- “Russian Doll” star Charlie Barnett said his “favorite moment” on set was when they were having a rave.
- Barnett told Insider the goofy scene gave her “an excuse to be who I wanted to be.”
- Warning: there are spoilers ahead for Season 2 of “Russian Doll,” which premiered on Wednesday.
The new season of “Russian Doll” spans its intimate New York setting to expansive locations ranging from 1960s East Germany to a psychedelic rave in Bulgaria.
The hit series focuses on time travel, rather than time loops, in its second season as Nadia (Natasha Lyonne) and Alan (Charlie Barnett) delve into their family history four years on. be helped to escape death.
After accidentally falling in 1982 and into the body of her mother Lenora (Chloë Sevigny), Nadia discovers her family’s long-lost fortune and does everything she can to try and change the past and her present.
Meanwhile, Alan, who is in 1962 East Berlin in the body of his grandmother Agnes (Carolyn Michelle Smith), just wants to enjoy the ride.
Among the soul-searching scenes are some purely bizarre and inexplicable moments, like the aforementioned rave scene, which occurs in episode four.
After taking DMT, a hallucinogenic tryptamine, Nadia is thrust into a montage where she suffers multiple deaths and transforms into her younger self, only to return to the present again. She also kisses with Alan in a strobe-lit bunker to a remix of Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”.
Barnett told Insider it 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 he was pissed at Alan for risking his grandmother’s life in Season 2
When it comes to shows like “Russian Doll,” there are moments that can be confusing, like the rules of time travel. How did you react when you received the script for season 2 and saw where the characters were going next?
After last season, I admit, at the start, I didn’t know if I had a place. I didn’t know if Alan’s story was gone. I wasn’t sure what Natasha and [co-creators] Leslie [Headland] and Amy [Poehler] were thinking about the next season. So I went there thinking I wasn’t invited. So going into the second season, I was just surprised to be part of it initially.
And the time jump, Natasha and Leslye and Amy have a great way of taking those tropes and flipping them. They always add some kind of surprising element so that it’s not what you always imagined. And that’s what really, really turned me on. I didn’t see them all at first. I will admit, reading this script, that they are hidden. They are like Easter eggs.
You can watch it a million times, you know, and there’s something new coming out. My partner was like explaining something at the end of last season that I was like, “Holy shit.” I didn’t even see this until four years later and I’m the one in it. And he says, “I thought that was what you were doing,” but that’s the beauty of art.
The second season of “Russian Doll” is filled with more bizarre moments than the first. For example, at the start of episode six, Nadia literally gives birth to herself in her mother’s body. How did you react to these strange moments?
I’ll tell you my favourite: it’s quite shameful but my favorite is Nadia’s trip scene when they’re in Budapest and she falls through the bed. We filmed this in a WWII bunker 90 feet underground and had a rave there. It was fucking awesome. It was also one of those days where we didn’t have to do any serious scenes, so I was like, “Oh, I’m going to go crazy in this.”
Besides, he’s not really attached to Alan. Everyone keeps thinking, “Have you all had an orgy at some point on this show?” And that’s fine, 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 excuse to be what I wanted to be in this place.
When your character travels back in time to 1962, Alan is placed in the body of his grandmother, Agnes, a Ghanaian studying in East Berlin on a scholarship. Over the course of the season, we see Alan fall in love with his grandmother’s lover Lenny (Sandor Funtek), a German who wants to escape to West Berlin to be with his family. How was the preparation for this role? Did you do a lot of research?
Sure. I really started from a group that came from the Congo [to East Berlin]. It was nine men and one woman and I have always been fascinated by this story. She had some writings, but not much is known about her.
East Berlin began to reach out to many other countries in order to establish a communist-like relationship with other nations. They reached out to countries in Africa and tried to work on science and math scholarships to bring students from African countries to East Berlin.
I was interested to see what challenges a woman of color in this country, [who was] surrounded by other men [had] because lord knows…
Reading this script for the second season, I got really pissed off at Alan at first because I was like, “You’re enjoying this black woman’s life to the fullest and you’re risking it too. And on top of that, that’s your big -mother. You don’t take care and consideration. If a white man kisses you in the hallway, what is the risk there? Not necessarily for him more for you.
In East Berlin, I just found myself saying, it’s rampant and it needs to take a step back. All in all, it’s an interesting storyline but I was frustrated with this one.
Charlie Barnett said he pushed for more awkward scenes between Agnes and the police to make them more realistic
Whenever it comes to traveling with people of color, it can be nerve-wracking.
It’s dangerous. You’re like, “Oh shit, where are we going? And what’s going to happen?” Natasha and I talked about all these things. There was a lot of me pushing. I remember one of the times when the police came and I was like, “Natasha, this needs to be more honest. These cops aren’t just going to say, “Hello, woman. You’re so pretty and sweet.'”
They wouldn’t say that shit. If they did, it would sound like “What are you asking?” just back to me. Me, as a person of color these days, I’m always 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 series, co-creator, and took over the main role of showrunner from Headland in season 2, The New Yorker reported. How is it to work with her? Do you have a favorite interaction with her?
It’s hard to choose a story because this show is absolutely crazy. We block the filming of most of them. So it’s always like, “Am I doing the right thing? I don’t know where I am. I call home to cry and say, I’m a failure. What the fuck is this? I’m doing?” And then I learn that some of that energy and emotion should fuel Allen.
I had a lot of fun doing this rave scene with Natasha. She kissed me at one point. We had a sex scene in our first season, but it was so intimate at that time in the basement [in season two].
She’s in such a different place as a leader at this point in her second season, so much more comfortable and aware. I believe so much in her abilities and I want to see her go this far. So it’s always an honor to work with her, however difficult it may 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.