We have loved actress (and born and bred New Yorker) Natasha Lyonne from the moment she graced the ever-classic American Pie with her dark humor, all the way to her most recent Emmy-worthy performance on Orange Is The New Black. There’s not really more of a badass actress than Lyonne, and we were even further convinced of this after Tracee Ellis Ross told us she’s pretty sure she was Lyonne’s sister, wife and friend in a past life.
That’s how we felt when we met her too (we hope it didn’t weird her out). We could think of no better time to catch up with her over some delicious sushi at EN Brasserie. Get ready to laugh, perhaps cry, and just enjoy a frigging awesome read…
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
This is a day where I’m visiting California. I grew up and live in New York City so my food rituals are pretty on-the-go and boring. Like coffee and a protein bar or stray French fries and a green juice.
In this west coast fantasy, I wake up to a coffee and cream and toast and jam and butter room service tray at the Chateau Marmont and read the newspapers. I watch Rootbeer, my dog, lap up small saucer-fulls of the cream like a cat. Think it’s funny. Later use the saucer as an ashtray. Feel good about life.
Meet my best pal Chloe (who in this fantasy is also visiting from New York City) at Hugo’s for lunch and order weird green scrambles that have too many vegetables to be eggs anymore. Decide we’re taking excellent care of our health.
Meet my boyfriend at Saito’s Sushi in Silver Lake. Hope it’s empty and order Omakase. Have a conversation about how Saito’s makes the best sushi in the world and why can’t we find a place like it in NYC for the one-hundredth time. Pretend it’s the first time. Mean it because it’s so god damned delicious.
Find blueberries in his fridge and eat them. Regret not ordering green tea ice cream. Decide to do better tomorrow.
Does your childhood have an influence on what foods you love and your relationship with food? How so?
I will never eat gefilte fish again.
How do you always start your day? What’s your go-to breakfast?
I’m really hooked on those cold brew black coffees in the glass bottles now. They’re great for snapping open and taking Rootbeer on a walk first thing, while looking like a hobo.
What was the best advice you have ever received? What was the worst?
“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.” -Albert Camus. He told that to me personally back when we were dating.
Do you have any regrets? If so, what are they?
Being a smoker. Don’t do it, kids.
What would your last meal be? Who would it be with?
Jeesh. I dunno. I hope I’m not in jail when it happens. Electric chairs scare me.
Is there an issue you feel most passionately about? What is it and why?
Injustice really wrecks me. It’s everywhere and it’s heartbreaking. I do the best I can to be honest and vocal about the latest issues as they come up. Also being born into economic circumstances that start young lives hopeless is something I find devastating. This year I hope to get more involved with my friend Jennny Dembrow, at her amazing organization Lower East Side Girls Club.
What are restaurants in New York City you loved as a kid that still exist? What do you order there?
I really associate Viand Diner on Madison Ave off 78th St. with my shitty high school experience (at Ramaz). I would always order a grilled cheese and fries and a vanilla milkshake. I maintain it’s a perfect meal.
Can you give us a few of NYC’s best-kept food secrets?
I don’t drink anymore, but when I did, I used to love bringing people to Angel’s Share off of St. Mark’s. You had to walk up the steep steps and through the very low-fi Japanese joint to open up to the tiny but majestic bar in the back. The contrast was great and unexpected. The mural above the bar was beautiful. The ice cubes were giant. I don’t think this place is a secret at all anymore and is probably a very 90’s reference that likely got too popular for its own good. Lots of douchebags go there now I bet. I feel somewhat responsible and apologize.
The funniest thing that’s happened while working with Amy Poehler…
We were recently in Israel doing research for our project Zero Motivation and decided we’d be able to squeeze in 30 minutes of swimming in the ocean at Eilat. We frantically ran into a local mall and began trying on ridiculous bathing suits over our clothes and cracking up at how bad they all looked.
We actually wound up with some really solid black one-pieces that were very reasonably priced and decided they were the best bathing suits we had ever owned. We then floated in the water in seventh heaven before speeding to the airport for a flight back to Tel Aviv, which got delayed 6 hours. I insisted on eating any ice cream or candy bar or wormy candy with Israeli Minions logos on it at the airport and had a sugar spike and crash. We fell asleep at the airport in our wet one-pieces and vowed to never wear those bathing suits again.
Do you have a “funniest memory?” or a “weirdest memory” on the set of something? What was it and what made it so unique?
I remember sitting in a sauna in Bulgaria with Mira Sorvino trying to sweat out water weight before shooting Tim Blake Nelson’s holocaust drama The Grey Zone. Still one of my favorite movies I’ve ever been a part of. That sauna memory however, is locked in my mind as being quite surreal.
What’s one thing men don’t get or know about women that they should?
That our thoughts make their thoughts look like a baby cake saint parade.
When we asked Tracee Ellis Ross who she was in past lives, she said your sister, your friend and your wife. Do you agree? And who were you in a past life?
I am in love with Tracee and agree with her about everything, although I object to the reincarnation concept in this case. I believe it’s all happening in the here and now. Here’s how I see it: We already are friends. When we finally do the necessary DNA work we will discover we are actually related (great news for me! Not so great for Tracers!). And finally, we will be married within the next 5 years. All in this actual life. Basically, we’re on the same page though.
I know all this for certain because in my past life I was a psychic.
You never liked X till you tried it at Y…
This one feels like math. Skipping.
Where do you love to travel? What won’t you travel without?
I won’t travel without Nicorette and pre-downloaded New York Timescrossword puzzles. Sometimes I think travel is overrated. I no longer check luggage and that makes it less graphic all around. That said, I love landing in New York. I still find it cinematic and romantic and it feels safe like I’m back home.
In the same vein as ‘what is the new black’ what’s the new potato right now?
Motorboats are the new potato. Also, Motorboating is the new French kissing.
I love landing in New York. I still find it cinematic and romantic...
*Natasha Lyonne, photographed at EN Brasserie in New York, NY by Danielle Kosann