Natasha Lyonne Sings Tina Turner While Explaining Karaoke Culture | Screen Tests

Natasha Lyonne has been a staple in Hollywood for over a decade, which is to say: she's got plenty of stories to tell. So pull up a chair as the actress tells all in her Screen Test interview, from her first role on Pee-Wee's Playhouse to her first kiss and a taste of her go-to karaoke song.

Released on 7/23/2019

Credits

Starring: Natasha Lyonne

Transcript

00:00
[Lynn] What was your first audition?
00:01
Ah, I must have been about...
00:04
Five, maybe four, it's hard to remember.
00:06
Because of both the brain damage
00:08
and the years that have gone by.
00:10
[Lynn laughing]
00:11
I don't remember it being great,
00:13
but the mythology of the household
00:14
is that I cried a great deal, and that nonetheless,
00:17
they kept pushing, and here we are.
00:19
[Lynn laughing]
00:21
My big childhood claim to...
00:23
You know, mediocre fame, but now very hip,
00:25
is Pee-Wee's Playhouse, which I was always deeply proud of.
00:28
I still think is the coolest thing
00:30
I have to contribute is that zinger.
00:32
And I played Opal on that show,
00:33
so that was my big achievement by about six.
00:36
But prior to that, I think I'd done a bunch of commercials.
00:39
Minute Maid, Hershey's, et cetera,
00:41
and, you know, they didn't all air,
00:43
which is really what you're after
00:45
when you're a child actor in the commercial business.
00:48
[Lynn laughing]
00:49
You want them to get on the air,
00:50
if you wanna get your imaginary Lamborghini,
00:52
which is what I was hoping for.
00:55
I didn't get the Lambo.
00:56
[Lynn laughing]
01:01
I do think that...
01:04
I have a sort of vaudevillian bent.
01:07
I think that I'm sort of built
01:08
for a life of juggling emotions.
01:12
I don't know that I enjoyed, you know, carrying a briefcase,
01:17
and getting on the train, and the commute.
01:19
[Lynn laughing]
01:20
But I do think I always enjoyed a great deal
01:23
the world of imagination, so I think
01:25
that Pee-Wee's Playhouse for example
01:26
was a great source of joy in my life.
01:29
It was such a world of beatnik, hep-cats,
01:32
that kinda played jazz instruments.
01:35
It felt more like an extracurricular activity.
01:38
But sorta the fanfare around it
01:40
was always, I think, disturbing and confusing,
01:43
as it continues to be.
01:44
[Lynn laughing]
01:45
[Lynn] You always had this, like,
01:46
sounding older than you were voice.
01:48
Yeah, I mean, thanks to a lifetime of smoking cigarettes,
01:50
which they recently discovered is actually good for you.
01:53
It got thicker and deeper over the years,
01:56
and increasingly, all the time,
01:58
I'm becoming more and more like
02:00
both Kathleen Turner and Shelley Winters.
02:02
[Lynn laughing]
02:03
So that's the good news.
02:06
It was the '80s, and you remember the '80s,
02:09
Crazy Eddie was huge, and so was cocaine.
02:11
[Lynn laughing]
02:12
People had grandiose fantasies
02:14
of what they wanted out of life,
02:16
and fame was hot, those were the times.
02:18
Grace Jones was big, David Lee Roth,
02:21
Christopher Walken was a name I would hear often in my house
02:24
as a sort of litmus test of achievement,
02:26
and I think that's what my parents were after.
02:29
Prior to that, the now less-popular Woody Allen
02:31
was also an achievement.
02:32
I auditioned for Slums of Beverly Hills
02:35
and for Everyone Says I Love You.
02:36
Everyone Says I Love You, I think
02:38
that I did not get the memo
02:40
that you're not supposed to reply to Woody Allen.
02:42
[Lynn laughing]
02:43
And I roller-bladed in, in my very long khaki skirt,
02:47
'cause I was going to a yeshiva,
02:49
even though we were not religious.
02:50
I was on scholarship, and I was stoned,
02:53
and I came into the office, and he said...
