to be developing a TV series for Fox Television about a young girl, who, fresh out of rehab and committed to starting a new life as a sober, responsible adult, is forced to move in with her conservative brother and young family.[25]

She is currently starring as Nicky Nichols in the critically acclaimed Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, for which she has received positive reviews. The role is Lyonne's first television show as a series regular.[26] She received her first Primetime Emmy nomination for the role in 2014.

Lyonne was cast in Amy Poehler's NBC comedy pilot Old Soul in 2014. The pilot also stars Ellen Burstyn and was directed by David Wain. Poehler was writer and executive producer.[27]

Personal life

Lyonne lives in New York City.[28] Lyonne was evicted by her landlord, actor Michael Rapaport, following numerous complaints by other tenants about her behavior.[29] She is currently dating actor Fred Armisen.[30]

Legal issues

  • August 2001: Lyonne was arrested for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was placed on probation for one year, and had her license suspended for one year.[32]
  • December 2004: Lyonne was arrested after verbally threatening her neighbor, breaking a mirror in the neighbor's apartment, and threatening to molest the neighbor's dog.[33] She spent a night in jail before being arraigned on charges of criminal mischief, harassment, and trespassing. The details of this incident did not become publicly known until two years had passed. In April 2005, an arrest warrant was issued for Lyonne for failure to appear in court on the charges. Prosecutors say she attended court, but arrived an hour late and only stayed for 30 minutes. Police were unable to locate Lyonne until her hospitalization was reported in August. Charges were later dropped.[34]

Health issues

  • 2005: Lyonne was in Beth Israel Medical Center in Manhattan under a pseudonym, and had been there for over a month after being transferred from Bellevue Hospital. She reportedly suffered from hepatitis C, a heart infection, and a collapsed lung, and was undergoing methadone treatment.[35] In January 2006, another arrest warrant was issued for her after she missed another hearing. Her lawyer said an emergency had arisen, but did not give details.
  • 2006: Lyonne was in the Caron Foundation, a drug and alcohol treatment center, and appeared in court after missing several court dates to face earlier charges of mischief, trespass and harassment. A judge sentenced her to conditional discharge.[4]
  • 2012: Lyonne underwent open heart surgery to correct damage caused by her heart infection. She quickly recovered from the surgery, and discussed her past health problems on The Rosie Show in March 2012.[36]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Heartburn Rachel's niece Uncredited
1990 A Man Called Sarge Arab girl
1993 Dennis the Menace Polly
1996 Everyone Says I Love You Djuna "DJ" Berlin
1998 Slums of Beverly Hills Vivian Abromowitz
1998 Krippendorf's Tribe Shelly Krippendorf
1998 Modern Vampires Rachel
1999 American Pie Jessica
1999 Detroit Rock City Christine
1999 Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby Crystal "White Girl / Whitie" Van Meuther
1999 But I'm a Cheerleader Megan Bloomfield
1999 The Auteur Theory Rosemary Olson
2001 Night Visions Bethany
2001 Plan B Kaye
2001 Fast Sofa Tamara Jenson
2001 Scary Movie 2 Megan Voorhees
2001 American Pie 2 Jessica
2001 The Grey Zone Rosa
2001 Kate & Leopold Darci
2002 Comic Book Villains Judy Link
2002 Zig Zag Jenna
2002 Night at the Golden Eagle Amber
2003 Die, Mommie, Die! Edith Sussman
2003 Party Monster Brooke
2004 America Brown Vera
2004 Madhouse Alice
2004 Blade: Trinity Sommerfield
2005 Robots Loretta Geargrinder Voice
2005 My Suicidal Sweetheart Grace
2008 Tricks of a Woman Sally
2009 The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle Tracy
2009 Jelly Mona Hammel
2009 Goyband Fani
2009 Outrage: Born in Terror Molly
2009 Heterosexuals Ellia
2009 All About Evil Deborah
2011 4:44 Last Day on Earth Tina
2012 American Reunion Jessica
2013 He's Way More Famous Than You Herself
2013 The Rambler Cheryl
2013 G.B.F. Ms. Hoegel
2013 Girl Most Likely Allyson
2014 Loitering with Intent Kaplan
2015 Addicted to Fresno Martha
2015 Sleeping with Other People Kara
2015 Hello, My Name Is Doris
2015 Adam Green's Aladdin Mom Post-production
2015 Bloomin Mud Shuffle Jock
2015 #Horror
2016 Yoga Hosers Tabitha


Year Title Role Notes
1986–1987 Pee-wee's Playhouse Opal
2000 Will & Grace Gillian
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Jeanne Television film
2001 Night Visions Bethany Daniels
2009 Loving Leah Esther Television film
2011 New Girl Gretchen
2011 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Gia
2012 Weeds Tiffani Episode: "It's Time (Part 1)" aka series finale
2013 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Mrs. Barbato Episode: "Comic Con-Air"
2013– Orange Is the New Black Nicky Nichols Netflix series
Season 1 (recurring; 13 episodes)
Season 2-3 (series regular; 16 episodes)
Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Nominated—Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series
2015 Girls Ricky Episode: "Iowa"
2015 Portlandia Madison Episode: "Seaworld"
2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Katie Episode: "Dax Shepard Wears a Heather Grey Shirt and Black Blazer"
2015 Inside Amy Schumer Friend Episode: "3 Buttholes"

