While OItNB is currently 10 months away from premiering its fifth season, audiences can catch Lyonne in two independent films this fall: Sundance Festival favorites The Intervention and Antibirth. The movies share a commonality in that they each represent a reunion of sorts between Lyonne and longtime collaborators: The Intervention reunites Lyonne with But I’m a Cheerleader co-stars Melanie Lynskey and Clea DuVall, who also directs the film, and Antibirth with Party Monster co-star and IRL best friend Chloë Sevigny. Other than that, though, each film is completely different from the other, thus serving as ideal showcases to best demonstrate the versatility and wide-ranging talents of Lyonne.
In fact, “wide-ranging” is not only a means of describing Lyonne’s gifts as an actress, but also an apt means to begin to understand what a casual conversation with her is even like. Over the course of our hour-long walk-and-talk (which eventually devolved into a walk-and-sit, because, wow, it was hot and humid that night), Lyonne touched upon topics ranging from her thoughts about the type of person who likes to go on leisurely walks (“I hate people who want to take a nice walk. I don’t understand where they’re going. What’s the destination?”), to how she got her dog (“I rescued her from my friend Dave, who was her previous owner, who loved her very much. So it was less of a rescue and more of a dog-napping… but I don’t think those are defined as rescues. Those are defined as stealing a dog you fell in love with.”), to her feelings on New York’s now ubiquitous shareable public bikes (“The only time I would ever see myself in a Citi Bike is if I was in a scene from a big-budget ‘80s rom-com where all of a sudden I was running down to catch my boyfriend and there had been a misunderstanding and I pushed this guy off of his Citi Bike and I grabbed it and I said, “Wait for me Johnny! Here I come!”).
What I’m trying to say is: It’s easy to cover a lot of conversational ground with Lyonne, even while sitting on a bench a couple blocks south of Houston, across the street from a mural of animals doing things people do, a work of art which Lyonne insists Root Beer painted: “Look at all those animal friends of hers. She’s an extraordinary painter. I mean really you should do an interview with Root Beer.”
Root Beer stayed quiet, though, while Lyonne covered, in the span of a couple minutes, more topics including the incredible style of New York acting legend Elaine Stritch (“She’s like, ‘Fuck pants. Why do I need them?’ She wears a sensible jazz pump, nude pantyhose, oversized white men’s button down, oversized prescription shades... Calls it a day. String of pearls. What else does she need? She’s an American classic, a New York legend. You think Elaine Stritch would step foot in a Topshop? No way!”), to the problem with trying to be unique in the age of social media (“It must be a very confusing experience to be an outsider in such an easily mimicable culture of insta-simulation. It’s kind of a bummer for the weirdos, and I definitely stand with the weirdos.”), to what an ideal day for her comprises (“What’s better than walking in the door and knowing the day is done and like laying down in bed, picking up your phone, and doing The New York Times crossword puzzle? Kids, what’s better?”). And yet, despite the varied topics, there’s nothing scattered or disjointed in the raid fire-way Lyonne’s brain works.
Rather, talking with Lyonne is an experience akin to exploring the internet; every time she references something in conversation (and her references run the gamut from Maria Schneider’s voluminous hairstyle in Last Tango in Paris to obscure Bette Davis quotes to the Masahiro Mori theory of the “uncanny valley”), she takes the time to explain thoroughly that thought, as if she were mentally right-clicking to open new tabs and closing them, one by one, always returning to her original premise, never losing the thread. There’s a holistic quality, then, to interviewing Lyonne; unlike interviews with many other celebrities (especially those who have been dealing with the press since they were teenagers), it never feels like she’s talking at you, only with you.