Rachel DeLoache Williams, the former Vanity Fair photo editor bilked out of tens of thousands by fake German heiress Anna Sorokin, is suing Netflix for her unflattering portrayal in the Emmy-nominated series Inventing Anna. Williams’ complaint, filed in district court in Delaware and obtained by Jezebel, alleges that Netflix “made a deliberate decision” to “portray her as a greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative, and opportunistic person.”
In short: Williams alleges Netflix did a “hatchet job” on her reputation in the Shonda Rhimes-helmed limited series. She is seeking damages for defamation and false light invasion of privacy.
“Netflix purposely used my real name, and real aspects of my life, to create a totally false and defamatory characterization of me. The truth matters and portraying real people requires real responsibility. I am filing this lawsuit to hold Netflix accountable for its deliberate recklessness,” Williams told the Hollywood Reporter.
Netflix has not responded to a request for comment by Jezebel, nor has production company Shondaland. Williams’ suit says the show resulted in a “torrent of online abuse, negative in-person interactions” and even “pejorative characterizations in podcasts.” Here are some of the “thousands” of instances of Williams alleges she received, per the suit:
- “This type of white privilege and turning yourself into a victim is so disgusting. Glad to see that the Netflix adaption, the one that is from the perspective of a journalist and includes different fact checking and opinions, is giving an honest look into this situation and showing your opportunistic ways. Anna deserved this, but you deserve the backlash just as much”
- “Sorry no sympathy here.. also shows you can’t be trusted as a friend... ‚you betrayed her.. even thou [sic] she fitted [sic] your bills...why couldn’t you cover one bill that you helped make?”
- “Anna was definitely guilty for what she did , but out of all the characters you were the worst! Benefiting from the expensive shits she bought you! How did you even accepted her paying for you those luxury vacations ! And then playing the victim role!”
- “I don’t feel sorry for you. You had choices and you made bad choices. Even if it’s not Anna Delvey, people can see through you. You are like many “”fake friends”” out there who would leech off to someone with status and money. ....”
- “I just saw the Netflix show and have to say you are a horrible human!!! You are pathetic and don’t deserve the publicity”
- “No one forced you to go to Morocco. You are a user. Can’t stand you. You are no better than Anna”
- “Stop being a cry baby. You are literally doing the same thing Anna did. Taking advantage.”
The show used Williams’ real name, employer, neighborhood, and alma mater, according to the lawsuit. Williams says Netflix didn’t have to use so many identifying details. “She does not challenge Netflix’s right to have an unpleasant character in the Series, but if it chose to base the character on herself, and to portray the character negatively, it should have given the character a fictious [sic] name and changed the character’s identifying details so that no one would believe that the character was a portrayal ‘of and concerning’ the real Rachel Williams,” the lawsuit alleges. “Netflix gave fictional names to many of the real life protagonists in the Sorokin saga who appear in the Series, but it did not afford Williams the same protection.”
The lawsuit also alleges that Netflix chose to use her real information because Williams sold her Vanity Fair article about her experience and her memoir to rival HBO for yet another adaptation about Sorokin/Delvey.
The lawsuit explores multiple alleged defamatory portrayals in the series, 16 in total. Here is a sampling:
- The Rachel/Neff confrontation (the “paid bitch” conversation) in episode 2
- Neff discussing with Kacy why Rachel won’t go to Rikers to visit Sorokin in episode 2
- An interview with the journalist character where Neff says Rachel was “trying to be Anna” in episode 5
- A scene in a salon when Rachel conned Sorokin into paying for a cut and color in episode 5
- When Rachel offers to book an upgraded space on the famed Morocco trip in episode 6
- In Morocco, Rachel pressures Sorokin to pay for massage, tennis lessons and a private museum tour in episode 6
- Episode 9's cross-examination of Rachel
The lawsuit alleges that interviews with show creator Rhimes constitute actual malice, the legal standard needed to be met for successful defamation lawsuit. “For this particular show, having someone who has read every transcript of the trial, who was paying close attention to every detail in Anna’s life, was really, really important, because we wanted to know what we were thinking. 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 said in an interview with the Independent. “We wanted to intentionally be fictionalising [sic] moments versus just accidentally be fictionalising [sic] them.”
Williams wants a jury trial and monetary damages from Netflix.