The Heart of the Robbins was full on Oct. 21 as a crowd gathered to see Natasha Lyonne speak as part of the SAMU Speaker Series. Most recently known for her role as Nicky Nichols in Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Lyonne sat down to talk about everything from her insecurities as a young actress to conquering personal demons and her experiences playing controversial roles.
There were very few empty seats when Lyonne entered and was greeted by a roaring applause as she made her way to the stage. The 37-year-old actress certainly brought with her an air of confidence as well as a great deal of life experience that she shared throughout the hour.
Lyonne spoke on a variety of topics, ranging from her early years as a child actress to her more recent work in Orange is the New Black. She touched on several more controversial topics as well, including her role as Megan Bloomfield, a young girl struggling with her sexual identity, in the 1999 romantic comedy But I’m a Cheerleader. Lyonne’s ability to incorporate humour into her stories and put a positive spin on otherwise dark topics is what made her truly unique as well as entertaining.
Her experience with public speaking and the opportunity to meet people is something that Lyonne is thankful for.
“Sometimes doing things like this really opens your eyes. You get to see all kinds of things you wouldn’t see otherwise,” she said. “It’s very grounding in it’s own absurd, backward way. It’s just nice to remember that we’re all in it together — we’re all just trying to figure out how to live at the same time.”
There were a number of dedicated fans present, which was made evident during the audience Q&A as the evening came to a close. Laryssa Hecker was the first to approach the microphone. “You saved my life,” she said to Lyonne, in reference to her role in But I’m A Cheerleader.
Lyonne was clearly touched by this statement and humbly thanked Hecker for her kind words.
“I’m so glad I came tonight,” Hecker said after the Q&A. “I know that she’s struggled with severe addiction problems. I guess whenever I see someone come out of it as hilarious, personable, and (as) versatile as an actress as she is, I try to drift towards being a person like that.”
For those who purchased VIP passes, the experience continued after the talk was over as they participated in a meet and greet, which included a photo with Lyonne.
“We took a couple (photos), and it was nice because she stopped to talk to people,” said VIP pass holder Connie Levitsky.
The meet and greet lineup was full of eager attendees, and Kas MacFayden’s excitement upon leaving made it clear that the VIP experience proved to be worth the extra cost.
“Just being up close and personal with her was incredible,” she said.
Lyonne inspired listeners with her words of wisdom and her positive outlook on life.
“I think all these things end up being very healthy for perspective and sanity and how inconsequential any one of us alone is,” Lyonne said.
Cover photo by MacEwan University.