Natasha Lyonne says playing a drug addict is 'life-affirming'

Natasha Lyonne says it’s “life affirming” playing inmate Nicky Nichols, who struggles with a heroin addiction, in “Orange Is the New Black.” The 38-year-old New York native, who first made a splash as a tyke on “Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” struggled with her own problems, winding up in the hospital in 2005 with hepatitis C, a heart infection and a collapsed lung while undergoing methadone treatment.

“It’s sort of life-affirming to see where personal experience ends up,” she told the Daily News. “Having some usefulness in your day job makes you better, so much more capable to transmit or articulate something.”

The “American Pie” actress admits that like any good method thespian, she draw upon past experiences, but sometimes they can hit a little too close to home.

“It can be problematic for me to play those scenes because I do know them so intimately, and yet I find myself a decade away from them,” she explained. “Of course I have so many of the same feelings; maybe the violence in which I used to act out in terms of self-destruction has gone. So I sort of have to get back to that feeling in a real way.”

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Lyonne continued: “And that can be challenging and make me feel like a phony, which is another one of the artist’s favorite places to live — the self-flagellation — the feeling that they’re not showing up hard enough for the truth.”

Despite her checkered past, which includes being tossed out of a private Orthodox Jewish day school for selling marijuana, Lyonne is open about it all.

“I think it’s important in these very weird times to live as honestly and try to be free of any shame around any hard experiences. Things are what they are. I’m doing OK,” she says.

The Emmy-nominated actress has been seeing “Portlandia” star Fred Armisen since 2014. Last year, the couple arrived at the Emmys in a hearse while Armisen accessorized his suit with bolts to his neck like Frankenstein.

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