Natasha Lyonne: A Cult Classic Star

Lyonne has taken her decades-long career to new creative heights. 

Natasha Lyonne’s iconic look and vibrant roles have graced our screens for almost four decades. To celebrate the actress, we dive into the highs of her career — and the lows — as we look at her journey toward becoming a cult icon. The red-headed star is probably most renowned for her most recent, and critically-acclaimed, project — the Peacock Original, Poker Face

Poker Face

Lyonne both executive produces and stars as casino worker Charlie Cale, who, whilst on the run, finds herself embroiled in murder mysteries that need to be solved. Her quirky ability to spot when people are lying makes her the best person for the job. 

Recently, there has been an influx of modern takes on the classic mystery tropes. For example, here is a multitude of real money online casino games that are themed around mysteries — take Mystery of the Orient, for example, which riffs off the same classic detective fiction and TV as that which inspired Poker Face. This rediscovered love for nostalgic murder mysteries has led to Poker Face being renewed for a second season. 

In the next series, it will be interesting to see how Poker Face continues to experiment with unique characters and settings, and how it might further take influence from the classic murder mysteries we all know and love. But, what came before Poker Face? Let’s take a look at the rise, fall, and re-emergence of Natasha Lyonne. 

Debut on the screen

Natasha Lyonne rose to stardom when she debuted on Pee-wee’s Playhouse. At this time, Lyonne was also signed as a model by Ford Modelling Agency.

“Vintage Pee Wee’s Playhouse Picture Card” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by France1978

After this, Lyonne went on to land a role in the film Heartburn before relocating to Israel and acting in a film called April Fool

Cult classic stardom

It was when Lyonne landed the role in Everyone Says I Love You (1996) that her career really took off, kickstarting a great decade for the actress, including the hit franchise American Pie. One of the most famous roles of this era was, of course, But I’m a Cheerleader (1999). The film also stars Clea DuVall, who became one of Lyonne’s close friends, as they continued to be a support to one another. 

A new start 

During the early 2000s, Lyonne took a break from acting. Unfortunately, despite landing roles in a variety of shows and films over the next few years, Lyonne never really hit the same level of fame as she had before — until that is, the critically acclaimed, Orange is the New Black.

“Natasha Lyonne” (CC BY 2.0) by Peabody Awards

Lyonne played iconic bad girl Nicky Nichols in 81 episodes of the show between 2013 and 2019 and even directed one of the episodes. Lyonne cites the show as being life-affirming, helping her rediscover her love for acting.

What’s next? 

Post-Orange is the New Black, Lyonne has delved further into the behind-the-scenes of TV, as well as taking on more creative roles, as exemplified by Netflix’s Russian Doll. Lyonne is the co-creator, lead actress, executive producer, and sometimes director of the show. With this in mind, it seems likely that, with a renewed love for the industry, Lyonne will take her decades-long career to new creative heights.