Natasha Bianca Lyonne Braunstein better known as Natasha Lyonne, is an American actress. Lyonne was born in New York City, New York, the daughter of Ivette (née Buchinger) and Aaron Braunstein, a boxing promoter, race car driver, and radio host.
Lyonne's parents were both from Orthodox Jewish families, and she was raised Orthodox. Her mother was born in Paris, France, to Hungarian Jewish parents who were Holocaust survivors. Lyonne sometimes darkly jokes that her family consists of “my father's side, Flatbush, and my mother's side, Auschwitz.” Her grandmother Ella came from a large family, but only she and her two sisters and two brothers survived, which Lyonne credits to their blonde hair and blue eyes. Lyonne's grandfather, Morris Buchinger, operated a watch company in Los Angeles. During the war, he hid inBudapest as a non-Jew working in a leather factory.
As a young child, Lyonne was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency.
At the age of six, she was cast as Opal on “Pee-Wee's Playhouse,” followed by film appearances in Heartburn, A Man Called Sarge, and Dennis the Menace. On working as a very young child actor, Lyonne said: “I didn’t have the best parents. I don’t think they are bad people. Even if they were ready to have children, it is kind of a wacky idea to put your child in business at six years old.”
Lyonne spent the first eight years of her life living in Great Neck, New York. When she was eight years old, her parents moved to Israel, where Lyonne spent a year and a half. Her parents divorced, and Lyonne and her older brother Adam returned to America with their mother. After this move back to New York City, Lyonne attended Ramaz School, also known as The Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Upper School of Ramaz, a private Jewish school, where Lyonne said she was a scholarship kid who took honors Talmud classes and read Aramaic.
Her mother then moved the family to Miami, where Lyonne graduated from Miami Country Day School. Lyonne was estranged from her father, who lived on the Upper West Side until his death in October 2014. Lyonne has said she is not close with her mother and has essentially lived independently since age 16.
When she was 16, Woody Allen cast her in Everyone Says I Love You. When she was 18, Lyonne used the paycheck from her work on that filmto buy a small apartment near Gramercy Park. She attended New York University for a very short time, studying film and philosophy.
Her role in Everyone led to appearances in almost 30 films over the next 10 years, including starring roles in the independent films Slums of Beverly Hills and But I'm a Cheerleader. Lyonne's other films include Detroit Rock City, Scary Movie 2,The Grey Zone, Kate and Leopold, Party Monster, and Blade: Trinity, The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Goyband, All About Evil, 4:44 - Last Day on Earth, Girl Most Likely, The Rambler, and Clutter. She is best known for her role as Jessica in theAmerican Pie film series.
She has also made television appearances on shows such as Will and Grace, Weeds,New Girl, and Law & Order Special Victims Unit. She is currently starring as Nicky Nichols in the critically acclaimed Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black. This is her first role as a regular in a television series. She received her first Primetime Emmy nomination for the role in 2014.