Here's Where You Know The Cast Of Russian Doll From

The second season of "Russian Doll" hit Netflix in April 2022, more than three years after the first season debuted. The show is the brainchild of its star, Natasha Lyonne, who took over showrunning duties in the follow-up season, telling Indiewire that she's never been happier in her life. Still, she allowed, "It was a nightmare. I was the showrunner, dealing with spreadsheets, Hungarian budgets. Everyday, we're shot-listing, storyboarding, and I didn't speak a lick of Hungarian."

The metaphysical series deals with a woman named Nadia who discovers she is trapped in some kind of "Groundhog Day"-type time loop, where she dies repeatedly and finds herself waking up once more in the bathroom at her 36th birthday party. In the second season, she is once more experiencing a temporal anomaly, though in the interest of spoilers we won't tell you too much about how it works. Lyonne explained to The Hollywood Reporter that each season has a distinct theme about learning to appreciate life, detailing, "If season one was asking how do I stop dying, season two was how do I start living." 

To tell her twist-filled story, Lyonne and her co-creators Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland assembled an enviable ensemble cast, one made up of former collaborators and future best friends, romantic partners and Hollywood legends. To watch "Russian Doll" is to experience déjà vu anyway, but if you're wondering where you've seen one of the stars before, never fear; we're here to help.

Charlie Barnett likes playing gay

Charlie Barnett plays Alan on "Russian Doll," a man who finds himself stuck in the same death-induced time loop that Nadia is struggling with. The two team up to figure out how to undo their predicament, learning that they might have a universe-shifting destiny with one another. He told Vulture that he found himself intrigued by the character's storyline, and that he found himself identifying with the character's trauma. "Just feeling like he couldn't hide his emotions, I related. I related hard-core," Barnett said.

In addition to starring on "Chicago Fire" between 2012 and 2015, Barnett is a Netflix regular, having appeared on an episode of "Orange is the New Black" alongside Lyonne in addition to starring on "Tales of the City" and on the second season of "You." He is openly gay, and as he told The Advocate, his role on "Tales of the City" was particularly meaningful to him. "I'm incredibly thankful to have been born this way, it's given me unbelievable gifts, and I know that each of my characters that I work on that are gay have some of those things that we would have to fight for," he explained at a panel. "It's built up a certain kind of ability in myself as an artist that I'm forever f***ing grateful for."

Natasha Lyonne leads the cast

On "Russian Doll," Natasha Lyonne plays Nadia, a witty, brash woman who finds herself trapped in a time loop, repeatedly dying and waking up in the bathroom during her 36th birthday party. Lyonne is also a co-creator, director, and writer on the show. On the inspiration for the show's metaphysical implications, she joked to Rolling Stone, "I'm deeply cracked from a combination of Talmud and LSD." She added that she became interested in things the show talks about when she was in rehab. "Where a lot of people find comfort in church, I started reading a lot of science books, and finding comfort there," she said.

Lyonne has been a cult favorite in the industry for several decades. In addition to her role as Nicky on "Orange is the New Black," she is recognizable thanks to her part in films such as "American Pie," "Slums of Beverly Hills," and "But I'm a Cheerleader," a queer classic in which she stars opposite RuPaul. She told Criterion that she was touched by the film's reception, explaining, "I remember these girls came up to us after seeing it and they were crying and saying they'd never seen a movie like this and that it was a completely life-changing experience. I was so struck by that, and twenty years later... I continue to have the privilege of that very humbling experience. 

Greta Lee is on The Morning Show

"Sweet birthday baby!" Greta Lee's Maxine says to Nadia at the beginning of every time loop in the first season of "Russian Doll." Maxine threw the birthday party where Nadia keeps resurrecting, so she's stuck there. Lee told Vanity Fair she wasn't initially interested in a role where she mostly had to repeat her lines. "I told her, 'This is crazy. What actor's gonna want to do this?'" she recalled. However, it became clear that there was more to the gig than repeating dialogue. "I couldn't just show up and say the same lines that I had said over and over," she said. "We had to really keep track of what was happening to Nadia with each reset."

In the second season, despite a change of scenery, Maxine is still the same wacky character viewers fell in love with. "She's so unapologetic, even with her worst ideas. She's so nonjudgmental in this crazy way," Lee reflected to The AV Club.

