A Gentleman in Moscow: Is Anna Urbanova Based on a Real Russian Actress?

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

A gentleman finds himself in a peculiar situation in Showtime’s ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ when he is forced to spend the rest of his days in a hotel. Luckier than others in the same situation as his, the Count isn’t condemned to death in the aftermath of the Bolshevik revolution. Instead, he is put on permanent house arrest at the hotel right across the road from the Kremlin. If he steps out, he will be shot. Despite his situation, the Count tries to stay in high spirits, and he becomes particularly happy when a beautiful actress comes to the hotel. Anna Urbanova becomes an essential part of his story, but is she real or fictional? SPOILERS AHEAD

Anna Urbanova Adds to the Fictional Charm of Count Rostov’s Story

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Based on the book of the same name by Amor Towles, ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ is a completely fictional story, and all the characters in it, including Anna Urbanova, are made up. The author revealed that while he did use a historical setting and historical events as signposts to guide Count Rostov’s story, everything that happens to the characters is completely made up.

In writing the book, Towles confined the Count to one location, which meant that the protagonist’s life would be made colorful only when he met the different guests at the hotel. Because the Count spends decades inside the hotel, a love story as a subplot makes sense, and this is where Anna Urbanova’s character comes in. For someone like Rostov, who tries to be cheerful against all odds and who holds a sense of class and pride, a character who could hold their own in front of him was needed. While there were characters like little Nina, who added another dimension to Rostov’s journey, Towles wanted someone who would challenge Count on different levels, and that’s what led to the creation of the Russian actress.

Towles deliberately didn’t draw from real-life characters in the book because he wanted to keep room for himself to morph the plot according to the characters’ requirements. However, he borrowed a few things from his own experiences or those of other people to add more depth to the characters. In the case of Anna Urbanova, he picked an instance from the story of his parents. In the book, the Russian actress refuses to pick up her clothes, and in one scene, she throws them out of the window only to go out in the middle of the night to get them back.

Image Credit: Ben Blackall/Paramount+ With Showtime

Towles revealed that in their younger years, his parents did something similar. His mother would leave the clothes on the floor, and his father once threw them out of the window. The author left it to the audience to imagine who would have gone out to get the clothes back. It was small things like these that allowed Towles to make his characters multi-dimensional and show their personality and traits to the reader without having to spell everything out for them.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Anna Urbanova, revealed that her own experience as an actress allowed her to have a common ground with Anna and develop an understanding with her. The ‘Ahsoka’ actress revealed that while her and Anna’s personalities are quite different, the common factor of their career choice gave her the perspective of Anna’s story and helped her get into the skin of the character. She commended the writers of the show for sketching out Anna on the paper in incredible detail, making her task much easier. She also credited the creators of the set who brought the Metropol alive with extensive detail, allowing her to “fully inhabit” Anna while reveling in the world of ‘A Gentleman in Moscow.’ Working with her husband, who plays Count Rostov, made it easier to emotionally access Anna’s connection with Rostov, helping her bring a deeper sense of realism to Anna Urbanova’s character.

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