Rachel Deloache Williams sues Netflix over portrayal of ‘Inventing Anna’

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Rachel DeLoache Williams, a photo editor who befriended New York socialite and con artist Anna Sorokin, is suing Netflix over its portrayal of her on its wildly popular show “Inventing Anna,” released earlier this year.

Williams, who was played by actress Katie Lowes on the show, filed a lawsuit against the streaming giant in Delaware District Court on Monday, alleging defamation and invasion of privacy by false lighting.

According to court documents, she accuses Netflix of making a “deliberate decision for dramatic purposes” to show her doing or saying things that she says portray her “as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal person, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic”.

The costume also claims that she is depicted on the show as accepting expensive gifts, clothes and jewelry and “mopping up” Anna Sorokin, who also went by the name Anna Delvey as she convinced strangers she was a foreign heiress.

“In fact, she [Williams] never did or said these things. Thus, this action is firmly based on statements of fact that are patently false and on attribution of statements she never made,” the court filing reads.

Netflix and the show’s producer, Shonda Rhimes, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday morning.

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Convicted fraudster Sorokin, a Russian who moved to Germany in 2007 as a teenager and then to the United States in 2013 as a magazine intern, was an Instagram charmer. She lived a lavish lifestyle which began to unravel in 2018, when she was charged with multiple counts of grand larceny and theft of services after failing to pay hotel and restaurant bills At New York.

The show depicts Williams and Sorokin on an extravagant vacation in Morocco, where Sorokin avoids paying the bills, despite being hounded, instead promising to send wire transfers as the pressured Williams character pays soaring bills. costs.

Williams said in the court filing that payments made on her credit card included plane tickets and a hotel stay in Marrakech, totaling $62,000. The lawsuit adds that Sorokin later repaid $5,000 but the whole episode caused Williams a personal “financial crisis” and forced her to borrow money to pay her rent.

Sorokin’s story was originally written by journalist Jessica Pressler in a 2018 New York Magazine article titled, “How Anna Delvey Fooled New York’s Partygoers.” Netflix then bought the option, and producer Rhimes said at the time that she jumped off her treadmill and immediately phoned her office after reading Pressler’s article. “I hadn’t felt this excitement of a story I wanted to tell and knew exactly how I wanted to tell it for a very long time,” she told Netflix when the show was released this year.

Rhimes, who created other hit shows including “Bridgerton,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal,” said of Sorokin, “She’s a villain’s villain.” She added: “You can’t help but admire it; she is fascinating. And also, you can’t help but be taken by her.

The nine episodes of the Netflix hit starring Julia Garner as Anna begin with the disclaimer: “This is an entirely true story, except for the parts that are completely made up.”

On-screen, character Anna attends lavish parties and rubs shoulders with Manhattan’s financial elite, claiming “VIP is always better”, as she tries to start a private arts club.

Meanwhile, a relentless and heavily pregnant journalist, a Fictional Pressler played by actress Anna Chlumsky, attempts to pin down Sorokin’s changing biography for a profile piece. On screen, Sorokin tells the reporter that she looks “very, very fat” and barks, “You look poor,” at her and other passing acquaintances.

The Netflix series was engulfed by global audiences upon its release in February and nominated for three Emmy Awards.

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Williams’ lead attorney, Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that the case was filed because the show tried to portray “Rachel as a horrible person” and used real biographical details.

“His reputation has been devastated. … The abuse she suffered was truly horrific,” he said. “This lawsuit is about upholding his reputation and reminding creatives that they can’t create hateful characters and name them after real people.”

Rufus-Isaacs is also representing chess player Nona Gaprindashvili, who is also suing Netflix for defamation over her portrayal in its hit series ‘The Queen’s Gambit’.

Court documents claim Williams has been subjected to “thousands” of abusive messages since the show aired.

She did not specify an amount for damages, but accused the show of “blurring the lines between fact and fiction” as it seeks compensation. The lawsuit also seeks a jury trial and an injunction to have alleged defamatory material involving Williams removed from “Inventing Anna.”

He adds that the reputational damage caused was “completely avoidable”, had Netflix given his character a fictitious name and changed some of the identifying details, for which it is seeking punitive damages.

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Meanwhile, Sorokin, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Post, shared a meme on his Instagram story on Tuesday of a woman asking to speak to the manager and wrote: “Rachel call Netflix this morning .”

In a now-deleted story post, she also wrote, “I will gladly make myself available to testify to the accuracy of your portrayal of Rachel – you know where to find me,” as she shared a screenshot of a Hollywood Reporter report on the trial.

The two women met in 2016 while Williams was working as a photo editor for Vanity Fair in New York, according to court documents. They became close the following year when Sorokin was living in a Manhattan hotel and “posing as a German heiress…who had a substantial trust fund. She led a glamorous life, living in the finest hotels and attending prestigious social events.

In fact, she had little money, according to court documents, and her extravagant lifestyle soon racked up huge bills. In the filing, Williams said she often offered to pay for meals, transportation and saunas, but Sorokin “normally takes the check.”

Williams went on to write an article for Vanity Fair about her experiences with Sorokin in 2018 and published a book a year later called “My Friend Anna: The True Story of Anna Delvey, New York’s Fake Heiress.”

In a personal essay in February, Williams acknowledged that audiences appreciate “scam stories,” but she blasted the Netflix show and said she wasn’t involved in its making. “Netflix doesn’t just publish a fictional story. He effectively handles a scammer’s public relations,” she wrote.

She also called Sorokin a “former friend” and said she “worked with the police to organize the sting operation that put her behind bars.”

Sorokin went to trial in 2019, with Williams testifying. Sorokin was later sentenced to four to 12 years in prison and was released in 2021 after serving more than three years, according to court documents. She has since been taken into custody by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. She remains in ICE custody while fighting deportation to Germany.

Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.