×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: ‘Russian Doll’ Showrunner on Challenging Female-Driven Narratives

Welcome to “TV Take,” Variety‘s television podcast. In this week’s installment, Variety’s executive editor of TV, Daniel Holloway, chats with Leslye Headland, the showrunner of Netflix’s new series “Russian Doll.”

The show, co-created by Headland, Amy Poehler, and Natasha Lyonne, who also plays the lead role, follows a woman who is hit by a car after a party and dies, only to wake up and relive that same day over and over again. She has to figure out what the hell is going on, and how she can escape this deadly fate.

There is the “mystery box element” of the series, Headland says, and Nadia (Lyonne) will need to deal with questions about different timelines and the metaphysical. However, it’s far from a sci-fi series, and aims instead to address topics like spirituality and ethics.

Additionally, with a woman at the center, Headland says there are opportunities to differ from typical female narratives about material possessions or motherhood.

“It was really important to explore a show about a female protagonist that asked spiritual and existential questions,” Headland says. “As opposed to a show that was about a woman finding romance, a woman finding balance between her work life and her love life … those are all worthy endeavors and excellent shows made about all of those things, but we just were thinking, ‘But what hasn’t been done?'”

Headland says the creators also kept the show fresh by straying away from other magical realism projects like “It’s a Wonderful Life” where the main character’s problems are society’s making.

“[Nadia] is the architect of her own destruction,” Headland says. “We’re making the point that this is of her own creation, and it’s something she is going to have to rectify for herself. It’s not something that society is going to reel her in for.”

With Lyonne leading the pack, whom Headland calls one of the “premiere physical comedians” in the industry, the showrunner says audiences can see “neck-down comedy” more than ever. Every choice Lyonne makes with her body is funny, Headland says, and she proves that women can be sexy and funny at the same time.

In the seven years since Headland’s film “Bachelorette” came out, she says she’s seen a positive shift away from the “can women be funny?” debates. Back when she got on the Blacklist with the romantic comedy in 2008, she was constantly told the film would never be made. Now, women are putting out some of the best content in Hollywood in droves.

“In the years since then, there is this feeling of, not only are women driving the box office and not only are they interested in R-rated, more adult comedies,” Headland says, “we also have more women creating … at a higher rate. As you see that stuff getting picked up and put into the marketplace and succeeding, it opens the door for everybody else.”

Russian Doll” premiered Friday, Feb. 1. Later in the podcast, Variety’s TV critics Daniel D’Addario and Caroline Framke discuss the show further, as well as Hulu’s “PEN15.” Additionally, Danielle Turchiano, Variety’s senior features editor of television talks about Fox’s version of “Rent.”

New episodes of “TV Take” are available every Friday. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, Soundcloud, or anywhere you download podcasts. You can find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

Leslye Headland photographed exclusively for the Variety TV Take Podcast
Dan Doperalski for Variety

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • David Zaslav

    Steven Spielberg's 'Why We Hate' Is More Timely Than Ever, David Zaslav Says

    The political state of the world today has made the upcoming docuseries “Why We Hate” relevant in a way that its producers, Steven Spielberg and Alex Gibney, hardly expected when they began developing the project five years ago, Discovery president and CEO David Zaslav said Thursday. “Things are much more of a challenge and hate [...]

  • Jada Pinkett Smith, Will Smith. Jada

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith's Westbrook Inks Development Pact With Telepool (EXCLUSIVE)

    Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith’s new media venture, Westbrook Inc., has signed a co-development agreement for feature films, television shows and digital entertainment formats with German-based film and TV company Telepool. The move follows the acquisition of Telepool last year by Smith and Elysian Fields, a Zurich-based investment company. Westbrook, launched this year by [...]

  • Shane Gillis SNL Controversy

    Shane Gillis Makes First Stand-Up Appearance Since 'SNL' Firing

    Comedian Shane Gillis made his first public appearance Wednesday night since he was hired by “Saturday Night Live,” then fired from the show days later amid controversy over his use of racist slurs. Appearing on stage at comedy club the Stand in New York City, Gillis performed an 11-minute set that pulled no punches when [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: Welcome to 'Camp Redwood'

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched the season premiere of “American Horror Story: 1984” entitled “Camp Redwood.” Welcome back to “American Horror Story,” which in its ninth season travels back in time to the 1970s and 1980s to play in the slasher genre. Only one episode into the season, it already [...]

  • Connie Britton BlogHer Summit

    Connie Britton on ‘Friday Night Lights’ Remake: ‘You Need to Let it Go’

    Connie Britton opened up at a fireside chat Wednesday at the #BlogHer19 Creators Summit in Brooklyn by talking about one of her most beloved roles — Tami Taylor in the fan favorite series “Friday Night Lights.” When asked if a remake of the sports cult film and Emmy-winning TV show is in the works she [...]

  • Bob IgerSimon Weisenthal Gala honoring Bob

    Bob Iger Would Have Combined Disney With Apple if Steve Jobs Were Still Alive

    Disney and Apple are both launching their own streaming services come November, but Disney CEO Bob Iger says the two companies weren’t always on competing paths. In an excerpt from his autobiography published Wednesday in “Vanity Fair,” Iger revealed that Disney and Apple likely would have merged if Steve Jobs hadn’t died in 2011. “I [...]

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content