02:56
So what's your story?
02:58
And I launched into sort of an hour-long rambling monologue
03:01
about my life up to that point, my dysfunctional parents,
03:04
their attempt to salvage their marriage
03:06
by moving to Israel in a sort of Zionistic fantasy
03:10
of making it all work, that was really masking tax evasion,
03:13
and so on, and I think somewhere in this rambling tale,
03:17
he became convinced I should play his daughter.
03:19
I was shocked every day that I didn't get fired.
03:23
I would hear so many rumors--
03:24
[Lynn laughing]
03:25
About how people would get fired
03:26
for seemingly smaller infractions.
03:28
You know, I would only sometimes arrive.
03:30
If I was wearing my Groucho Marx makeup,
03:33
I would smear it somehow while sneaking a cigarette.
03:36
I can remember I was doing a lot of like,
03:38
listening to Portishead on a roof of a hotel in Venice,
03:41
like, sneaking cigarettes, I was bad,
03:43
but just learning how to become bad.
03:45
I think I was in over my head,
03:46
and also looking back, maybe just a tween.
03:50
Slums of Beverly Hills, I think was more grounded
03:53
in that by then I discovered Cassavetes.
03:55
So I had a sort of sense of what it meant
03:58
to feel uncomfortable in skin,
04:01
and it be okay to portray that on-screen.
04:05
That sort of an inner and outer life could be married,
04:09
and also have a sense of humor.
04:12
So now I've created a show called Russian Doll.
04:15
I play a character named Nadia Vulvokov.
04:18
I'd always had this fantasy of playing sort of...
04:20
A Philip Marlowe type, but specifically Elliott Gould's
04:23
Philip Marlowe in Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye,
04:25
as opposed to, let's say, Jack Nicholson's
04:28
in Polanski's Chinatown, or...
04:30
A Humphrey Bogart Philip Marlowe.
04:32
But the Elliott Gould Philip Marlowe
04:34
always really appealed to me,
04:36
he was a mumbler, and he had a missing cat.
04:38
I think that I was sort of curious about that,
04:42
of what does it mean to have a life.
04:44
And so the exercise I think of Russian Doll
04:46
was also, in a way, to create a dialogue
04:48
with the audience around...
04:52
Embracing and losing shame around inner brokenness,
04:56
and recognizing that it's a nice thing to move
04:59
from a disconnected life to a more connected one
05:02
where we become sort of participating members
05:05
of, you know, this trip that we're on,
05:08
because what else are we gonna do about it?
05:11
[Lynn] What's your karaoke song?
05:13
Tina Turner, Private Dancer, is my karaoke song.
05:17
The thing is, is that all the men come in these places,
05:19
and all the men are all the same.
05:21
You don't look at their faces, you don't ask their name,
05:24
you don't even think of them as real men,
05:25
you don't think of them at all.
05:27
[Lynn laughing]
05:28
The part I really like is then, towards the middle,
05:31
she's like, you know...
05:33
♪ Deutch marks or dollars ♪
05:35
♪ American Express will do nicely, thank you ♪
05:38
♪ Let me loosen up your collar ♪
05:41
♪ Tell me do ya wanna see me do the shimmy again, ah ♪
05:46
And I think it's that ah that I'm really after,
05:48
that's sort of the click for me.
05:50
[Lynn laughing]
05:52
Just sing it in a loop, and it becomes
05:53
increasingly torturous for the people around me.
05:56
I think my first kiss was actually
05:57
on the set of Dennis the Menace
05:59
starring Walter Matthau and Joan Plowright.
06:02
Yeah, it was with Devin Ratray, who's in Russian Doll
06:05
in the second episode, at the cash register,
06:07
he's also the big brother in Home Alone.
06:09
I played Dennis the Menace's babysitter,
06:11
he came over for a visit, we made out,
06:13
I had such a big crush on him, and we kissed on-screen,
06:16