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
1999 Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Most Promising Actress Slums of Beverly Hills Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Film - Breakout Performance Nominated
Film - Funniest Scene (shared with Marisa Tomei) Nominated[37]
2000 Young Hollywood Awards Best Ensemble Cast American Pie Won
2008 Monaco International Film Festival Angel Award, Best Supporting Female Actor Tricks of Love Won
2014 Primetime Emmy Award Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series Orange Is the New Black Nominated

Notable interviews

  • Natasha Lyonne at the New Group Tribute to Wallace Shaw, June 6, 2011
  • Natasha Lyonne,The Rosie Show, March 2012
  • Natasha Lyonne WTF with Marc Maron episode 432 - October 14, 2013



  1. ^ a b c d e f g Maron, Marc (October 14, 2013). "Episode 432 - Natasha Lyonne" (audio podcast).  
  2. ^ "Natasha Lyonne Biography".  
  3. ^ a b Barkan, Ross (29 August 2013). "Offbeat Boxing Promoter Tries to Roil West Side Council Race".  
  4. ^ a b c d e Simonson, Robert (January 6, 2008). "When Living at All Is the Best Revenge".  
  5. ^ Hoffman, Barbara (January 3, 2010). "In my library: Natasha Lyonne".  
  6. ^
  7. ^ a b c "Spoonful of Sugar".  
  8. ^ a b c d Hass, Nancy (July 9, 2000). "Shopping with: Natasha Lyonne; Rough, Tough, But on a Road To Ladylike".  
  9. ^ Landman, Beth; Spiegelman, Ian (November 27, 2000). "A Dark Grey Zone for Natasha Lyonne".  
  10. ^ "USC Shoah Foundation Institute testimony of Ella Buchinger".  
  11. ^ a b "Talking with...Natasha Lyonne". Pamela's Film and Entertainment Site. Archived from the original on October 27, 2009. Retrieved March 1, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Slum Pickings".  
  13. ^ Heyman, Marshall (October 25, 2010). "Natasha Lyonne Turns a Page".  
  14. ^ Cindy Pearlman (July 2, 2000). "Natasha Lyonne".  
  15. ^ Dreher, Rod (January 12, 1997). "Her Heart Is In New York".  
  16. ^ American Pie' star files case against dad"'".  
  17. ^ Vilkomerson, Sara (30 March 2012). "'"The hell-and-back journey of Natasha Lyonne: 'I was definitely as good as dead.  
  18. ^ "Natasha Lyonne to Star in Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years".  
  19. ^ Isherwood, Charles (October 2, 2009). "Spandex Agonistes: Why Don’t You Try It On?".  
  20. ^ Isherwood, Charles (6 October 2010). "Escaped Predator? What Else Is New?".  
  21. ^ Van Meter, William (24 October 2010). "89 Minutes With  Natasha Lyonne".  
  22. ^ Isherwood, Charles (January 12, 2011). "Discord Dished Up at Every Meal".  
  23. ^ a b Wilson, Gemma (24 December 2010). "What’s Up, Natasha Lyonne? The Blood From a Stone Star Opens Up on Surviving Her Own Career".  
  24. ^ Hetrick, Adam and Andrew Gans (May 7, 2012). "Cynthia Nixon, Natasha Lyonne, Charles Busch and Rosie O’Donnell Are Women Behind Bars May 7".  
  25. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (18 December 2012). "Fox Developing Sibling Comedy Starring Natasha Lyonne".  
  26. ^ Brown, Emma (9 July 2013). "Natasha Lyonne, Locked Up".  
  27. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 27, 2014). "Ellen Burstyn To Star In Amy Poehler’s NBC Comedy Pilot ‘Old Soul’".  
  28. ^ Yuan, Jada (August 3, 2013). "A Day Apartment Hunting With Natasha Lyonne".  
  29. ^ "Michael Rapaport Driven to Despair by Natasha Lyonne".  
  30. ^
  31. ^ "Pie Star Lyonne Arrested for Drink Driving".  
  32. ^ Susman, Gary (August 27, 2002). "Natasha Lyonne pleads guilty on DUI charge".  
  33. ^ Silverman, Stephen M. (April 19, 2005). "Arrest Warrant Out for American Pie Star - Natasha Lyonne".  
  34. ^ "American Pie's Natasha Lyonne a Free Woman".  
  35. ^ "Access Hollywood". American Pie star’s fight for life. Retrieved June 8, 2015. 
  36. ^ "Natasha Lyonne's Major Medical Scare".  
  37. ^ "Teen Choice Awards 1999". "IMDB". 

External links

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