Mary Elizabeth Winstead on Seducing Ewan McGregor in A Gentleman in Moscow

The Big Picture

  • The Showtime series ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ is a historical drama that follows Count Rostov’s house arrest during the Russian Revolution.
  • Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Anna Urbanova, an actress whose love affair with Rostov deepens over time, with playful and emotional moments.
  • Winstead discusses working with husband Ewan McGregor, expanding her character from the book, and the liberating experience of embodying a confident woman.

Based on Amor Towles’ bestselling novel, the Showtime limited series A Gentleman in Moscow tells the story of Russian aristocrat Count Alexander Rostov (Ewan McGregor), who found himself banished to the attic room of the Hotel Metropol and threatened with execution on the order of a Bolshevik tribunal. With his life contained within the walls of the opulent hotel and the years after the Russian Revolution continuing to pass, the Count builds a life, friendships, and love from within. By no longer being able to go outside and experience the larger universe, the Count takes a journey of emotional discovery that gives him a different perspective on the world and the people around him.

In the story, Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Anna Urbanova, an actress looking to make a name for herself in Russian cinema and whose big personality easily attracts interest from Rostov, sparking a deep and meaningful love affair across the years. As their relationship deepens, it’s fun for the audience to watch Winstead and McGregor work with each other, in both playful and quite emotional moments.

During this one-on-one interview with Collider, Winstead talked about how lucky she felt to be able to work with her husband while playing such an incredible role, expanding the character from what’s in the pages of the book, how liberating it was to play someone so confident, the way the wardrobe informed her performance, what she and McGregor love about working with each other, and figuring out the accent. She also talked about returning for Season 2 of Ahsoka, and how she’d like to find a project that is a blend of funny and heartfelt.

A Gentleman in Moscow Paramount Poster

A Gentleman in Moscow

A Russian aristocrat is spared from death and placed on house arrest while the Bolshevik Revolution plays out before him.

Release Date
March 29, 2024

Main Genre


Mary Elizabeth Winstead Says Kismet Brought Her To ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ with Husband Ewan McGregor

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna and Ewan McGregor as Count Rostov sitting in chairs in A Gentleman in Moscow
Image via Showtime

Collider: Aside from the obvious of getting to work with your husband, Ewan McGregor, when this project came your way, did you read the book first or did you read a script first, and what was the thing that really grabbed you and made you want to do it? Was it something with the story that you connected to, or was it this character specifically?

MARY ELIZABETH WINSTEAD: Everything, really. I read the book first, mainly because it was something that Ewan was gonna be doing and I was really excited about it for him. I’d heard a lot about the book. I was familiar with it. It sounded like the most incredible opportunity for him to play this role in this beautiful piece, and because he read it first, he hinted to me, “There is a lady in there that’s very interesting.” But I really didn’t know from his comments whether she was somebody who was on three pages of the book, or who she was. And so, when I read the book and I got to know all the characters and the world, I just thought, “Oh, my God, what an incredible opportunity, to be this kind of woman, in this place, in this time, and in this incredibly epic story.”

So, I threw my hat in the ring very casually because I wanted the show to be great. If they didn’t think I was the right person for it, I didn’t want them to choose me because Ewan was playing the lead. I wanted them to choose me because they thought I was right for Anna. I just threw my hat in the ring and said, “Look, I think this could be a great role, if you think I’m right for it.” And then, some months went by, and word came back that they were interested in me playing the part. It was just one of those really wonderful kismet things that came together. It doesn’t always happen like this, to find a project like this, that’s so beautiful, and to be able to do it with my husband, and to have a role that I absolutely love. It was just a really lucky thing.


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The Showtime series, adapted from the novel by Amor Towles, delivers a sprawling historical epic while confined to a single location.

Because your character is expanded from what was in the book, did you know how she would be worked into the series?

WINSTEAD: I didn’t, at all. I got to read the first two episodes, because I wasn’t even in the first one, going into it, and thought, “Oh, my God, what a fun, fantastic woman that I get to be.” I was really excited about it, just from that. The sketch was outlined so beautifully in the book of their love story, but the details of it are sometimes left off the page in the novel, so I didn’t know how detailed they were gonna get with it on the show, and I was blown away. With every script that came through, I just thought, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe I get to play these beautiful scenes, and this woman is becoming more and more complex and distinct with every page.” I was really grateful.

She’s a bit of a whirlwind. She definitely makes an impression every time she comes into a room, and you make quite an entrance into the series with these dogs causing chaos around the dining room. How do you feel that entrance really sort of represents who the character is? And did you have to spend much time with those dogs?

WINSTEAD: The way that it’s depicted on the show was so great because they really managed to make it look like it was utter chaos. In reality, those dogs were the sweetest, calmest dogs. You just wanted to cuddle up with them and take a nap. They were so lovely. And it was mainly shot in separate pieces. Most of the time, I wasn’t really with the dogs. It’s an amazing look at great editing because it’s so great to watch and it feels so chaotic and real when you look at it. It was just fantastic. I find it so liberating to play characters like that, with that kind of confidence when they walk into a room, because that’s certainly not the way that I would walk into a room, but I love to get to do it on a TV show. It’s amazing.

Wardrobe Played a Huge Role in Defining Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ Character

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Anna in a silver dress and white feather capelet in A Gentleman in Moscow
Image via Showtime

The style of clothing in this is just absolutely beautiful. What was this wardrobe like to wear? How did that inform the character for you, even in just the way you walked?

WINSTEAD: Oh, it’s huge. Wardrobe always makes a huge difference, just with every element coming together – the hair, the makeup, the shoes, the coat. You can’t really practice the physicality of a character, for me anyway. It just comes together when you’re on set that first day and all the elements are there, and the sets are there, and everything starts to feel very real. And then, suddenly you’re walking differently, and it all feels like you’re a whole new woman, and I loved being that woman. I loved the way that informed the character and made me feel so comfortable in my skin. Playing this kind of modern woman in a time that was not very modern at all, it just felt really wonderful to be that brave. I loved it.


