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

Lyonne was born in New York City, 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]


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.

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]

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


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 positive 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 in 2012.[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 has made guest appearances on the series Weeds, New Girl, Will and Grace, 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.[27]

In 2014, Lyonne was cast in Amy Poehler's NBC comedy pilot Old Soul, directed by David Wain.[28] From 2016, she took up voicing the character of Smoky Quartz, in Cartoon Network's hit show Steven Universe.

Personal life

Lyonne lives in New York City.[29] In 2005, Lyonne was evicted by her landlord, actor Michael Rapaport, following numerous complaints by other tenants about her behavior.[30]

In August 2001, Lyonne was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol after she ran her rented car onto a Miami Beach sidewalk, hitting a road sign and causing minor damages.[31] In August 2002, Lyonne pleaded guilty to drunk driving and paid $1,000 in fines and court fees, performed 50 hours of community service, took part in a victim's panel organized by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was placed on probation for one year, and had her license suspended for one year.[32]

In 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]

In 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. Later that year, 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]

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]

She has been in a relationship with actor Fred Armisen since 2014.[37][38]



Year Title Role Notes
1986 Heartburn Rachel's Niece Uncredited[39]
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 Sixteen
1999 Freeway II: Confessions of a Trickbaby Crystal "White Girl" Van Meuther
1999 But I'm a Cheerleader Megan Bloomfield
1999 The Auteur Theory Rosemary Olson
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 the Working Girl
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 Tennis
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. Hogel
2013 Girl Most Likely Allyson
2013 Clutter Lisa Bradford
2014 Loitering with Intent Kaplan
2015 Addicted to Fresno Martha Jackson
2015 Sleeping with Other People Kara
2015 Hello, My Name Is Doris Sally
2015 Bloomin Mud Shuffle Jock
2015 #Horror Emma
2016 Yoga Hosers Tabitha Collette
2016 The Intervention Sarah
2016 Antibirth Lou
2016 Adam Green's Aladdin Mom
2016 Jack Goes Home Nancy
2017 A Futile and Stupid Gesture Anne Beatts In post-production
2017 Handsome Det. Fleur Scozzari In post-production


Year Title Role Notes
1986–87 Pee-wee's Playhouse Opal 6 episodes
2000 Will & Grace Gillian Episode: "Girl Trouble"
2000 If These Walls Could Talk 2 Jeanne Television film
2001 Night Visions Bethany Daniels Episode: "If a Tree Falls"
2002 Grounded for Life Gretchen Episode: "Relax!"
2007 The Knights of Prosperity Female Co-Star Episode: "Operation: Rent Money"
2009 Loving Leah Esther Television film
2011 New Girl Gretchen Episode: "Wedding"
2011 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Gia Eskas Episode: "Educated Guess"
2012 Weeds Tiffani 2 episodes
2013 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Mrs. Barbato Episode: "Comic Con-Air"
2013–present Orange Is the New Black Nicky Nichols 36 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 Rickey Episode: "Iowa"
2015–16 Portlandia Various 3 episodes
2015 Comedy Bang! Bang! Katie Episode: "Dax Shepard Wears a Heather Grey Shirt and Black Blazer"
2015–16 Inside Amy Schumer Various 2 episodes
2015 Sanjay and Craig Chido (voice) Episode: "Bike-o Psycho/Boulder Rollers"
2016 Steven Universe Smoky Quartz (voice) 2 episodes
2016 The $100,000 Pyramid Herself Episode: "Natasha Lyonne vs. Terry Crews"
2016 The Simpsons Sophie (voice) Episode: "The Nightmare After Krustmas"

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[40]
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

