Emmy voting begins today, and one of the hopefuls is Natasha Lyonne, star of Russian Doll. Yesterday she attended a Netflix “FYSee” Q&A to promote the show’s Emmy hopes, alongside show co-creators Leslye Headland and Amy Poehler, her co-star Charlie Barnett, editor Todd Downing—that show depends so heavily on the editing, I am glad to see him included with the key creatives—music supervisor Brienne Rose, and cinematographer Chris Teague. Netflix is not just promoting Lyonne for lead actress, they want Russian Doll to bag multiple nominations, and well it should, but in the era of Peak Platinum TV, something always gets left out. At least the Emmys have expanded categories that allow for more than five nominees.
I assume Russian Doll will go in the comedy category, because the episodes are half an hour, but it’s not really a comedy. It’s like Barry, it straddles that line between comedy and drama that is hard to define. Both shows feature people we identify as funny, both shows have good jokes, but the themes and the characters themselves are quite dark and dramatic. Russian Doll is a show about reckoning with trauma, and most of the jokes stem from deflecting that trauma. Like how you do line that up next to Documentary Now and call them the same? But, Russian Doll has thirty-minute episodes, so it will be a comedy. We can’t consider comedy and drama as anything other than a binary, I guess.
The question is what nominations Lyonne can pull. She stars in Russian Doll, but she also co-created the show, and she directed the outstanding finale episode. She could potentially be a quadruple nominee, as an actress, director, writer, and producer. Also, she could be nominated for everything BUT acting. As I wrote in my review, her acting in Russian Doll is so natural, she “makes it look so easy you’d swear she’s not even acting.” The Oscars routinely have trouble with this, it’s why Ryan Gosling, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Amy Adams haven’t won one yet. They make it look easy, there is no visible work involved with their performances. They’re not like Leonardo DiCaprio, slowly moving an open flame closer and closer to his eyeball until someone gives him a trophy.
The Emmys, too, struggle with this, which is why Jon Hamm only has one Emmy for Don Draper, and Timothy Olyphant and Amy Poehler have none for Raylan Givens and Leslie Knope, respectively. They don’t struggle to nominate deserving performances, but if there are four nominees talking in a normal voice, and one screaming, nine times out of ten, the screamer wins. Natasha Lyonne in Russian Doll is not screaming. It might be tough for her to stand out against someone like, say, Rachel Brosnahan, who does the obvious hard work of spitting out that Sherman-Palladino rapid-fire dialogue. But Lyonne is out here shaking every hand she can for Russian Doll. I hope it pays off. At the very least, I hope she gets a bunch of nominations. Because the wins are all going to go to Veep.