Natasha Lyonne is swapping her Orange is the New Black prison garb for another type of uniform in the new indie comedy Addicted to Fresno, which stars Lyonne and Judy Greer as a pair of codependent siblings working as hotel maids in the titular California city.
In the film, Lyonne plays Martha, a lonely lesbian who helps her recovering sex addict sister, Shannon (Greer), by taking her in and helping her get a job. When Shannon accidentally kills a hotel guest in a post-rehab relapse, the two go to some extreme lengths to try and cover up the crime.
Fresno reunited Lyonne with Jamie Babbit, who directed her in 1999’s But I’m a Cheerleader and more recently in an episode of Girls. The script came from Karey Dornetto (who has written for Arrested Development, Community, and Portlandia), and the cast also includes Fred Armisen, Aubrey Plaza, Molly Shannon, Jessica St. Clair, and Ron Livingston.
“What drew me to the film was Jamie texting me that she had another movie for me, so that was a situation where I already said yes,” Lyonne told EW on Thursday.
Having the two actresses play against type, with the usually straight Greer as the troubled sister and Lyonne as the more stable one, also appealed to her.
“It was very exciting when I read it that it was for [the role of Martha], and similar to But I’m a Cheerleader, where probably in my personal life — and especially at that time — I was, like, a troublemaking teenage rebel and the part was kind of a conservative nice Christian girl,” she said. “It’s fun for me to do, and I think Jamie quite intentionally chose to cast us against type…It’s not like one sister is the good sister and one sister is the bad sister. One is a full-blown codependent, and the other is sexually addicted. Both of them are really grieving the loss of their parents and the fact that they feel like they have no real ambition in life.”
Working alongside Greer was “a bummer,” Lyonne joked, because “she’s gonna be so much better than you in every scene you do.”
“She’s just funnier and has more emotional reserve and is so quick on her feet — that day with her and Fred, I was in shock,” Lyonne added. “Greer can go full rogue and do it completely believably, she’s a master of that.”
Lyonne added that she and her co-star built their sibling camaraderie right from the start of rehearsals, finding bits of their characters in one another.
“Very quickly we were cracking up and bonded in that, and realized we had each other to use as a built-in model for how the other should be behaving in character, because Martha is sort of kinder and sort of the co-dependent one and Judy’s character is a sex addict and a troublemaker,” she said. “So I think that in terms of playing siblings what was very fun for us is to use each other moment to moment to kind of clock little things about each other. We felt a very basic kinship very quickly. It made a lot of sense to us that we were siblings.”
Addicted to Fresno, which premiered at South by Southwest earlier this year, will screen at the Outfest Los Angeles LGBT Film Festival on Friday, and arrives on demand Sept. 1 and in theaters Oct. 2. Watch the trailer above.