Charlie Barnett Had Intimate Kiss With Natasha Lyonne

  • “Russian Doll” star Charlie Barnett said his “favorite moment” was set when they had a rave.
  • Barnett told Insider that the wacky scene gave him “an excuse to be whatever I wanted to be.”
  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for season 2 of “Russian Doll,” which premiered Wednesday.

The new season of “Russian Doll” expands from its intimate New York setting to vast locations that range from East Germany in the 1960s to a psychedelic rave in Bulgaria.

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The hit series is focused on time travel, rather than time loops, in its second season as both Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (Charlie Barnett) delve into their family histories four years after they helped each other escape death.

After accidentally stumbling into 1982, and into the body of her mother Lenora (Chloë Sevigny), Nadia discovers her family’s long-lost fortune and does all she can to try and change the past and her present.

Meanwhile, Alan, who is in 1962 East Berlin in the body of her grandmother Agnes (Carolyn Michelle Smith), just wants to enjoy the ride.

Among the soul-searching scenes, there are moments that are purely bizarre and inexplainable such as the aforementioned rave scene, which occurs in episode four.

After taking DMT, a hallucinogenic tryptamine drug, Nadia is thrust into a montage where she experiences multiple deaths and transforms into her younger self, only to return to the present day again. She also makes out with Alan in a strobe-light illuminated bunker set to a remix of “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.

Barnett told Insider that this was one of his favorite scenes because he could use “Nadia’s crazy drug-filled world” as an “excuse” to do anything. The “Russian Doll” star also shared why he was “surprised” to return for season two and his initial annoyance with his character.

Charlie Barnett told Insider that he was pissed at Alan for risking his grandmother’s life in season 2

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Greta Lee and Natasha Lyonne in the rave bunker.

Netflix


When it comes to shows like “Russian Doll,” there are moments that can be confusing, such as the rules of time travel. How did you react when you got the script for season 2 and saw where the characters were going next?

After last season, I will admit, upfront I didn’t know if I had a place. I didn’t know if Alan’s storyline was gone. I wasn’t sure what Natasha and [co-creators] Leslye [Headland] and Amy [Poehler] were thinking in the next season. So I kind of went into it thinking that I wasn’t invited. So coming into the second season, I was just surprised to be a part of it initially.

And the time jumping, Natasha and Leslye and Amy have a great way of taking those tropes and flipping them. They always add some sort of surprising element so that it’s not what you’ve always imagined. And that’s what really, really excited me. I didn’t see all of them at first. I will admit, reading through that script they’re hidden. They’re kind of like Easter eggs.

You can watch it a million times, you know, and there’s something new that will pop out. My partner was like explaining something at the end of last season that I was like, “Holy shit.” I didn’t even see that until four years later and I’m the one in it. And he’s like, “I thought that’s what you were doing,” but that’s the beauty of art.

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Nadia (Lyonne) and Alan (Barnett) use trains to transport into the past.

Netflix


“Russian Doll” season two is filled with more bizarre moments than the first. For example, at the beginning of episode six, Nadia literally gives birth to herself while in her mother’s body. How did you react to those stranger moments?

I’ll tell you my favorite one: This is pretty shameful but my favorite one is Nadia’s tripping scene when they’re in Budapest and she falls through the bed. We filmed that in a World War II bunker 90 feet underground and we had a rave down there. It was fucking awesome. It was also one of those days that we didn’t have to do any serious scenes so I was like, “Oh, I’m gonna get crazy in this.”

It’s also not really attached to Alan. Everybody keeps thinking, “Did y’all have an orgy at one point in this show?” And it’s like well, yes. I guess. But side note, it’s not [the real] world. It’s Nadia’s crazy drug-filled world … so I had a little bit of an excuse to be whatever I wanted to be in that place.

When your character travels back in time to 1962, Alan is put in the body of his grandmother, Agnes, who is a Ghanaian woman studying in East Berlin on a scholarship. During the season, we see Alan fall for his grandmother’s lover Lenny (Sandor Funtek), a German man who wants to escape to West Berlin to be with his family. What was the preparation for that role like? Did you do a lot of research?

Of course. I started really from a group that came from Congo [to East Berlin]. It was nine men and one woman and I was always fascinated by that story. She had a couple of writings, but there’s not a lot known about her.

East Berlin started to reach out to many other countries in order to establish a communist kind of relationship with other nations. They reached out to nations in Africa and tried to work on science and mathematics scholarships in order to get students from African nations over to East Berlin.

I was interested to see what challenges an individual woman of color in this country, [who was] surrounded by other men [had] because lord knows …

In reading this script for the second season, I got really pissed at Alan in the beginning because I was like, “You are full-on taking advantage of this Black woman’s life and risking it as well. And on top of it, it is your grandmother. You’re not taking the care and consideration. If a white man is kissing you in the hallway, what is the risk that’s around there? Not necessarily for him more for you. ”

In East Berlin, I just found myself being like, he is running rampant and he needs to take a step back. Ultimately, it’s an interesting storyline but I was frustrated with that one.

Charlie Barnett said he pushed for more uncomfortable scenes between Agnes and the police to make it more realistic

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Alan’s grandmother, Agnes (Carolyn Michelle Smith), has a run-in with the police.

Netflix


Whenever it comes to time traveling with people of color, it can be nerve-wracking.

It’s dangerous. You feel like, “Oh shit, where are we gonna go? And what’s gonna happen?” Natasha and I talked about all these things. There was a lot of pushing me. I remember one of the moments when the police come and I was like, “Natasha, this needs to be more honest. These policemen are not just gonna be like,” Hello woman. You’re so pretty and sweet. ‘”

They would not be saying that shit. If they did, it would have an air of “What the fuck are you asking for?” just in reciprocation for me. I, as a person of color in this day and age, am still afraid of those kinds of moments. So how would it be avoided then?

You were talking about your relationship with Natasha earlier. She is the star of the show, co-creator, and took over the lead showrunner role from Headland in season 2, The New Yorker reported. What is it like working with her? Do you have a favorite interaction with her?

It’s hard to pick one story because this show is fucking crazy. We block shoot most of it. So it’s always like, “Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know where I am. I’m calling home to cry and be like, I’m a failure. What the fuck am I doing?” And then I’m learning that part of that energy and that emotion should feed into Allen.

I had a lot of fun doing that rave scene with Natasha. She kissed me at one point. We had a sex scene in our first season, but it felt so intimate at that moment in the basement [in season two].

She’s in such a different place as a leader at this point during her second season, so much more comfortable and aware. I believe so much in her abilities and I want to see her go so fucking far. So it’s always an honor to work with her as challenging as it can be.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length. The second season of “Russian Doll,” also starring Greta Lee and Annie Murphy, is available on Netflix.

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