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Maron, Marc (October 14, 2013). "Episode 432 - Natasha Lyonne" (audio podcast). WTF Podcast. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  2. "Natasha Lyonne Biography". Retrieved August 26, 2014.
  3. 1 2 Barkan, Ross (29 August 2013). "Offbeat Boxing Promoter Tries to Roil West Side Council Race". Politicker. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 Simonson, Robert (January 6, 2008). "When Living at All Is the Best Revenge". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2008.
  5. Hoffman, Barbara (January 3, 2010). "In my library: Natasha Lyonne". New York Post. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  7. 1 2 3 "Spoonful of Sugar". Heeb Magazine. Heeb Media, LLC. December 16, 2008. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Hass, Nancy (July 9, 2000). "Shopping with: Natasha Lyonne; Rough, Tough, But on a Road To Ladylike". New York Times. Retrieved 19 May 2010.
  9. Landman, Beth; Spiegelman, Ian (November 27, 2000). "A Dark Grey Zone for Natasha Lyonne". New York (Intelligencer). Retrieved July 16, 2006.
  10. "USC Shoah Foundation Institute testimony of Ella Buchinger". United States Holocaust Museum. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  11. 1 2 "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". People. September 7, 1998. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  13. Heyman, Marshall (October 25, 2010). "Natasha Lyonne Turns a Page". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  14. Cindy Pearlman (July 2, 2000). "Natasha Lyonne". Chicago Sun-Times. p. 3.
  15. Dreher, Rod (January 12, 1997). "Her Heart Is In New York". Sun-Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale). p. 2D. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  16. "'American Pie' star files case against dad". Digital Spy. January 12, 2010. Retrieved November 11, 2013.
  17. Vilkomerson, Sara (30 March 2012). "The hell-and-back journey of Natasha Lyonne: 'I was definitely as good as dead'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  18. "Natasha Lyonne to Star in Mike Leigh's Two Thousand Years". 18 October 2007. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  19. Isherwood, Charles (October 2, 2009). "Spandex Agonistes: Why Don't You Try It On?". New York Times. Retrieved April 21, 2011.
  20. Isherwood, Charles (6 October 2010). "Escaped Predator? What Else Is New?". New York Times. Retrieved 20 October 2011.
  21. Van Meter, William (24 October 2010). "89 Minutes With  Natasha Lyonne". New York (Intelligencer). Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  22. Isherwood, Charles (January 12, 2011). "Discord Dished Up at Every Meal". The New York Times. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  23. 1 2 Wilson, Gemma (24 December 2010). "What's Up, Natasha Lyonne? The Blood From a Stone Star Opens Up on Surviving Her Own Career". Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  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". Playbill. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  25. Andreeva, Nellie (18 December 2012). "Fox Developing Sibling Comedy Starring Natasha Lyonne".
  26. Brown, Emma (9 July 2013). "Natasha Lyonne, Locked Up". Interview Magazine. Retrieved 1 March 2014.
  27. Yamato, Jen (August 12, 2014). "EMMYS Q&A: 'Orange Is The New Black's Natasha Lyonne On Redemption And Her First Emmy Nod". Retrieved June 21, 2016.
  28. Andreeva, Nellie (February 27, 2014). "Ellen Burstyn To Star In Amy Poehler's NBC Comedy Pilot 'Old Soul'". Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  29. Yuan, Jada (August 3, 2013). "A Day Apartment Hunting With Natasha Lyonne". New York (Vulture). Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  30. "Michael Rapaport Driven to Despair by Natasha Lyonne". April 21, 2005. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  31. "Pie Star Lyonne Arrested for Drink Driving". ABC News. August 29, 2001. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  32. Susman, Gary (August 27, 2002). "Natasha Lyonne pleads guilty on DUI charge". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved October 20, 2011.
  33. Silverman, Stephen M. (April 19, 2005). "Arrest Warrant Out for American Pie Star - Natasha Lyonne". People. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  34. "American Pie's Natasha Lyonne a Free Woman". People. December 15, 2006. Retrieved March 1, 2014.
  35. "Access Hollywood". American Pie star’s fight for life. Retrieved June 8, 2015.
  36. "Natasha Lyonne's Major Medical Scare". The Rosie Show. October 22, 2012. Retrieved November 4, 2013.
  39. Raab, Scott (June 12, 2015). "Natasha Lyonne on Orange Is the New Black and Provocative Fan Requests". Esquire. Retrieved June 10, 2016.
  40. "Teen Choice Awards 1999". "IMDB".

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