Maya Rudolph, Natasha Lyonne Production Company Projects – The Hollywood Reporter
Maya Rudolph likes to say she established Animal Pictures, her production company with Natasha Lyonne, because it was a way to both be creative without having to “sit through hair and makeup” and spend more time with her longtime friend.
She and Lyonne, along with Animal president Danielle Renfrew Behrens, a creative exec and a few assistants, have set up shop in a cozy, ranch-style house in Studio City, where a floor-to-ceiling portrait of Rudolph, which once fronted The New York Times Magazine, hangs in the entryway. There’s a back house, too, which is poised to become a podcast studio. Rudolph’s been toying with the idea of launching one; she just hasn’t landed on the right podcast idea yet.
In the meantime, the 4-year-old company has a robust slate, which includes Lyonne’s recent season of Russian Doll and Rudolph’s Apple TV+ comedy Loot, as well as Rian Johnson’s upcoming mystery series Poker Face for Peacock and a just-ordered Amazon animated series, The Hospital, in which Rudolph voices a robot intern who’s been alive for at least 20,000 years and has had every career you can think of: king, thief, stay-at-home mom of 500.
Animal Pictures, which is under a first-look deal at Amazon, has also released films (Crush) and feature docs (Sirens) and has another 10-plus projects in active development. Among them: an Iraqi immigrant family comedy from Alia Shawkat and an adaptation of the Irish film Extraordinary. “We’ve been very careful to not pigeonhole ourselves,” says Behrens, a veteran producer who’s known Rudolph since kindergarten. “Early on, everyone assumed we’d be solely focused on female-forward comedy, which we love, but we have interests outside of that, too.”
For a time, Renfrew had tried to get the duo to hone the company’s mission statement, but Lyonne and Rudolph “weren’t going to be boxed in,” she adds. “They were like, ‘Ultimately, we’re funny women who make cool shit,’ which is totally true.” The name, Animal, is a nod to Lyonne’s level of ambition. “She’s an animal,” explains Rudolph, who’s enjoyed having a place to be every day and a vehicle that provides her the opportunity to collaborate with so many of their mutual friends. Adds the busy mother of four, “Sometimes that’s the only way you get to see people.”
For Lyonne, who met Rudolph in the early aughts, the partnership is a way to stay connected to each other. “It’s a way to recapture that immediate bond that we felt the day we met somewhere up in Midtown and then we walked Maya all the way home to, like, her first New York City apartment in the West Village,” says Lyonne, who adds: “It was one of those 60 block walks when you were still in your 20s and life just seemed so open to you, and I think, in many ways, this company is a way for us to keep that long walk going now that we’re grown-ups with busy lives.”
A version of this story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.