Ewan McGregor Channeled His Real-Life Role as a Girl Dad for ‘Gentleman in Moscow’

“He becomes a man playing the part of the aristocrat, and I relate to that,” the actor tells TheWrap

Reflecting on his “Gentleman in Moscow” character Count Alexander Rostov, Ewan McGregor said that his “paternal nature” and the fact that he’s the father of four daughters are what first drew him to the role in the historical drama series.

The Paramount+ With Showtime series begins when the count loses his title and wealth in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution and is forced to live in the Metropol Hotel for the rest of his life as a consequence of his class and stature in society. 

“What touched me is the paternal nature of the count. The fact that he starts off carrying the weight of his class around. his ideas and ideals about birthright to privilege … He has to learn through living,” McGregor told TheWrap. “He learns from these people he meets like Nina his little friend, and Anna, the woman he falls in love with ultimately, that those are not the important things and what’s important is love and friendship.”

The actor continued: “He becomes a man playing the part of the aristocrat, and I relate to that. I’m a father of five children, four girls, and so all of the scenes with Alexa [Goodall] who played little Nina, all of the scenes with the children, the girls, that’s the heart and soul of it for me.”

The humbled aristocrat meets Nina, a young girl whose father stays in the hotel for work, after she approaches him and opens up the confines of the opulent building with a key that grants access to all sorts of rooms and passageways. He entertains other guests and visitors, as well, throughout his 32 years of confinement.

“That’s what keeps him alive [through] the tedium of being stuck in the one place for 30 years. It is those moments when people come through,” McGregor said.

“Anna for instance, when she arrives, obviously he falls for her in a certain way in the beginning and then falls in love with her,” McGregor continued. “But whenever she appears, all the times when she arrives at the hotel and ignores him, these are the moments of his life that are happening, you know, because he doesn’t have any interaction with people outside of the hotel. And the staff themselves become part of his family in a way.”

His encounter with Anna Urbanova (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) doesn’t happen until the second episode.

"A Gentleman in Moscow" (Paramount+/Showtime)
Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays Anna Urbanova in “A Gentleman in Moscow” (Paramount+/Showtime)

“I wanted to fill in her backstory for myself because that’s very mysterious in the book and the show. She doesn’t reveal that to anyone, and she tells a lot of things about herself that you don’t know if they’re true or not,” Winstead told TheWrap. “I wanted to know, in my own mind, what was true. I created a backstory for her that was a bit inspired by the research I had done about Russian actresses of that period, which were fascinating.”

Winstead listened, for instance, to an in-depth podcast about Russian actress and director Alla Nezimova to model Anna off of her life story.

“When you first meet her, it’s just so much fun. You think, ‘Oh, my God, who is this woman?’ It’s so intriguing because she’s so fabulous and bombastic and brave, for the time, very modern, which a lot of these actresses were that way,” the actress continued. “Incredibly modern and confident. I wanted to know more about her immediately. And there’s a vulnerability that creeps through that is subtle but is there. It was those moments when I felt for her and connected to her and wanted to get inside of who’s the vulnerable child underneath this kind of fresh exterior?”

Winstead and McGregor, who are married in real life, play characters destined to fall in love according to the book.

“We both came into it knowing in our hearts who these characters were, and then letting it all unfold episode to episode. It just deepened so much, and we didn’t really have to try because we both were just in these roles and these characters,” Winstead said. “We would be doing the scenes and feeling these waves of emotion and going, ‘Oh my God, our characters are really falling in love,’ or, ‘Oh my God, this moment is really happening where this is deepening and this is becoming more real.’”

Watch the actress describe getting into character for her role in the video below:

“A Gentleman in Moscow” premiered on Paramount+ on Friday with new episodes airing Sunday nights on Showtime. Episodes arrive weekly.

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