Netflix's Russian Doll Star Charlie Barnett Reveals Surprisingly Thoughtful Backstory Behind Alan's Mustache In Season 2

Alan in suit in subway on Russian Doll
(Image credit: Netflix)

Mild spoilers below for Russian Doll Season 2, so be warned if you haven’t yet watched!

With its long-awaited second season finally dropping among Netflix’s big April premieres, Russian Doll managed to somehow deliver a similar amount of head-warping madness to what was on display in Season 1, and with three fewer episodes. I think many would agree the shorter episode count felt most obvious in relation to Charlie Barnett’s Alan and his new-to-viewers mustache. The character’s story wasn’t able to expand as far as that of Natasha Lyonne’s Nadia, but just because it didn’t play out on screen doesn’t mean that Barnett didn’t have undiscovered beats from Alan’s life playing out in his head. Such as the reasoning behind why Alan changed up his facial hair situation.

The former One Chicago star Charlie Barnett spoke with CinemaBlend ahead of Russian Doll’s return to Netflix, and he offered a two-pronged explanation for his and Alan’s current mustachioed state, where part of it was a personal desire, while the other part derived from head-canon he conceived for his character. Let’s put a couple of subway spotlights on both of those reasons below.

Charlie Barnett's Personal Desire For Alan's Mustache

On the one hand, Charlie Barnett’s desire to bring facial hair into his TV and film career is a wholly personal one that has little to do with the artistic side of his roles. Which is where he started his explanation. Here’s how the actor answered when I asked if he was the impetus behind Alan’s mustache: 

I'm convinced it was me. Like, as much as I say that in every interview, I keep starting to like question myself and question the time period. I know I came into Natasha and Alex's first meeting - they were our two directors - with a mustache. I know I did come in with a mustache, and I have been trying... I didn't grow a mustache until I was about 30, all right? So like, in my mind, this shit was like well-earned and I know it's scraggly. I still can't fill it in, but I cherish this mustache. It makes me feel like I'm finally an adult. I'm finally a man. And I've been pushing every show in the last two years that I have been on to be like, 'Can I have this mustache, please? Can I use this mustache?' And they say, 'No, no, I'm sorry. Shave it down. We want to look like a baby.' [Laughs.] Natasha and Alex, as soon as I got there, they were like, 'I love your mustache. It looks like you're very dapper in this whole look.' I was like - [gasps] - 'This is the one! I'm gonna push!' And I pushed hard. I was like, 'Natasha, please can I have this?' And she was like, 'I want it. I want it.' So it kind of solidified.

Personally, I find it hard to believe anyone could possibly say “no” to any request coming from Charlie Barnett’s baby face to begin with, but I guess I understand why producers and network execs are fond of the actor’s clean-shaven look. Interestingly enough, Barnett’s facial hair does feel out of time at points during Russian Doll Season 2, which really only helped the aesthetic whenever Alan dipped back into his familial past via the New York subway system. And speaking of family…

Charlie Barnett's Awesome Backstory For Alan's Mustache

After divulging just how much he personally wanted to show off his ‘stache on TV, Charlie Barnett then detoured into a more narrative-specific reasoning for Alan to have wanted his own shaggy upper lip. While he expressed that this isn’t necessarily considered fully canonical as far as how co-creators Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler and Leslye Headland envisioned things, here Barnett’s in-universe reason for Alan’s mustache.

In the world and my backstory, though, which I think is a really cool development, and a lot of people don't know about it, I've always had this idea - and this is more of a Charlie relation - I've always had this idea that Alan's father is Egyptian. And I imagined him having this just beautiful, Egyptian, Middle Eastern, thick mustache. And I would watch it as a child, being like, 'That's what will establish me as a man. That's what I need.' And for him in this second season, too, going through the experience that he did and all these deaths, he felt like he had finally gotten to manhood, and he was ready for his mustache. You know what I mean? And it kind of connected him to his father. Not to take away from his mother, but you know that relationship is a little bit challenging. It was a welcomed secret for me.

As someone whose father rocked a mustache for basically the entire time he was alive after I was born, I can totally understand where Charlie Barnett is coming from. I can’t say my own dad’s look would have stacked up favorably to Alan’s father in any capacity, but it certainly loomed large in my childhood mind for whatever reason, even if I didn’t ever want to grow one myself. But if I’d gone through everything that Alan did in Season 1 of Russian Doll, I might very well be interested in taking any step that distanced me from that suicidal, death-filled time.

Charlie Barnett went on to say that a step was taken to turn his self-created backstory into something closer to Russian Doll's reality, but things didn't fully pan out.

Honestly, it might change. There was a guy that was cast as my father. He was Egyptian. Natasha went with my story, so I appreciate that. But he was also like a background actor, I'm sure an incredible one. And I hope that we bring him back, because we need to give background people opportunities. I was a background actor, come on. We're all trying to start, but I don't know if he will return or not. If he doesn't, then eliminate that story. [Laughs.]

Alan’s may not necessarily rank amongst the greatest TV mustaches of all time, but I dare say few other characters on the small screen have such specific backstories for their facial hair’s existence. Here’s hoping that if Russian Doll Season 3 happens, we get to spend more time with Alan and his own family history.

Russian Doll Season 2, which earned various responses from critics, is currently available to stream in full on Netflix, along with all of the streaming service’s other best original series.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.