The Emmy-nominated series stars Julia Garner as convicted fraudster Anna “Delvey” Sorokin, who conned elite Manhattan into believing she was an international heiress. While Sorokin has (for the most part) stood by the series, it’s former Vanity Fair photo editor Rachel Williams who is slapping the streamer with a defamation suit. Williams is portrayed by Katie Lowes in the Shonda Rhimes-produced limited series.
Williams previously wrote about her experiences with former best friend Delvey in 2018 for Vanity Fair after Delvey allegedly conned her into footing the bill for a $62,000 trip to Morocco; Williams carried the debt on her corporate Condé Nast credit card.
Per the lawsuit filing, as reported by Deadline, Williams is alleging 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 complaint was filed in Delaware federal court by law firms Rufus-Isaacs Acland & Grantham LLP and Farnan LLP.
Williams also noted that she previously sold the rights to her involvement in the Anna Delvey scandal to HBO prior to Netflix’s “Inventing Anna.” The Netflix series was inspired by Jessica Pressler’s 2018 article “How an Aspiring ‘It’ Girl Tricked New York’s Party People — and its Banks,” which ran in New York Magazine. “Inventing Anna” paid $320,000 to Delvey for her life story.
Williams also wrote about her experiences with Delvey but was not compensated by Netflix or producer Rhimes. Williams did, however, agree to a deal with HBO for her 2019 book “My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress,” for which she was paid approximately $340,000.
Williams is among the only real-life people accurately named in the Netflix series. To date, there is no word if the HBO series is moving forward.
“The reason why we have had to file this lawsuit is because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and biographical details, and made her out to be a horrible person, which she is not,” attorney Alexander Rufus-Isaacs said in a statement. “The devastating damage to her reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a fictitious name and different details. 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.”
Williams is seeking unspecified damages and a jury trial, as well as an injunction to have the alleged defamatory material involving Williams edited out of “Inventing Anna.”
“The magnitude of the harm to Williams caused by Netflix’s defamation has been extraordinary by any plausible measure,” the lawsuit claims. “The Series has been viewed by millions of people around the world, and as a result of Netflix’s false portrayal of her as a despicable person, she has been subjected to a torrent of online abuse which have caused her personal humiliation, distress, and anguish, as well as damages to her earnings and/or potential earnings.”
Producer Rhimes and production company Shondaland are not named as defendants in the lawsuit.