Cindy Holland, vice president of original content at Netflix, and Natasha Lyonne, the co-creator, writer, director, and star of the show, made the announcement onstage with Recode’s Kara Swisher at the 2019 Code Conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Tuesday.
“Want to do a season two, Natasha?” Holland asked Lyonne.
“Me, Cindy? Same show, just weirder? Are you sure?” Lyonne replied. “Nadia Vulvokov is a coder, as you know, so I guess it would be somewhat appropriate to maybe have this be the time and place to say yes, very much so, I would love to do that, Cindy.”
Russian Doll, released in February 2019, stars Lyonne as Nadia, a 36-year-old New York woman who keeps dying and reliving her birthday. The series has been critically acclaimed and has a 96 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff described the show as “one of the best stories I’ve seen about the cost of fighting against your own brain.”
The existence of Netflix was key to Russian Doll’s creation. At Code on Tuesday, Lyonne recounted the story of how Amy Poehler, who is one of the show’s creators (along with Lyonne and Leslye Headland) first reached out to her about working on it. Lyonne said Poehler called her on the phone one day and said, “As long as I’ve known you, you’ve always been the oldest girl in the world. Do you think we should make a TV show about that?”
They took their initial concept to NBC, but the network didn’t pick it up. “Amy turned to me and said, ‘What show would we really want to make?’” Lyonne said. They started having a broader conversation about what to do, and Lyonne said she had always been interested in some sort of “quantum character.”
So that’s what they took to Netflix.
“We really brought them the show that we really wanted to make,” Lyonne said.
Of course, Russian Doll wasn’t Lyonne’s first time working with Netflix. She was also one of the stars of another of the streaming platform’s hits, Orange Is the New Black. The series premiered in July 2013, at a very different time for Netflix, when it wasn’t clear what the platform would really be. “Everybody essentially thought that they were signing onto this unknown quantity, a web channel,” Lyonne said.
A web channel that Holland, who has been at Netflix since 2002, had an important hand in building. She is responsible for acquiring and launching original content for the platform. Among the series she’s behind are 13 Reasons Why, Stranger Things, and Master of None. This year alone, her team will be responsible for about 60 original new and returning English-language scripted shows. And globally, she said Netflix’s catalog is in the thousands.
“The thing that I think about is making sure that we stay true to the core of what we’re trying to do, which is to provide entertainment for the world and to provide an incredible working environment for the best artists in the world,” Holland said.
And that has translated, in part, into Russian Doll’s creation and its renewal. Swisher asked Holland if she counts the show as a hit. “It’s all relative to size. Russian Doll is a hit for what it costs, in that dimension,” she said. “It also happened to really break through critically.”
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