Viewers may know Lee as a regular on several TV shows, including "Inside Amy Schumer," "Girls," and "New Girl." She also starred as Stella, the new president of the United Broadcast Association, on "The Morning Show." She told ScreenRant she had to rein in her excitement when she joined the show's all-star cast. She said, "The name of the game for me was how to squash that and be Stella because Stella is not impressed by these people that I've been a lifelong fan of."

Chloe Sevigny was an it girl

In the first season of "Russian Doll," Chloe Sevigny appears in flashbacks as Nadia's mom Lenora, a single mother who struggles with mental health, leaving her daughter to be raised by Ruth. Sevigny returns in the time-travel-centric second season, the driving force behind a mysterious plot involving stolen gold coins. She told ScreenRant that the most difficult part of the character was her mental state, explaining, "I think you just you see Nora's illness progressing, so just finding the right balance of how to do that to make her sympathetic. But also not too schmaltzy." 

Sevigny was an indie icon in the '90s, having starred in the controversial film "Kids." She famously got an internship at Sassy at the age of 17, and The New Yorker dubbed her an "it girl" of the era. She told Thrillist that people still think of her that way. "It's something that I can't ever seem to shake," she said. "And people project all of that onto me, even though I've gone on to do countless other things." However, she's not complaining. "I've become more than just an actress. I'm an attitude, which I think is pretty great, you know?"

Those "countless other things" include a starring role on "Big Love," "American Horror Story," and Hulu's "The Girl from Plainville." Sevigny is also well-known for film acting, including in "Boys Don't Cry" and the controversial flick "The Brown Bunny."

Annie Murphy almost quit acting

Annie Murphy may be recognizable to some viewers as the star of AMC+ dramedy "Kevin Can F*** Himself," but she is best known for starring as Alexis on "Schitt's Creek," a role she got just as she was considering leaving the acting world. "My house had just burnt down. I had, like, three dollars in my bank account. I hadn't worked in close to two years," she recalled on "The Kelly Clarkson Show." She got the "Schitt's Creek" audition several days later, and the rest is pop culture history; Murphy won an Emmy in 2020 for her role on the show, and her performance lives on in countless reaction gifs ("Ew, David!") and renditions of the character's chaotic theme song, "A Little Bit Alexis."

In the second season of "Russian Doll," which involves straight-up time travel as opposed to just a time loop, Murphy plays a younger version of Ruth, the therapist who helped raise Nadia. Series co-creator and co-star Natasha Lyonne told E! News that casting Murphy for the part was an easy choice. "Annie has a real heart to her. It's very easy to love Annie," Lyonne said. "She looks great, she looks straight out of a Scorsese movie. She was just terrific."

Tami Sagher is a writer, too

While Nadia attempts to unravel why, exactly, she's reliving the same day over and over again, she wonders if it might have something to do with the building where her birthday is taking place, a former yeshiva. When she visits a nearby synagogue to investigate, she finds her access to the rabbi blocked by Shifra, played by Tami Sagher, an administrative aide who's determined to keep Nadia from bothering the rabbi.

Sagher is also a writer on the show, and Natasha Lyonne told Carrie Brownstein for Oyster Mag that the writing team, made up of all women, were instrumental in getting the story told in the right way. She shared, "It was also that thing of knowing I could trust women, and those were the ones I wanted to learn from."

Sagher has connections to lots of the cast members on the show. She wrote and acted on both "Girls" and "Inside Amy Schumer" with Greta Lee, wrote and executive-produced "Orange is the New Black" which Lyonne and Dascha Polanco starred on, and she writes and was on "Single Drunk Female" with Rebecca Henderson. She may also be familiar to viewers from bit parts on "30 Rock," "High Maintenance," "How I Met Your Mother," and many more.

Sandor Funtek is a European star

In the second season of "Russian Doll," Nadia and Alan discover the ability to not just loop in time, but travel through it. Alan finds himself in 1960s Berlin, where he meets a guy named Lenny, played by Sandor Funtek. He finds himself falling for the German, and they have strong chemistry before he realizes what, exactly, Lenny is up to.

Funtek is a French actor who first rose to fame playing a gay man named Valentin in the instant queer classic "Blue is the Warmest Color," which won the Palm d'Orr at Cannes. He later starred in another Palme d'Or winner, "Dheepan," about Tamil refugees in France. He told Good Manners LA that despite his good luck in picking standout projects, he doesn't bother with "positive mantras" or "visualization" to get roles. Instead, he insisted, "I am a very positive person by nature! If something doesn't happen, it is just it wasn't meant to be and that leads to something else. I am not someone who complains, but I also have my moments of melancholia." He concluded, "I am just alive."

