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‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ star Mary Elizabeth Winstead: ‘It was really a dream job’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

Mary Elizabeth Winstead had a front-row seat to the television adaptation of Amor Towles’s bestselling novel “A Gentleman in Moscow” before she was even cast to play Anna, a famed Russian actress who winds up in a long-term relationship with the story’s protagonist, Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov. Winstead’s husband, Ewan McGregor, was attached to the project first as the Count and they both fell in love with the story’s characters and Towles’ prose as McGregor was prepping for the part.

“I read the novel, and Ewan had already kind of tipped me off to the idea that there was potentially an interesting female role in it, but he didn’t tell me much,” Winstead tells Gold Derby in an exclusive video interview. “But I loved the world and the book so much – and I loved who Anna was. And the possibility of getting to play someone like her was incredibly exciting. So I just kind of very casually threw my hat in the ring and just said, ‘Hey, you know, if you get around to casting this role, keep me in mind, I think it could be a great fit.’ But I didn’t want to push it because you never know, they might have some totally different idea of who she is and that would be totally valid. But when they offered me the role, I was just so happy that they all felt that I could be this and that I was the right person for it. Because it was an incredible opportunity for me to get to be in this world and to be with Ewan in it was very special.”

Set across 30 years, from the end of the Russian Revolution into the Cold War, “A Gentleman in Moscow” is focused on the Count’s journey from a selfish aristocrat to someone who finds family and friendship in the most unlikely of places: under a lifetime house arrest in the Metropol Hotel in Moscow. Winstead’s Anna enters the story in its early days, and her initial meeting with the Count is awkward; they have a one-night stand that leads nowhere for literal years. But time and circumstance allow the relationship to come back around, and their eventual romance makes up the spine of “A Gentleman in Moscow” as it moves to its conclusion.

“It was really a dream job. From beginning to end, I just couldn’t believe just that we got to work together and step into a world that we found to be so beautiful and complex and detailed and nuanced,” Winstead says of her collaboration with McGregor on the show. “The scripts are full of these particular journeys for so many different and beautiful characters who just kind of pop off the page, and then the actors just made them so real and unique. And I mean, every single night, we would just come home and be like, ‘Oh my god, that was so good.’ We would just talk about how brilliant everyone was. It was truly special.’

Winstead and McGregor have worked together twice before – first on Season 3 of “Fargo,” then in the 2020 film “Birds of Prey.” But the new limited series, which will debut on Paramout+ with Showtime marks the first time the pair have performed opposite each other while married. 

“It was so much fun,” Winstead says. “As actors, we just love it. We love what we do. And we love to play and we love to just show up and play off of one another’s energy. And I think that that’s why we love to work together so much. We just connect, because there’s this spark that comes from loving what we do, and being so happy to be there and just sort of both of us being so happy to be in these other clothes and places. To share that bond as actors is really special and to just show up and to get to look at one another and be like, ‘Okay, this is our playtime.’ We get a break from the real world and we get to step into this and just be. It’s absolutely so much fun.”

“A Gentleman in Moscow” recently debuted on Paramount+ with Showtime.

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