Ewan McGregor Wore His ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ Mustache for So Long, It Will Always Be with Him

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How did you feel about the blonde hair, and what did you think of Ewan’s mustache?

WINSTEAD: For both of us, those details add a different piece to your personality and you feel different. I felt more charming and seductive in my blonde wig, and he felt witty and quirky in the mustache. It was just so much fun. It feels like play. You’re getting to really go into a new world and be a different person and play with the actors around you. That’s the ultimate for an actor. It’s the best.

Chemistry is one of those strange and undefinable things, but it’s easy to recognize when you see it. At the same time, just because you have chemistry with someone in real life, it’s not necessarily guaranteed how that will translate on film. How did you find the experience of working together on this? What did you most enjoy about how he approaches the work and what he brings to the scenes that you guys shared together?

WINSTEAD: Because we met working together, that was really the foundation of getting to know one another. We have this very deep respect for each other, in terms of our work and the way that we approach it because we’re so similar without really ever articulating anything to one another. We just show up and do it. We just click because we have such similar sensibilities and such a love for the work and an excitement about it. That sparks the onscreen chemistry for us a lot. We love that and were having so much fun. That’s the best, when you have a scene partner who’s in the scene and loving being in it with you and loving connecting in that way. It lifts it up so much. And there’s nobody that’s more fun to act with than him, and that would be true whether he was my husband or not.



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It seems like it would definitely make the romantic scenes easier, but when you’re doing scenes that are very emotional, does it make those easier too, or is that more challenging?

WINSTEAD: It was both, in a way. It was much easier. The emotion was just flowing all the time because it was so on the surface, but it was harder to control it, in a way. That was the one thing that I’ve never experienced before. I think I’m quite practiced, as an actor, at having the emotion, but dampening it down. Often that’s what we’re trying to do, because you don’t wanna be in hysterics on screen. That’s not real. People often try to hide their emotions or they try to keep it inside. It was harder for me to do that on this. The emotion would just well up, and I would be going in my head going, “No, pull it back.” That was an interesting thing to have happen because that was a totally new experience for me to not have to not feel like I was in full control over that.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s ‘A Gentleman in Moscow’ Character is a Bold Woman Following Her Desires

All this time passes after the first romantic encounter that these two people share. I particularly loved how she told him that it was just simply because he never came calling. Was it refreshing to play a woman who has a sense of agency like that?

WINSTEAD: Oh, absolutely. It was a blast to play her. She’s playing with him, but it’s also honest. It’s just who she is. It was so much fun to just go, “I don’t feel like speaking to you this year, or next year, or the following year. But now, if you’re coming around, absolutely, I feel like it.” She’s following her desires, which was a very bold thing for any time period, really. It’s bold to watch a woman doing that, and it was so much fun to play her, in that way.

How did you approach the accent? Was it easy to figure out how you wanted to handle that, or did you keep working on it throughout the shoot?

WINSTEAD: It was an interesting one because I went into it not knowing what they were going to want. Most of the characters in it are meant to be Russian, but nobody really is and no one was gonna be doing a Russian accent. I knew that Ewan was gonna be doing a posh English accent, just to convey that aristocracy. The idea was that it would be mostly British accents, but even through a British accent, you’re trying to convey where somebody might come from, in terms of their class. For me, they really let me off the hook. We were all supposed to be Russian, so there’s a little bit of suspended disbelief there, so the accent didn’t have to be perfect. We’re supposed to be Russian, so we were just going for what we thought was right for the character, and I went for a loose British accent. I felt like she wouldn’t be very posh sounding because she’s not posh. She didn’t come from that kind of background. We don’t know what her background is, and she makes it up, half the time. That gave me a lot of freedom to be somewhat loose with her accent and to make her who I wanted her to be.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead is Excited to Return for Season 2 of ‘Ahsoka’

Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the green Hera Syndulla in the Star Wars series Ahsoka
Image via Disney+

It’s been officially confirmed that Ahsoka Season 2 is in development with Dave Filoni. When do you get clued in on what’s going to happen? Have they already given you a basic idea? Do they wait until scripts are finished and ready to be sent to the actors? How fully formed is it before they tell you?

WINSTEAD: I would say they wait until it’s pretty fully formed. I’ve spent a little time with Dave, and he’s forthcoming, in terms of his ideas, but that’s not necessarily what’s now on the page. So, I don’t know, really, what that is yet. I’m really excited to read some scripts to find out where everything is going, but I’m pretty much in the dark, in terms of what the concrete scripts are gonna be and what the story is gonna be.

Do you know what you’re going to be doing next? Are you going to do something else before Season 2 of Ahsoka?

WINSTEAD: I hope so. I’m definitely looking at a few things and trying to figure out what the next thing is gonna be. I have time before potentially shooting another season of that to do something hopefully great. So, I’m on the lookout for it.


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Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a history of great movies and TV shows.

Do you have a dream project that you haven’t done, or a genre that you’d still love to work in?

WINSTEAD: I’m definitely in the mood to do something a bit comedic. Obviously, there’s comedic elements in A Gentleman in Moscow, so I got to do that a bit, but I do feel like leaning more into that. Something that is funny and heartfelt at the same time is my favorite thing, so I’m looking for that, but it could be the exact opposite of that. It’s just whatever strikes me, in the moment. We’ll see. I don’t know. I’m open to everything, at the moment.

A Gentleman in Moscow airs on Showtime and is available to stream on Paramount+ with Showtime. Check out the trailer:

Watch on Paramount+


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