In 2021, Funtek starred in "Supremês," a critically-acclaimed film about French hip-hop duo NTM. He told the AFP, "We worked like crazy, we ate and we lived NTM all day." It paid off; for the role, he was nominated for a Cesar Award, the French version of the Oscars.

Brendan Sexton III has popped up in thrillers

Nadia's time loop in Russian Doll's first season is populated with a number of interesting characters whose paths she crosses as she wanders around the space-time continuum, and one of the most memorable is a homeless man named Horse, who she learns to help over the course of her adventure.

Brendan Sexton is a character actor who has been around a while, having been in films like "Empire Records" and "Boys Don't Cry" in the '90s. He played Belko Royce on "The Killing," a suspect in the show's central murder. A relatively dark show, Sexton told Your Entertainment Corner he tried to lighten things up on "The Killing" set. "I do whatever I need to do to get into character," he said. "Sometimes it's being incredibly quiet and sometimes it's being loose and goofy. There's quite a few goofballs on set. I would say I'm one of the bigger goofballs. I love to laugh and dance." 

After "Russian Doll," Sexton went on to star in "Don't Breathe 2," a horror film about a blind man getting revenge on sleazy criminals — Sexton's character included — who kidnap his daughter. He told KTLA that the filming of the movie was just as spooky as the end product. "There was a big 20-foot chandelier that almost fell on the actors while we were shooting a big climactic scene," he recalled. "So we invited a lot of spirits into shooting the film, for better and for worse."

Ritesh Rajan voices Ken

Like most New Yorkers, Nadia in "Russian Doll" is a regular at a bodega, where she's befriended Farran the cashier, played by Ritesh Rajan. The actor shared a behind-the-scenes snap from his trailer on set, showing off the cheetah-print jacket Farran wears on Instagram. The role attracted attention for the handsome actor; a BuzzFeed article, for example, was headlined "Farran From 'Russian Doll' Is So Hot It Threw Me For A Loop." Rajan told Very Good Light he was happy for the attention his role was generating, because he was glad to be expanding Indian representation. "I feel we're finally starting to leave that mentality that if you find an Asian man attractive you might have a 'thing' for Asian men," he said. "It's not about that any more. We have the ability to play characters across the board that's not defined by stereotypes."

Previously, Rajan starred on ABC Family's "Stitchers," a series about a woman who can have her consciousness placed into recently-dead bodies to examine their memories. He told Talk Nerdy With Us that he didn't have to do any extra fight training for the show. "I actually have a Martial Arts background," he shared. "I have a Black belt in Taekwondo and I competed in the Jr. Olympics so I was training for a long time."

Rajan's voice may also be familiar to "Russian Doll" viewers with kids; he voices Ken in a number of Barbie-related properties, including on 39 episodes of "Barbie Dreamhouse Adventures."

Dascha Polanco is a Netflix vet

In the first season of "Russian Doll," Alan is caught in a time loop on the awful day where he discovers that his girlfriend Beatrice has been cheating on him, just as he was planning to propose to her. Beatrice is played by Dascha Polanco, who previously worked with Natasha Lyonne on the show that became Polanco's breakout gig, "Orange is the New Black." She told UPROXX that it was a no-brainer to sign on to "Russian Doll," given Lyonne's involvement. "I used to watch Natasha on TV, and for me to be able to work with her? I gagged when I saw her [on the 'Orange' cast list]." She recalled thinking, "For me to be your co-star, and now for you to be my director? That's supporting one another."

Polanco has worked steadily since Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" came to an end, appearing in a number of Netflix properties. In addition to "Russian Doll," she starred in Ava DuVernay's Central Park 5 drama "When They See Us" and even showed up as a nurse in Martin Scorcese's mob epic "The Irishman." Audiences may also recognize the actor as having played Cuca in the film version of "In the Heights," one of the musical's gossipy hairdressers. She told Refinery29 that she relied on her own experiences to craft that character. "These are the women and the places that we go to on a weekly basis, and they see us grow up," she said.

Sharlto Copley became an alien in District 9

In the second season of "Russian Doll," Sharlto Copley plays the mustachioed Chez, a mysterious, sleazy, yet alluring man who seems to be involved in a plot to steal Nadia's family fortune. Copley is particularly proud of the elevated stakes and creativity in the second season of the show, telling ScreenRant, "It's really original, I'll say that, man. Really, that whole team is just coming up with really creative stuff. They raised the bar again, which you wouldn't necessarily think they could do. But she did, and they did."

