An Evening Of Dog Walking With Natasha Lyonne

"I definitely stand for the weirdos"

Photographed by Lauren Perlstein, Dress by Proenza Schouler, Jewelry by Jennifer Fisher

“You should just leave. Don’t even pay.”

It’s seven o’clock on a muggy August night in New York, and Natasha Lyonne is advising me to dine and dash.

I had only arrived at the Lower East Side diner where we were meeting a couple minutes before Lyonne did, but I’d already ordered and started drinking an iced coffee by the time I saw her hard-to-miss, leonine-maned head pressed up against the restaurant’s windows; it was clear she was looking for me and clear she couldn’t, for some reason, come inside.

Leaving my iced coffee and the book I was reading in the booth, promising the waiter and the hostess I’d be right back, I rushed outside to find Lyonne and a little toffee-colored fluffball of a dog, Root Beer, waiting for me.

“I wasn’t going to take her, but...” Lyonne said, gesturing toward Root Beer.

“That’s okay. I love dogs. We should walk around with her. I just have to go in and pay.”

This is when Lyonne suggests making a run for it, and even though starting off a profile with an actual crime, however petty, would make for a great story—or, at least, a much better one than what actually happened, which was: I went back inside and asked for the bill, and the very kind waiter told me it was on the house—I really wanted my book. So I grabbed it and told an impressed Lyonne that it was all taken care of (“They didn’t make you pay for it??”) and off we went into the evening air, soup-thick and conveniently smelling like that diner-staple: clam chowder, the red kind.

For 30 years now, there hasn’t been a time when Lyonne wasn’t at least in the periphery of the spotlight, even if not always for career-related reasons. The native New Yorker started acting as a young child, making appearances in everything from the Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Nora Ephron’s divorce novel Heartburn to the cultishly beloved Pee Wee’s Playhouse before moving, as a teenager, into not only indie-prestige films (Slums of Beverly Hills,But I’m a Cheerleader), but also broad, mainstream comedies (American Pie and sequels, a guest spot on Will & Grace).

After a much publicized multi-year struggle with drug addiction, during which she was notably absent from the screen, Lyonne returned with a splash in 2013 thanks to a prominent role as heroin addict Nicky Nichols on the Netflix hit Orange Is the New Black. Appearances on other beloved TV shows (Portlandia, Girls) and small-budget movies, like Sleeping with Other People, since then have only solidified Lyonne’s much-deserved comeback, giving her longtime fans much more to eagerly await.