Natasha Lyonne thankful to be alive

Natasha Lyonne

Natasha Lyonne feels “grateful” to have survived open heart surgery.

The 35-year-old actress has earned her biggest role to date in hit Netflix series Orange Is the New Black, in which she plays wise-talking Nicky Nichols. One scene she had to film was a flashback of her character having an operation following an overdose, a scenario which Natasha has survived herself.

She underwent open heart surgery in 2012, following a stint in rehab in 2006 and another reported visit in 2005, which allegedly stemmed from suffering from hepatitis C, a heart infection, and a collapsed lung.

“Believe me, there’s no shortage of things for me to draw on when it comes to Nicky’s backstory. But while I was filming a hospital scene [when Nicky undergoes open heart surgery after an overdose] it was weird because I had been through something so similar, but had almost nothing to draw on,” Natasha explained to People.

“I had my surgery for the same reason, as a result of drug use. But Nicky’s feeling was, ‘God, I’m still not dead yet?’ For me, I had already been doing a pretty decent job of clean living before the procedure. I was like, ‘Gosh, I really hope this doesn’t take me out.’ I’m grateful I’m okay.”

Luckily she has now overcome her health problems and is enjoying the success which Orange Is the New Black has brought her. She is nominated for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series at this year’s Emmy Awards, and is up against her co-stars Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox.

However, there is no competition between the stars.

“Yes, they’ve agreed that if they win they’ll dedicate the award to me. I’ve made it clear I will not do the same if I win. No, no pacts yet. We’re just so thrilled as a group at the 12 nominations. We’re all just cogs in the wheel,” Natasha smiled.

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