Copley is a South African actor who shot to international fame as the lead of "District 9," Neil Blomkamp's alien film where Copley played a man transforming into an extraterrestrial. The film was widely seen as a metaphor for apartheid, and Copley joked with CinemaBlend that days where he had to wear a prosthetic alien hand reflected the film's themes of hatred. "I learned to eat with one hand," he recalled. "I learned a bit of discrimination myself, because [at lunch] nobody wanted to eat with the claw, the bloodied claw with the real human feces on it sometimes."

After starring in the critically-acclaimed film, Copley reunited with Blomkamp twice, acting in both "Elysium" and "Chappie." He also may be recognizable to viewers from numerous other action/sci-fi films, including "Hardcore Henry" and "Free Fire."

Jeremy Bobb is a prolific character actor

Jeremy Bobb has risen to fame in the last few years thanks to supporting roles on a number of high-profile, critically acclaimed television shows, including Netflix Western "Godless," Ben Stiller's "Escape at Dannemora," Marvel's "Jessica Jones," and Stephen King adaptation "The Outsider." He also had a starring role on "The Knick," Stephen Soderbergh's drama about the early days of surgery.

Viewers of "Russian Doll" are not likely to recognize him, considering he was buried under old-age makeup, but in "Under the Silver Lake," he played an ancient songwriter opposite Andrew Garfield. Bobb told Collider that working with director David Gordon Green was great. He recalled, "That guy is the best kind of weird. He's weird in all the coolest ways. His mind and his writing is weird in the best way, the way you wish everybody was weird."

In "Russian Doll," Bobb plays Mike, a pivotal character connected to both Nadia and Alan. Though his character doesn't time-loop, he told Collider that he'd love to use the situation to re-do some past acting gigs. "I think reliving a day over and over, it would definitely involve some day of work where I really felt like I enjoyed doing it, or some character that I wish I'd tried something different with," he mused. "There are definitely days on any job where I think, 'I wish I'd had a few more cracks at that,' so maybe it'd be good."

Rebecca Henderson is married to the show's creator

On "Russian Doll," at the chaotic party that makes up the beginning of Nadia's time loop, Rebecca Henderson plays Lizzy, one of Nadia's friends. Lizzy is a lesbian who is dating a much-younger girl; her friends tease her about her paramour not remembering 9/11. She explained to NewNowNext that the character's sexuality was important to her, and she was glad to be the one to take the role. "I would rather an actual queer person play the queer person than not, until we're also allowed to play all the straight people. And I also like that there's an androgynous energy to her," she said.

In real life, the actor is married to Leslye Headland, who co-created the series alongside Natasha Lyonne and Amy Poehler. Henderson told The Cut that she enjoyed working with her wife. "This was our first time working together and I don't know if you've ever worked with somebody you're dating, but it's so sexy," she said. "Seeing them be excellent at what they do is amazing."

Henderson starred on an episode of "Orange is the New Black," playing Alice Denning, mother of the inmate Denning sisters. Since starring on "Russian Doll," Henderson has gone on to leading roles in several other television shows, including "Single Drunk Female" and "Inventing Anna," where she played ADA Catherine McCaw, the woman investigating scammer Anna Delvey. 

Elizabeth Ashley has been around a while

In both seasons of "Russian Doll," Elizabeth Ashley plays the present-day timeline version of Ruth, the wisdom-dispensing therapist who helped raise Nadia after her mother's mental health struggle. Ashley told Getty that she was very excited to participate in the show specifically because of Natasha Lyonne's involvement, noting that she's been a fan for a long time. "She's truly unique, I mean, she's an original. There's no one else like her," she said. "I was just thrilled to work with her."

Ashley has a long career stretching back to the 1950s, at first finding fame on stage and soon transitioning to acting on screen. She told Variety, "Nobody was ever luckier straight out of the gate. I got every break you could get." 

She received a Golden Globe nomination for her role in "The Carpetbaggers" in 1964, and she went on to star in films like "Windows" and "Dragnet." More recently, she starred as Ethel in "Oceans 8" and played Aunt Mimi on "Treme," a role that was written specifically for her. She told My New Orleans that she at first didn't understand that she was the only choice for the part, asking her agent what other actors had already turned it down. "I was flattered... When I was approached, I didn't even ask about the money," she recalled.