Natasha Lyonne on Nicky Nichols and how the “OITNB” cast is like a real-life prison gang


No matter how you ask, Natasha Lyonne will not say if Nicky Nichols will be making a return to Orange is the New Black in Season 4.

“My brain is an easy in, easy out system. Even if I knew the answer I have such terrible short term memory, there’s no way I’d know,” the actress said during a roundtable interview at Netflix’s TCA day on Tuesday. “I get a lot of questions, as you might imagine. It’s very fun. I feel a real solidarity with the cast of Game of Thrones even though I haven’t met them.”

2015 Summer TCA Tour - Day 1

But since Nicky is still alive (that we know of), it would seem we can expect Natasha to come back to Litchfield at some point in Season 4, and the kind of enthusiasm she has for the show indicates she’s not planning to leave anytime soon.

“I think what ends up happening for us as an ensemble is we’re that much tighter,” Natasha said, speaking to the dressed-down nature of the series and the natural looks they wear inside. “Like we feel, because we’re all coming to work as our real selves and then going into character and getting even deeper into an even grittier version of ourselves, the intimacy and safety of numbers of that—like we’re all in this together. Of course there’s so many things you associate negatively with what it would be like to work with a bunch of women and we don’t experience on the show for that reason. I think that as actors, we’re all very into the fact that we show up and it’s not about what we look like. That just means you get to get into the work in such a deeper way so much easier. All that stuff can be very distracting.”

Natasha says she and her castmates are like a real life “prison gang,” saying that, from the first day on set, she could see how every single person fit into the Orange world.

“Everybody has been cast quite intentionally with a whole master plan happening. You felt it almost immediately,” she said. “I realized in that moment the show is compromised of heavy hitters.”


One reason Natasha thinks the cast has taken to each other is due to the ensemble-nature of the show. Because while Piper Chapman’s story was the entry point into Litchfield, the surrounding characters are just as much driving the narrative in all three seasons so far.

“It’s not all the pressure on one particular person,” Natasha said. “The show is huge in its scope creatively and the impact it’s had in popularity has been really big. So to not be in a situation where it’s any one person shouldering that alone is a really nice, safe thing that allows us to be in the good spirit of the thing instead of in the the obsession of it, so it’s a very feel-good thing.”

Natasha also finds that Orange is different in the way that it brought together a cast of talented character actors who, for better or for worse, are outsiders in the business of Hollywood, whether it’s because they are trans, queer, women of color or have an eccentric sensibility about them that is not as often celebrated in the entertainment industry.

“People on the show—we all know that we’re a little bit outliers in terms of being a part of the mainstream. I would include Taylor [Schilling] in that, in her sort of like exceptionalness,” Natasha said. “She, too, sort of feels that way in person, as sort of other. So I think we all sort of have a sensation of gratefulness that our weirdoness has been given such a reward, finally, and to have that as a team gives a safe and good feeling.”


If Nicky Nichols does reunite with her prison pals in Season 4, she will likely be doing so with a new outlook on how she’s dealt with her drug addiction and the consistent troubles she’s caused for herself. Because even though Nicky often provides comic relief, Natasha said Orange is successful in how it stays grounded by the sheer fact they are in “a very high-stakes situation.”

“These are people that have lost their basic freedom,” she said. “So, I think that anything like…new prisoners coming into a situation where you think you’ve insulated yourself and built a kind of safe corner in this prison. It’s like of course anything can be upturned at any moment—it’s prison. By the very nature of that, people are getting in and coming out. Whenever they do a anything for my character having these stakes—her actions have fucking consequences. If you’re going to be a self-destructive person, it’s going to come and bite you in the ass eventually. The fact they aren’t just these things left to kind of sit around and be fun ideas, eating too many cookies with Big Boo—it’s not going to be left there. It’s heroin; heroin’s going to have consequences, and it’s not all going to be fingering and cookies.”

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