Orange Is the New Black’s Natasha Lyonne on Nicky’s Return & Life in Max

JoJo Whilden/Netflix

While the return of Netflix’s Orange is the New Black has fans happy and binge watching their way through Season 3 as fast as they can, many were saddened to see the fate of Natasha Lyonne’s inmate Nicky Nichols. One of the season’s biggest shockers saw the popular inmate being sent away to a maximum security prison and not seen for much of the season. This has left many fans wondering if and when she will return to Litchfield.

“This is a great mystery,” Lyonne told a group of reporters on a conference call on Wednesday. The actress remained tight-lipped about any future plans and only added that “it’ll be interesting to see what Jenji [Kohan OITNB’s creator] decides to do,” and that “what Jenji and the writers come up with always exceeds my limited imagination of these characters.” Recently some fans have been hopeful about Lyonne’s return after co-star Danielle Brooks [Taystee] instagramed a picture of the two in front of what appeared to be a OITNB dressing room. “That day was Good Morning America. I am sorry to be a mystery destroyer about that particular photograph,” joked Lyonne.

Just because she’s unsure about where Kohan plans to take the character doesn’t mean Lyonne hasn’t thought about how life in maximum security could affect Nicky, even saying she would “sleep better at night knowing she was alright.” Maximum security is a whole lot different than life at Litchfield and Nicky’s particular skillset may not be appreciated as much there. “I don’t think zingy one-liners and undercutting people with your charisma and IQ would really fly. In fact I think that would get the shit beat out of you,” said Lyonne, before adding that “I think the smartest route for her would be to go Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman in Shawshank [Redemption] and get involved in the library or something or accounting. I don’t imagine she would fare well just mouthing off to people in maximum security prison.”

JoJo Whilden/Netflix
JoJo Whilden/Netflix

The actress, who has a past history and trouble with drugs herself, said that those past experiences help her a great deal in playing Nicky. “I did not suspect at the time of my arrest that it was going to come in so handy. I just thought it was a real career-ender, in fact a life-ender. I think it mostly helped me to have a certain levity with Nicky where otherwise I could get bogged down in the heaviness of it,” she explained.

Nicky has always been involved in some of Litchfield’s most popular relationships, from the friendship she shares with Big Boo [Lea DeLaria] to her mostly platonic relationship with Morello [Yael Stone]. But one in particular stands out to Lyonne–the de facto mother/daughter relationship Nicky has with Red [Kate Mulgrew]. “It really grounds how crass Nicky can be—the fact that she has those scenes with Red that let you know her emotional world and that she has a shell that she keeps up in prison and plays at being a tough guy. But as we see with Red, she’s pretty broken and emotionally vulnerable as well,” said Lyonne.

Working with Mulgrew is also a career highlight for Lyonne who said that “Kate Mulgrew is a wild woman and a phenomenon and I just adore working with her. Certain actors have the ability to suck the air out of the room and all the sudden you’re in this alternate reality where you really become these people,” before adding on that “I feel like if I wasn’t truthful with Kate or doing my best I feel like she’d spank me. It keeps me on my toes in a really great way.”

Unfortunately for now, fans have to wait to see what Kohan and the writers come up with for Nicky and whether or not we’ll see her again. Lyonne can be counted amongst those wondering what we will discover. “I’m curious about the way prison will end up affecting Nicky and the aftermath,” she said. In fact, Lyonne said she’d be “curious to see a flash forward of her in 20 years. I’m just curious to see if she turns out OK. I don’t know if that’s something they’ll ever get into in the show.”

I guess we’ll all just have to wait until Summer 2016 and Season 4 to find out whether or not Nicky Nichols reappears or not. Lyonne seems to have faith everything will work out as she added that “that’s the great joy of having such an incredible creator and such great writers is that they are really visionary in the way they think of things.”


Orange is the New Black Season 3 is now available to stream on Netflix and Netflix Canada.