Netflix’s penchant for docudramas is getting the streamer in trouble, this time courtesy of Rachel Williams, an associate of New York City con artist Anna Sorokin. She sued the company on Monday for libel over her portrayal in inventing ana.
The series, based on a May 2018 New York article, shows the scams and fall of Sorokin, better known as Anna Delvey. In the show, Sorokin swindles his way into the New York City upper class by lying about her fortune as a German heiress and defrauding banks out of millions to finance her extravagant lifestyle. It includes a whimsical disclaimer: “This story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up.
Williams – a former vanity fair photo editor who published an article about her time with Sorokin before New YorkCame the feature of: argues that almost everything about the character on the show is made up. According to Netflix’s retelling of events, Williams gladly accepts lavish gifts and trips from Sorokin, but sells her friend to the authorities once she learns Sorokin lied about her fortune.
“This action will show that Netflix made a deliberate decision for dramatic purposes to show Williams doing or saying things in the series that portray her as greedy, snobbish, disloyal, dishonest, cowardly, manipulative and opportunistic,” the complaint filed states. in Delaware federal court.
In one scene, a lawyer forces Williams to admit during Sorokin’s fraud trial that Sorokin footed the bill for each of his outings. The lawsuit claims the cross-examination was intended to imply that Williams is a freeloader, which she contends is untrue because she on occasion paid for drinks and split the bill over some spa treatments and dinners.
In another scene, Sorokin is dumped by Williams in Morocco after her credit card to stay at a luxury resort is declined. Williams says that she told Sorokin before the trip that she would have to leave on a specific date to travel to France for work. It is implied that Williams ended her friendship with Sorokin after her friend began having financial difficulties, according to the lawsuit.
“Williams did not stop being friends with Sorokin because Sorokin was in trouble in Morocco, but because she later discovered on his return to New York that Sorokin was a liar and a con man whose statements and promises had induced Williams to incur liabilities of around $62,000 in Sorokin’s name were false and only reimbursed him $5,000 despite numerous promises to reimburse him $70,000 to cover the full debt and fees incurred,” the complaint says.
Alexander Rufus-Isaacs, who represents Williams, says the lawsuit makes a strong case that his client’s character was intentionally misrepresented to tell a better story. He points to an interview with Shonda Rhimes, the show’s executive producer and creator.
“We wanted to know what we were inventing,” says Rhimes in the interview. “We didn’t want to be making stuff up just for the sake of it.” She adds, “We wanted to intentionally create fictional moments rather than just accidentally fictionalize them.”
In another interview with the hollywood reporterRhimes says, “There were things we invented because they needed to be invented for the story to really sing and be what it should be.”
Katie Lowes, who played Williams on the series, also says during an interview that, “[The Rachel character is] a people pleaser. He is young, naive and had a privileged life. I don’t think this is necessarily true of Rachel Williams in real life; I think this is true for the character that Shonda wrote and what Shonda needed the character to be for the show.”
Rufus-Isaacs claims that the statements constitute an admission that Netflix knew the allegedly defamatory statements and actions were false, but proceeded anyway, thus the show had a villain. Rhimes and Shondaland are not named in the complaint.
For libel cases against high-profile public figures to be successful, there must be a showing that the allegedly libelous statements were made with actual malice. There must be intent to harm with foreknowledge that what is said is false, or a reckless disregard for the truth. Several defamation lawsuits, including those brought by Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, and a person who sued over her portrayal in the street wolfhave not met the standard.
Williams, who opted for the rights to her vanity fair article and book not written for HBO, account THR, “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 willful recklessness.”
Williams’ character is the only one on the show who is given the full name of a real person and who has the same employer, alma mater and neighborhood of origin as the real person, according to the complaint, which alleges defamation and trespassing. privacy with false light.
“The reason we had to file this lawsuit is because Netflix used Rachel’s real name and biographical details, and made her seem like a horrible person, which she is not,” says Rufus-Isaacs. “The devastating damage to her reputation could have been avoided if only Netflix had used a different fictitious name and details. Why didn’t they do this for her, when they did it for so many other characters in the series? Perhaps the reason was that she had chosen to play for the other team, that is, HBO.
In 2017, Sorokin, who was paid $320,000 by Netflix for the rights to her story, was arrested in an undercover operation with the help of Williams. She was paroled after serving two years, after which she was placed in the custody of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement for her deportation to Germany.
This isn’t the first real-life project to take Netflix to court. Alan Dershowitz, a former Soviet chess grandmaster, and a Cuban exile organization have sued the broadcaster over portrayals of him in various shows and movies.
Netflix and Shondaland did not immediately respond to requests for comment.