Julia Garner is in costume as the fashion-savvy society wannabe and con artist Anna Delvey when I sit down with the Emmy winner in Marrakech, Morocco. And we’re not just anywhere in one of Africa’s busiest and most popular cities—we’re at La Mamounia, a world-class resort that is an important setting for the sixth episode of Inventing Anna. We also happen to be sitting in the Riad, a private bungalow, next to the one the real Delvey stayed at when her massive con started to unravel in the spring of 2017.
When we talk, it’s February 2020—unbeknownst to Garner and I, we’re less than six weeks away from the world shutting down because of the coronavirus. But at the time, it’s business as usual, and Garner has been burning the candle at both ends between filming Anna, starting production for the final season of Netflix’s Ozark (where she’s a double Emmy winner for her portrayal of Ruth Langmore), and promoting her film The Assistant at Sundance. “It’s like I’m living Anna Delvey’s life,” she jokes of the intense schedule that has taken her across the world. “And then in three weeks I’m going to have [Ruth’s] Southern accent when Ozark starts up.”
But for now, it’s all Delvey all the time. Several times throughout our conversation, Garner—who’s wearing a printed kaftan that perfectly matches her long, red wig—does Anna’s accent for me. It’s a trip to watch and listen to, not just for me, but for Garner as well, who keeps thinking about what it was like for the real Anna to stay here.
“It comes in waves,” she says. “I’m so busy thinking about what’s going on with the scene and how I’m feeling in that moment as the character, but today it kind of hit me. When I was leaning against the wall waiting as the shot was being set up, I was like, ‘Oh, my God, I wonder if Anna was leaning on this exact same spot on this exact same wall as me. And then like, ‘Anna pressed this elevator button also.’ It’s just weird, you know?”
At the time it was hard for me to fully understand; but after seeing all nine episodes of Shonda Rhimes’s limited series, I get it more than ever. Garner fully immerses herself as Delvey in a performance so captivating that even though this particular story ends after one season, I already wish there was more.
“It’s great being part of the Shondaland family, but honestly it’s the part [that drew me in], it’s that simple,” Garner says. “I was excited when I read the scripts because they were really good. If the part was just good and the script weren’t, that would be bad. But that wasn’t the case.”
Clearly. Garner went to great lengths to make that happen, whether it was advocating for fake teeth to fill out her face, spending hours perfecting Delvey’s amalgamation of a Russian/German/American accent, and even meeting with the convicted socialite herself. “I was terrified even though I wanted to meet her,” Garner says. And by all accounts, so was Delvey/Sorokin (her actual name).