In the immortal words of Inventing Anna’s consummate glam-scam artist, “You know me. Everyone knows me.” And if everyone knows Anna Delvey/Sorokin’s name, then everyone knows the name of her onetime friend, Rachel Williams—much to the consternation of the real-life Williams, who on Monday filed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix over her portrayal.
Williams, a former Vanity Fair photo editor, was swept up in Sorokin’s web of lies to the tune of $62,srcsrcsrc of her savings, as she painstakingly detailed in a 2src18 essay about their friendship-gone-bad. (Her essay dropped a month before the New York magazine story that directly inspired Inventing Anna was published.) In her new suit, filed in Delaware federal court and first flagged by The Hollywood Reporter, Williams argued that Netflix made the conscious choice to distort her character.
“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the Series which portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic person,” the suit reads.
In a statement to The Daily Beast on Monday, (the real) Anna Sorokin simply said: “Truth hurts.”
According to Williams, her onscreen counterpart—portrayed by Scandal alum Katie Lowes—is a freeloading, backstabbing witch who turns on Sorokin (Julia Garner) during a sojourn to Morocco, when the fraudster shows signs of being in dire financial straits. In reality, Williams insisted in her suit, she’d ended the relationship after returning to New York and discovering “Sorokin was a liar and a con artist.”
Inventing Anna led directly to “a torrent of online abuse, negative in-person interactions, and pejorative characterizations in podcasts” for Williams, according to her suit. In the wake of the hit series, “thousands” of hateful messages were lobbed Williams’ way, some of which called her a “Karen,” a “gold digging mooch,” a “cry baby,” and a “GREEDY CLOWN.”
As evidence of the company’s alleged intentions to defame her, Williams pointed to a March interview with show creator Shonda Rhimes, who isn’t named as a defendant in the suit. “We wanted to know what we were making up; we didn’t want to be making things up just for the sake of it,” Rhimes explained, in what Williams called “an admission.”
“We wanted to intentionally be fictionalizing moments versus accidentally fictionalizing them,” Rhimes added. (The show itself was open in flaunting its departure from the truth, with every episode of Inventing Anna beginning with the disclaimer: “This story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up.”)
Williams’ attorney, Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, argued that the issue at the heart of Netflix’s alleged defamation was the choice to use his client’s real name and biographical details, something afforded to few other characters in the show. “The devastating damage to her reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a fictitious name and different details,” Rufus-Isaacs said, according to the Reporter. “Why didn’t they do this for her, when they did for so many other characters in the Series? Perhaps the reason was that she had chosen to play for the other team, i.e., HBO.”
After her 2src18 essay, Williams signed a deal to write a book entitled My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress. She sold the rights to both her article and the book to HBO, walking away with around $34src,srcsrcsrc before taxes, according to Deadline. After Inventing Anna aired, HBO backed away from developing the project.
Williams alleges in her suit that Netflix tried to purchase the rights to her story, but were beaten to the punch by HBO. Her complaint floats the idea that Netflix was exacting revenge for this by using her real name in their series.
On Monday evening, Sorokin posted to her Instagram story that she would “gladly” make herself available to testify about the truthfulness of Williams’ depiction. “You know where to find me,” wrote the fake heiress, who remains in federal custody while awaiting deportation to Germany.