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On the surface, Maya Rudolph and Natasha Lyonne might seem like an unlikely duo. While Rudolph may be best known for Saturday Night Live (and her now recurring role as Vice President Kamala Harris), she has long lived in Los Angeles, where she’s raising her family of four with her partner, Paul Thomas Anderson. In recent years, she has taken on memorable supporting roles on cult-favorite shows like Big Mouth and The Good Place. Lyonne, on the other hand, is one of those immutable downtown New Yorkers, the hair and the raspy voice instantly identifiable, and describes her career as playing mostly “quirky best friend” roles until Russian Doll, the critically acclaimed Netflix series, which she co-created and stars in. (A second season is in the works.) But Rudolph and Lyonne have been friends for 20 years. They met in New York, were even roommates for a short stint, and have remained close through various creative collaborations. (Rudolph calls Lyonne “Tashi.”) In 2018, they launched a production company together, Animal Pictures. They recently executive-produced Sarah Cooper’s comedy special Everything’s Fine, currently streaming on Netflix, and are developing several films and series, including Desert People, a dramedy created by Lyonne and Alia Shawkat.
I’m sure there are some creative people out there who love to get it done and get the fuck out, and they’re not there to make friends. But I’m there to make friends.Maya Rudolph
Here, the friends and business partners discuss “shedding the bullshit” of Hollywood and choosing the communities they want to create with.
Maya Rudolph: Do you want to do the honors of going down memory lane? The nice thing is this is a fashion magazine, so we can talk about our first connection being a fashion show. You were like the cool guy who sauntered over to me at Mercer Bar at an SNL after-party and were like, “You want to be in a fashion show?” I think you were with Tara [Subkoff, the Imitation of Christ designer]. Or maybe Chloë [Sevigny], I’m not sure. And you were like, “Great. Tomorrow, Showroom Seven, meet me there.” It was like the words that someone says to a kid in a fantasy of when you come to the big city. I remember we had our fitting, and we were so young and lithe, and tried on various cool black gowns, and it was everything. And then we sauntered down Seventh Avenue, and I was like, “This is it, Ma! I’ve done it!” Little did we know that we weren’t models in the show but we were in fact the emcees.
Honestly, when talking about you specifically, in my introduction to you as my first New York friend that I made outside of SNL, the thing I noticed very quickly is, you really did—even at that time, and you were very young—have your own kind of family that you built, which was really your friends, and an enormous sense of community.
Natasha Lyonne: The truth is, of course, that the real reason, at least for me, of this company is I just wanted to spend more time in this life with you in a substantive way. I remember the early days, we were like, “Oh, shit, we really have a reason to talk on the phone every day now.” Nothing brings me more joy, in the same way that I’m sure you have with Amy [Poehler] and Tina [Fey] and [Rachel] Dratch, like a Wine Country, or for me it’s like getting to do my show, Russian Doll, with Chloë [Sevigny]. It’s all these excuses we come up with to find ways to spend time with the people we love the most.