Maya Rudolph likes to say that she created Animal Pictures, her production company with Natasha Lyonne, because it was a way to both be creative without having to “sit on hair and makeup” and to spend more time with her longtime friend.
She and Lyonne, along with Animal president Danielle Renfrew Behrens, a creative executive and a few assistants, have settled into a cozy ranch-style home in Studio City, where a floor-to-ceiling portrait of Rudolph, who once faced The New York Times magazine, hangs in the entrance. There is also a back house, which is about to become a podcast studio. Rudolph toyed with the idea of launching one; she just hasn’t come up with the right podcast idea yet.
In the meantime, the 4-year-old company has a solid roster, which includes Lyonne’s recent season Russian doll and Rudolph’s Apple TV+ comedy Bootyplus Rian Johnson’s upcoming mystery series Poker face for Peacock and an Amazon animated series that was just ordered, the hospitalin which Rudolph voices a trainee robot who has lived for at least 20,000 years and has had every career imaginable: king, thief, stay-at-home mom of 500 children.
Animal Pictures, which is the subject of an initial agreement with Amazon, has also released films (To crush) and feature documentation (Sirens) and has over 10 other projects in active development. Among them: an Iraqi immigrant family comedy by Alia Shawkat and an adaptation of the Irish film Extraordinary. “We were very careful not to label ourselves,” says Behrens, a veteran producer who has known Rudolph since kindergarten. “At first everyone thought we would just focus on female comedy, which we love, but we have interests outside of that as well.”
For a time, Renfrew had been trying to get the duo to polish the company’s mission statement, but Lyonne and Rudolph “weren’t going to be locked in,” she adds. “They were like, ‘At the end of the day, we’re funny women doing cool shit,’ which is totally true.” The name, Animal, is a nod to Lyonne’s level of ambition. “He’s an animal,” says Rudolph, who loves having a place to be every day and a vehicle that gives him the opportunity to collaborate with so many of their mutual friends. Adds the busy mother of four, “Sometimes that’s the only way to see people.”
For Lyonne, who met Rudolph early on, the partnership is a way to keep in touch with each other. “It’s a way of reconnecting with that immediate connection that we felt the day we met somewhere in Midtown and then walked Maya to her first New York apartment in the West Village,” Lyonne says, who adds, “It was one of those 60-block walks when you were still in your 20s and life seemed so open to you, and I think in many ways this endeavor is a way for us to continue this long walk now that we are adults with full lives.
A version of this story first appeared in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.