'Russian Doll': Leslye Headland on what sets the series apart from clichéd shows with female protagonists

This is not your regular romance series, where the subjects are searching for a significant other. It deals instead with real life issues.


                            'Russian Doll': Leslye Headland on what sets the series apart from clichéd shows with female protagonists

Netflix is on a roll with a list of new series being released this year. Among the best of them is 'Russian Doll'. Recently released on the streaming giant, 'Russian Doll' follows Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (Charlie Barnett) as they try to stop dying and coming back to life over and over again. 

This is not your regular romance series, where the subjects are searching for a significant other. It deals instead with real life issues. Created, directed, produced and written by an all-female crew that consists of Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland, this eight-episode series is filled with drama that will keep you entertained, plot twists that will have you guessing, and thrills that will leave you sad it is over.

(L-R) VP Original Series, Netflix Cindy Holland, Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland attend the 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)
(L-R) VP Original Series, Netflix Cindy Holland, Amy Poehler, Natasha Lyonne and Leslye Headland attend the 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)

In an exclusive interview with MEAWW, Leslye Headland spoke about the process she underwent with Lyonne while writing the script together, what it was like to shoot the party night with furniture missing each time Nadia comes back to life, and if there is going to be a season 2.

The storyline of 'Russian Doll' is kind of semi-autobiographical for Lyonne. It was shot in New York, East Village, where Lyonne lived most of her adult life. It has scenes that relate to real life issues Lyonne faced. So, we asked Headland, what the process was while the duo was writing the script and she said, "Lyonne and Amy had worked on the concept and a lot of the characters at a time before I came on to the project. They had discussed doing a show that took place in the East Village and that dealt with the scenes and emotions that you see. When I came on board, it was with an eye to hone it into a narrative and come up with, essentially, a premise for what the entire season would be for the first season." 

Leslye Headland attends 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)
Leslye Headland attends 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)

Continuing, Headland added, "So, Natasha and I collaborated for a long time, like about a year-and-a-half of meeting up and talking and going through all the different possibilities of what this could be and then, once that was in place and once we started making decisions and once Netflix picked us up, there were other people that came into that conversation. Initially, it was just me and Natasha and Amy kind of working on that story and the narrative and then once we started our writers' room the other writers really became very heavily involved in shaping the season and that storyline and what ends up happening to both Nadia and Charlie Barnett's character, Alan. So, it was a real collaborative process because it's definitely a case of the whole group being greater. Like many different voices having the one giant chorus. That is the show and is the first season." 

If you have already watched the series, you would notice that as Nadia keeps dying and coming back to life, slowly everything around her starts to disappear, starting from the fish to the fruit and vegetables getting rotten, furniture disappearing and even people disappearing. Shooting all that in one go was not an easy thing to keep track off, Headland revealed.

Adding to that she said, "First, it was a lot of time to remember exactly where we were in the story like what happened before and our script supervisor Stewart was really helpful with that and someone that knew not only what the characters were going through but most of the continuity; from where the extras and the party guests were in the loft, as well as the furniture and the props, because as the loops go on they start disappearing and there are certainly fewer people in her apartment. And so, that was something else that needed to be tracked. So, it was basically like a big puzzle that everyone needed to help. And we were really lucky to have the crew that we did to help us and support us." 

Branden Wellington, Ritesh Rajan, Rebecca Henderson, Greta Lee, Natasha Lyonne, Charlie Barnett, Elizabeth Ashley, Leslye Headland, Jocelyn Bioh and Brendan Sexton III attend 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)
Branden Wellington, Ritesh Rajan, Rebecca Henderson, Greta Lee, Natasha Lyonne, Charlie Barnett, Elizabeth Ashley, Leslye Headland, Jocelyn Bioh and Brendan Sexton III attend 'Russian Doll' Premiere at The Metrograph on January 23, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Netflix)

One thing that left most of us puzzled is if Nadia and Alan will end up together. They remained friends till the end of season 1, but what about future seasons, if there are any? When we asked Headland about this, she said: "You know, I can't speak to you about that. When we initially pitched the show to Netflix, we pitched three seasons and I think that the subject of those seasons and the possibilities of those are things that I can't speak to you, this time. But I will say that shooting with Natasha and Charlie and shooting that storyline was so fulfilling and something that I didn't really know was going to affect me, and also affect people as much as it seems to have. So, I wouldn't rule it out as a possibility." 

Following this, we asked Headland what, according to her, is the best part about 'Russian Doll' and she said, "I think the best thing about this show is that it's a show about a female protagonist, who is more concerned with her interior life and existential angst and mortality and grief, and grief, and her defiance in the face of what life is throwing at her as opposed to a female protagonist dealing with the same problems that we've seen female protagonists dealing with for the last 25 years. You know, like, I think we can push female-driven shows to be complicated and weird and concern themselves with things that are a little bit more difficult and a little bit more complicated than just romantic material or maternal development. I think that way, we will see progress both in our industry and in the content that we create."