Following a struggle with addiction, Lyonne came back into the spotlight (in a good way) in the 2010s and has recently led two different genre TV shows: time-travel comedy “Russian Doll” and mystery series “Poker Face.” An Emmy has so far eluded her despite several nominations, but she won two Screen Actors Guild ensemble awards for “Orange is the New Black” and also a Television Critics Association Award for “Poker Face.”
I adore Natasha Lyonne, no two ways about it, but could she have pulled off the Slayer? Comedy is essential to “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and Lyonne definitely has that skill. Both Nadia in “Russian Doll” and Charlie in “Poker Face” often let their sentences trail off and are befuddled by the absurd, but brush it off and get the job done — just like Buffy. Lyonne’s blonde, straight-haired look as teenage lesbian Megan Bloomfield in “But I’m A Cheerleader” is also Buffy-esque. While Lyonne hadn’t made this film yet when she was offered Buffy, it shows the potential to play a cheerleader who didn’t quite fit was always inside her.
That said, Lyonne is a New Yorker, born and raised — you can hear it in her accent. Her voice wasn’t as husky in the 1990s as it is now, but compared to Gellar or Carpenter, she’s still got too much New York punk edge to pass as a valley girl.
Basically, I think Natasha Lyonne could have pulled off Buffy (who knows what her career today would look like if she said yes), but I’m not rueful that Sarah Michelle Gellar wound up in the part instead.