When Shonda Rhimes read the New York Magazine article "How Anna Delvey Tricked New York's Party People," she was immediately "obsessed."
"I remember calling my office and saying, 'There's this article and we have to get it,'" Shonda shares in a featurette. "I was fascinated by so much of it. I kept wondering how she uncovered so much of these details."
In the piece, published May 2018, journalist Jessica Pressler detailed how fake German heiress Anna Delvey, born Anna Sorokin, conned New York City's elite out of thousands of dollars. She even spoke to Anna herself, who was being held in a New York state prison.
It was this dedication to uncovering the truth that made Shonda decide to write Inventing Anna from the perspective of the journalist, who is played by Anna Chlumsky. But Anna shares that her character, Vivian, is "very, very, very loosely based" on the real-life Jessica.
They also took the liberty of making Vivian look obsessed with this case, with Julia Garner, who plays the fraudster, noting that this obsession plays into the journalist's relationship with the conman. "Vivian becomes wrapped up in Anna Delvey's story," the actress says, "and Anna likes that Vivian is running after her—in jail."
In speaking to Anna, Vivian gets more information for her story and in return, the fake heiress gets what she always wanted: "Fame."
But Vivian also learns new details from the people scorned by Anna too. "You're watching everybody's interviews and takes on Anna as they speak to Vivian," Shonda explains. "Along the way, you see the friends that she makes and the people that she scams."
And while Anna was eventually convicted on eight charges, including grand larceny, Shonda thinks she's a "fascinating" creature, saying, "She's a villain's villain, if you know what I mean. You kind of can't help but admire her."
See what the rest of the cast had to say in the exclusive video above!
Inventing Anna premieres on Netflix Feb. 11.