In the mid-2010s, German heiress and Instagram darling Anna Delvey captured the hearts and dollars of New York’s social set. The only trouble was, she was neither an heiress nor even rich and her name wasn’t Delvey — a story recreated to dramatic effect in a limited series upcoming on Netflix.
In “Inventing Anna,” a nine-episode drama from creator/showrunner Shonda Rhimes (“Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal”) that begins streaming Friday, viewers are introduced to Delvey (Julia Garner, “Ozark”), who in reality was a Russian-born German named Anna Sorokin.
From 2013 to 2017, Sorokin used this identity to defraud banks, hotels and wealthy acquaintances and live the high life among the city’s beautiful people until she was arrested, convicted on charges of grand larceny and sent to prison.
In this story, she’s visited at Rikers Island as she awaits trial by Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky, “Veep”), a journalist trying to rescue her flagging career with a big story. Vivian sees that chance in Anna, who feels she’s been unjustly portrayed in the media as a greedy, vapid grifter. What ensues is a cat-and-mouse game between reporter and subject as each has something the other wants.
The story is inspired by a New York magazine article written by Jessica Pressler, who is a producer on this series and was a source for Chlumsky as Vivian.
“(The case) is so emblematic as we have lots of different … folk heroes coming out these days and it does raise so many questions about where we’re at as a society,” Chlumsky said. “And I myself will go down every rabbit hole when it comes to the questions it makes me ask of myself, of friends, of friendships, of the greater … fabric we all find ourselves in now. What’s real, what’s not? What is a friendship? What is it, when it’s all on screen and you only have a certain version of it?
“No one really has an idea of who these people are that they’re following online. … And so I think somebody like Anna was living that out in real time every day. And you kind of have to ask yourself, ‘How surprised are we really?’ ”
Chlumsky also embraced the opportunity to go one-on-one in scenes with Garner, whom she praises her for having the “openness to let any impulse in.”
“It’s she and I sitting there and both wanting something,” Chlumsky said, “and it seems so beautifully fundamental of what you even learn in acting class. It’s all about intention. It’s all about getting what you want from your scene partner, and when you get to sit down and just stare at your scene partner and just try to get what you want, it’s such a delicious joy for an actor.”