Anna Chlumsky has been acting for a long time. As a child, she became a household name in the film, My Girl, starring Macauley Culkin and in the thirty years that followed, she’s had lead roles in the HBO comedy hit, Veep (for which she received six Emmy nominations) and AMC’s drama series, Halt and Catch Fire. This month, she stars opposite Julia Garner in Shonda Rhimes‘ new Netflix miniseries Inventing Anna—now streaming—based on the real-life exploits of Anna Delvey (a.k.a. Anna Sorokin), a fake German heiress who scammed New York’s wealthy and powerful.
The 41-year-old Chicago native now lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.
What attracted you to the character of Vivian?
I had been yearning to play a journalist—someone unabashedly curious and unapologetically probing. I was absolutely crazy about Shonda’s intrigue into the relationship that develops between Vivian and Anna—how getting to know someone intimately enough to write an investigative article about them has to leave a mark. Getting to explore the shaping of that mark is what drew me in. Then on top of it, the gorgeous nuance and complexity with which Shonda [Rhimes] and our writers explore Vivian’s entire career and what it means to her. It’s just delicious as all get-go.
How much about the real Anna Delvey—and the people the show portrays—did you know going into filming?
I didn’t know anything about Anna Delvey before the show. It was fun to discover just how many people did once I booked it.
Did working on the series change your take on Anna’s circumstances?
What to you is the most outrageous part of her situation?
I think society has an outsized obsession with young females who win games. They immediately want to categorize them, own them, say they discovered them, call them supernatural, cash in on them—anything but just acknowledge all of the complex qualities that got them there. “Little girls” aren’t supposed to have any power and agency in the patriarchal system we’ve all been raised in. We see it in sports, in politics, in activism – in crime. The hype, on top of hype, on top of hype that surrounded Anna and her proposal, her feeds, and then her trial—that hype is a pretty outrageous, if albeit familiar, feeding frenzy that society plays into time and time again.
There’s a sense that Anna is considered a con but if she were a man, she’d have been just another entrepreneur. Do you agree?
Absolutely. Heck, she could be elected to the highest office if she were a man and had done even more crimes. That unfairness doesn’t make what she did right, and it doesn’t change the fact that laws should be abided and victims brought to justice. However, it would be so nice if the dudes got 4-12 years, too.
Have you ever encountered a Ripley-type character like Anna in real life?
Yes. I try to keep that type at arm’s length. With a long arm.
What’s the biggest hoax you’ve ever gotten away with pulling?
I’m a terrible liar. I can’t recall ever pulling off any kind of hoax.
What did you learn about being a journalist to prepare for this role?
I read a lot. Jessica Pressler—the writer of the article our show is based on and one of our co-producers—gave me access to copious notes and pointed me in the direction of some classic and engaging books on the craft of journalism. Vivian feels she expresses herself best and most vividly in the written word, so I enthusiastically consumed Jessica’s writing which gave me a beautiful and appropriately cerebral path into playing the character. In a show about storytelling, I had a wonderful time letting the pen-to-page guide me.