How Russian Doll's Greta Lee Approached Her Expanded Season 2 Role

Greta Lee's Maxine in "Russian Doll" is a truly unique character that gives Lee the chance to really run wild. In season 1, she was the host of Nadia's (Natasha Lyonne) birthday party, a bash that would unintentionally grow tiresome for Nadia as she relived it again and again through a "Groundhog Day"-style time loop. In season 2, Nadia recruits her for a trip to Hungary to investigate her family's roots, and Maxine turns out to be a real treat to travel with. With more screen time for her absurdly chaotic character, Lee had to figure out how to make Maxine's kookiness work in whole new situations. In an interview with AV Club, Lee explained the method to portraying Maxine's madness in season 2. 

Playing a wild card totally straight

When asked about how she approached playing Maxine outside of the season 1 birthday party, Lee was candid about staying in the same wacky mindset:

"Well, I think the challenge with her is my approach didn't change. It couldn't, because she is someone who is so fully herself in a very Maxine way, no matter what situation she's in. In my mind, I imagine if we dropped in on her at like 85, she would still be exactly the same. That presents a new kind of challenge as an actor, especially with so much time passing. I really wanted to stay true to who we created in season one. She really is so steadfast in who she is and so incredibly present. She's one of those people for better or for worse who can only see like five feet in front of her. It's this spectacular way of living. It's really fun to play."

Season 2 sees Maxine travel to Budapest, where she and Nadia are on the hunt for someone from Nadia's family's past. Despite the fact that they're on a mission for Nadia, Maxine finds plenty to hunt for in Budapest as well, including an attractive Hungarian that she thinks looks like Willem Dafoe. She also gives Nadia advice on how to lucid dream by applying nicotine patches directly to her temples before going to sleep. (And while that sounds kind of bonkers, it has a basis in fact, as studies have been done to understand the unusual sleep side-effects on people who wear 24-hour nicotine patches!) Maxine is brilliant in her own way, with a totally unique way of looking at the world.

'She's so unapologetic.'

The nicotine patch thing isn't even her wildest idea while in Budapest, but Lee felt that a total lack of boundaries was important for Maxine:

"She's so unapologetic, even with her worst ideas. She's so nonjudgmental in this crazy way. [Her Budapest plan is] a truly a terrible idea in my mind, obviously. You know, I don't recommend it to anyone, the way she lives her life."

While Maxine isn't exactly a role model, there is something freeing in watching her live her life so authentically. She may be willing to say and do things that are socially unacceptable, but she's totally in command of her own life. Lee infuses her with a kind of impish spirit, like Maxine is a chaos being or some Fey creature. If she and Darius (LaKeith Stanfield) from "Atlanta" were to ever meet, the universe might implode, because no one else on television is committing to the weird quite as hard. If "Russian Doll" gets that season 3, I hope there's lots more of Maxine. 

Season 2 of "Russian Doll" is now streaming on Netflix.