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Paramount+ 'A Gentleman in Moscow': Mary Elizabeth Winstead has 'diva confidence' in new show with husband Ewan McGregor

"She's a real hustler, a real survivor, and those are the kinds of people that I love to play," Winstead said

Married couple Ewan McGregor and Mary Elizabeth Winstead came together for the new Paramount+ series A Gentleman in Moscow (premiering Mach 29), an adaptation of the novel by Amor Towles.

Stream A Gentleman in Moscow on Paramount+ with a 7-day free trial, then $9.99/month

$10 at Paramount+

Set in post-Revolutionary Russia, Count Alexander Rostov (McGregor) is stripped of his title and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in the Metropol Hotel. Imprisoned at the property, the Count develops a friendship with a young girl, Nina (Alexa Goodall), but when a friend, Mishka (Fehinti Balogun), arrives at the hotel, the Count is forced to face his past, while trying not to sink into despair with the uncertainty of the future.

Winstead plays Anna Urbanova, a Russian movie star. While the Count has an instant attraction to her, Anna loves playing hard to get.

"You're always looking for something that's just really great writing," Winstead told Yahoo about what attracted her to this project, as a fan of the novel as well. "You just read a book like that and you go, 'Oh my god, someone's going to make this into a series."

"Then the scripts come in and they're capturing all of that, that you hope they'll capture."

The actor added that she was attracted to playing such an "interesting" character.

"She's a real hustler, a real survivor, and those are the kinds of people that I love to play, because they're so interesting, and they're so active, and they're never really just sitting back and letting life happen to them," Winstead said. "They're always trying to think about how they can kind of advance."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna in A Gentleman in Moscow, streaming on Paramount+ March 28 (Ben Blackall/Paramount+ with Showtime)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna in A Gentleman in Moscow, streaming on Paramount+ March 28 (Ben Blackall/Paramount+ with Showtime)

'An artist that has to navigate an industry that's not always about the art'

Anna has a particularly compelling introduction for the audience. In her first scene in Episode 2 of A Gentleman in Moscow, she walks in wearing a backless dress, with two dogs, and a dazzling personality.

"When I signed on to the show, I think I only had the first couple episodes to read, ... and how Anna was going to be presented in the show, ... I thought, ... 'This is so much fun,'" Winstead said. "To get to be this brash, brazen woman who's fully in her diva confidence, it's not really the way that we get to behave in real life. So it's really liberating to step into someone's shoes like that."

"I certainly could see myself in her, in terms of her being an artist that has to navigate an industry that's not always about the art, there's so many other things at play. There were things about her I could relate to, and then other things that I could just really empathize with, and made me really love her."

Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow, streaming on Paramount+ (Ben Blackall/Paramount+ with Showtime)
Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov in A Gentleman in Moscow, streaming on Paramount+ (Ben Blackall/Paramount+ with Showtime)

While much of the initial interactions between Anna and the Count are quite witty, and playful, as the story progresses, the pair share more emotional moments together.

For Winstead, she stressed that this is all due to showrunner Ben Vanstone's goal to capture "the entire breadth of human existence" in the series.

"From one moment you're sort of flirting and having fun, and another moment, you're being sort of washed over with emotion," Winstead said.

"That is life. Life is so big and so full, and there's so many things that happen to us. And when you get to do a show that goes over the course of 30 years for these characters in the story, that's the only way to be true to it, is to cover all of those emotions, because that's real."

Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor at the premiere of
Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Ewan McGregor at the premiere of "A Gentleman In Moscow" held at MoMA on March 12, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty Images)

'What people imagined it to be and what it actually is, are very different things'

Before the premiere of A Gentleman In Moscow, Winstead and McGregor made headlines for discussing the use of an intimacy coordinator on the show, with some people surprised by that, due to the fact that they're a married couple.

Winstead admitted she was "surprised" that there has been so much attention around that aspect of creating the show, but it is evidence of a lack of understanding of what the role of an intimacy coordinator on a set really involves.

"I think we've both been really surprised at the interest level in that, especially because I think when we were both interviewed about it, we sort of spent like two minutes talking about it, and it really was this tiny part of our experience of making the show," Winstead said. "But I think what people imagined it to be and what it actually is, are very different things."

"People imagined it to be that you're being coached on how to be intimate with one another, when in reality, it's about making sure everyone is comfortable with what's being done on set, from the actors, to the crew, to the director. The idea that everyone's on the same page and there's no room for, 'Oh, hey, actually, I wanted you to do this in the scene,' and then somebody else is going, 'Oh, I didn't know you wanted me to do that. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with that.' And then now we have someone to go to, to say, 'Are we all on the same page here? Are we all doing what we think we're doing?' And there's no room for for mess ups, because that's an uncomfortable situation to be in when you don't have anyone to go to, to speak to about something like that."

Stream A Gentleman in Moscow on Paramount+ with a 7-day free trial, then $9.99/month

$10 at Paramount+

But intimacy aside, A Gentleman In Moscow really leans on the concept of finding hope and humanity in dark times.

"The show covers so many universal themes just connecting life and finding your purpose in life, and finding your reason for being, and that we can kind of rise above even in the darkest of times," Winstead said.

"Setting it in Russia at this time in history, I think just makes the stakes so high. They're going through something that's absolutely terrifying, but if these people can find hope in that kind of darkness, then I think it does, hopefully, bring that same feeling to current audiences."