that's weird, that's your first kiss.
06:18
I do think it's weird now being a parent of six children
06:22
who I've never met or seen.
06:23
[Lynn laughing]
06:24
I do think that it's strange to sort of put a child
06:28
in show biz, and then be like, now go make out with someone.
06:31
Yeah, I think it's weird.
06:32
This year for my birthday in Los Angeles
06:35
I screened Lina Wertmuller's Seven Beauties,
06:37
and here in New York, I screened King of Comedy.
06:40
And that was fun, King of Comedy went over bigger.
06:43
It's an easier movie to watch,
06:44
but Lina Wertmuller was actually the first woman
06:46
ever nominated for Best Director,
06:48
so I thought it was a good movie to see.
06:51
You know, it's a holocaust picture,
06:52
but Mussolini, not Hitler.
06:55
My cinematic crush...
06:56
[Lynn] It can be male or female, doesn't...
06:58
Yeah, well, my boyfriend Fred Armisen was there,
07:00
and so I feel like it's okay, I have a crush on him.
07:03
Fred, I have a crush on, but I'm also actively
07:07
acting on that crush on a daily basis.
07:09
[Lynn laughing]
07:10
So I say that all as a long way of saying
07:13
that recently we watched Viggo Mortensen together
07:16
in Eastern Promises, and mama mia,
07:19
that sauna scene, I mean...
07:21
[Lynn laughing]
07:22
And I sat there with Freddy, and I took screen-grabs,
07:25
and I told him that they were for research,
07:28
I was researching a future picture I had not yet written.
07:33
And what a wonderful performance,
07:35
and I don't mean that just, you know, on aesthetics.
07:39
It was the inside stuff, the insides.
07:40
[Lynn laughing]
07:42
I love my boyfriend, but Viggo in the Eastern Promises,
07:45
really, you know, he looks good in and out of his clothes,
07:49
and that's something I really admire about his work
07:51
in the movie, and you know, usually when I play this game,
07:54
I think it's best to play it with dead people.
07:56
You know, to say like, oh, isn't Peter Falk a babe.
08:00
[Lynn laughing]
08:01
Because it's an easier game for people to accept,
08:05
and yet here we are.
08:07
I was also very disappointed to discover
08:09
that Idris Elba and I did not get married.
08:12
[Lynn laughing]
08:13
It was a shock to my system,
08:14
and I think many women felt the same.
08:16
You know, I have so many crushes.
08:19
Also the dragons on Game of Thrones.
08:21
[Lynn] Are you a Game of Thrones fan?
08:22
Not only am I a Game of Thrones fan,
08:24
but I would sleep with those dragons.
08:26
I would sleep with the Night King.
08:27
[Lynn] Even with the zombie dragon?
08:29
I would sleep with...
08:31
A good, healthy number of zombies,
08:33
and Draculas, Nosferatu, Gary Oldman as Dracula,
08:37
that's all my type, yes.
08:40
My first pet's name, I did, I had a dog named Rocky,
08:43
you know, after Sylvester Stallone.
08:45
The first street was E Shore Road.
08:49
Rocky E Shore Road?
08:50
[Lynn] That's your porno name.
08:52
Yes, it's not very seductive is it?
08:53
[Lynn laughing]
08:54
It's sort of a long-winded porno
08:56
that let's you know it's gonna more trouble than it's worth.
08:58
[Lynn laughing]
08:59
Yes.
09:00
Rocky Shores, maybe is a little bit better.
09:02
[Lynn] Rocky Shores is good!
09:03
That's the John Waters version, yes.
09:05
My secret skill is...
09:08
You know, as a...
09:09
Between '86 and '88, during the intifada,
09:12
I was living in Israel, and at the time,
09:16
I was a young girl, six to eight years old,
09:18
or eight to 10 maybe.
09:19
I swallowed a number of shekels,
09:23
those are Israeli coins, and they got stuck in my larynx,
09:29
and that's where they still are today.
09:32
[coins clinking]
09:33
[Lynn] Oh, my god!
09:35
You weren't kidding!
09:36
They never passed?
09:38
No, I've gotten...
09:39
I just smoke around them.
09:41
[Lynn laughing]