Jessica Pressler, the real-life journalist who wrote the viral New York Magazine article on which Netflix’s Inventing Anna is based, is setting the record straight about what’s real and what’s made up in the Shonda Rhimes series.
For one thing, Pressler says her relationship with her editors in real life was not at all as volatile as the relationship between the fictitious Manhattan Magazine editors and and the character loosely patterned after her, Vivian Kent, who is played by Anna Chlumsky.
“Obviously those are not our actual bosses at New York,” Pressler told Vulture, an online vertical that’s part of New York Magazine. “Our bosses are quite the opposite. I think the show bosses are a stand-in for patriarchal offices in general. But this is a thing where fact is braided with fiction.”
She did have to do some convincing to make the story happen, though.
“It was not a no-brainer to do an 8,000-word story about a non-famous person. It might be now,” she said. “I did have to sell the story, but it was definitely not exactly the way it was on the show. She has to pitch it in person because you can’t just have people being on Slack and email on TV.”
And that conversation Vivian Kent has about not wanting to write a Wall Street Me Too story was true.
“They did want me to write a Wall Street Me Too story, and I did react in pretty much exactly that way — though not as articulately,” she said. “There’s an emotional truth to it all, even though the details are different.”
To be clear, the character of Chlumsky’s Vivian Kent isn’t supposed to literally be Jessica Pressler, and Chlumsky wasn’t trying to do an impression of Pressler in the way that Julia Garner was with Sorokin. But the character does share elements from Pressler’s life, including that she was pregnant while writing the story and that she had been lied to when doing a previous story on a high school senior named Mohammed Islam who claimed to have made $72 million trading stocks.
“The show is fictionalized, and the character is a guide to this universe. When I met Anna Chlumsky, she was like, ‘I’m not doing you,’ and I was like, ‘Great!’ Vivian is like an all-caps angry email of me, but there are things that are very real mixed into it,” Pressler said.
As for the Mohammed Islam story, Pressler gets why that detail made it into Inventing Anna.
“I understood why it made it in,” she said. I get that there’s this parallel in that you’re writing about a con artist and then appear to have been conned.”
Inventing Anna is now streaming on Netflix.
Main Image: Anna Chlumsky as Vivian Kent in Inventing Anna courtesy of Netflix.