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Interview: Grand Hotel’s Anne Winters

by Charles Trapunski

While our favourite Summer TV show is definitely Grand Hotel (which airs on Monday nights at 10pm on ABC and CTV after The Bachelorette),  one of the stars of the series, Anne Winters, is already a standout. We were fans of her work on season two of 13 Reasons Why and the movie Mom and Dad, starring Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair as the titular pairing (with Winters as their daughter), was a recent TIFF Midnight Madness favourite. Winters even received an Emmy for her work in the series Zac & Mia (and deservedly so!).

We spoke on the phone recently with the gifted performer and discussed all matters of her craftsmanship. We can’t wait to see more of Anne Winters on Grand Hotel!

The following is a condensed and edited version of our interview with the grounded and lovely Anne Winters.

Brief Take: Shooting the pilot of Grand Hotel and then having the premiere in Miami must have been amazing.

Anne Winters: We filmed the pilot at the Fontainebleau in Miami, which was super fun. It was great, too, because we got really close to the cast right off the bat, because we were filming on location, especially in a fun place like Miami. It made for a really good cast bonding experience, that was really nice. So filming it, with the storylines, each table read was incredible, seeing how everyone kind of is entangled in the same kind of drama is super interesting to see it play out. Javy’s and my relationship is going to go in so many different directions, so I’m really, really excited for what’s to come. Shooting in Miami is super fun and I’m glad that we got to go back there for the premiere. That was really cool because our sets on which we worked were so great and it felt like we were actually at the Fontainebleau. So to go back for the premiere felt almost that we were on set again, because it was so identical. [laughs] It was fun.

BT: There are so many more twists to come on this series, as the trailer makes clear.

AW: That video, we were all watching it together and we were all watching it for the first time, so that was really exciting. It does show a lot that’s happening this season, I think that they did a great job of showing what happens. But honestly, every episode takes you for a ride – what you think is going to happen, doesn’t happen, and every storyline and bit of character development is unexpected in regards to the outcomes that happen later on in the season. I’m excited for people to see Javy’s and my relationship, I’m curious to see what people think about it, because she is keeping this secret and I don’t think that she at first really realizes how much damage she can cause with doing that. [laughs] She’s trying to find the easy way out but I feel like people are going to watch her journey and see that there is no easy way out of really anything.

BT: What are your steps towards building a character such as this one?

AW: I really love character work. I love getting a new character and based on everything that I see and her actions and the words she says, I build a character based on that and I give it my own flair, like what I would do in that situation, but at the same time really taking from where she comes, her home life, everything that leads up to her decision to tell Javy and lie to him like that. In 13 Reasons Why, Chlöe Rice probably wouldn’t do that. She has a completely different life, and that’s how I look at it and to see each character as her own person, and I try to do whatever I feel like is that true character…with my own personality in the mix a bit. [laughs]

That is what I find interesting is really delving into a character and finding out why they do what they do and learning throughout the way about how you can find yourself in that person and that’s super interesting.

BT: Did you ever have a character that wasn’t clicking at first and then you found the right ingredient?

AW: I will say Chlöe on 13 Reasons Why was pretty difficult, because they don’t tell you anything about what happens in the script, and even booking the role, it was all bogus sides and bogus names and everything. So when I booked it, all that I knew was that I was a cheerleader and that I was probably going to get hurt by a guy in some way, and I didn’t know anything else. So the day that I showed up to set, I didn’t even know that I was playing Bryce (Justin Prentice)’s girlfriend. That was tough, to kind of take it step by step and learn who she is and the story and each episode that I read, that I found out more and more about her. I think it made for a cool arc because she really does seem super present in each moment and she doesn’t know what’s going to happen next. She doesn’t know what was going to happen to her so she is really a cheerleader simply that has a boyfriend, and then all of a sudden, all of this stuff unfolds, which I feel went along with it. But at first I was very confused and I didn’t know who she was at first. [laughs]

BT: Do you see her as a victim?

AW: I definitely think that in a way she was a victim, but overall when she stepped out of it, it did make her more aware and I don’t think that she would let that kind of thing happen again. Yeah, a little bit of a victim, but I hate to say, like all girls…to be like “victim, victim, victim”. I think that we learn lessons and we can grow up and be more aware and learn from mistakes.

BT: Had you watched season one of 13 Reasons Why when you booked the role?

AW: It was a little bit of a bummer because I didn’t get the role of Hannah. [laughs] And I had gone and flown out to New York, auditioned and everything. But when it became such an overnight success, I was like “Ehhh, I’ll watch it later when the excitement dies down”. I’d already read the pilot and I had read the book and everything. But when I got the chance to be Chlöe, I was like: “Okay, I’ve got to get this”, and then when I got it, I binge-watched the whole thing and I realized “Wow, this is a really good show”, and the way they did it and Katherine [Langford] is incredible in it. I think that the casting for everyone was perfect, and the first season was obviously such a big hit. Coming on to the show was already a massive victory for me.

BT: What role does your singing play in your arc?

AW: I’ve always loved to sing and my boyfriend (Taylor Beau) is a musician and everything. So we did a song together, it’s called ‘Faded’ and he started making up a nickname for me, Lil Anne, and now it is has become my singing name, because Anne [pronounced like “Annie”] Winters is my acting name. Acting is my main priority, but if there ever was a crossover, like if I got a show that involved singing or something like that, that would be amazing. I’m always open to opportunities, but I’m not really going to go out and make singing my career.

(Photographer: Tiziano
Makeup: Merav Adler
Hair: Michael Kanyon
Styling: Lo VonRump)

BT: Your movie Mom and Dad was so much fun and so frenetic. Was it like that filming it as well?

AW: Yes, [laughs] yes. Working with Nicolas Cage and Selma Blair together was so much fun and they’re both so crazy in their own ways. That whole experience, our director Brian (Taylor) that was his style, very fast-paced, the camera movements are all over the place and realistic. It was super fun, honestly, that movie was one of my favourite movies to film because I was in the whole thing, I was working every single day, it was my favourite. I love being on set all day and working. It was so much fun.

BT: If you are body shamed or receive negative comments in general, do you feel a responsibility to speak up?

AW: In general, I feel like body shaming is going to happen and there’s no stopping it, but what I want to say is I feel healthy, I feel comfortable in my own skin and if people want to judge or if people want to say things, that’s on them. But everyone’s different and everyone finds different body types pretty or sexy and that’s up to anyone’s opinion, so I try to do my own thing and let people know that as long as I’m comfortable in my own skin, then that’s all that matters.

BT: What would be some future roles that you would be interested in taking?

AW: I definitely want to do a big Marvel movie [laughs] or be a superhero in some shape or form, that’s something that I have never done. And I want to do something very action-packed, I think that would be really fun. In terms of doing a lot of running around, I received a little taste during the shooting of Mom and Dad and that to me was the most action that I have done. [laughs] But I would like to do something a little more upscale with superheroes, that would be fun. Honestly, it would be hard for me to think of what I would want to do because every script that I receive, I really look it over and try to see myself in it and if I can and it’s if different, I feel like that’s what I want to do. And I take it step by step.

BT: Do you prefer to binge-watch shows or watch week to week?

AW: I definitely like the binge-watching aspect, but at the same time I love having something which to look forward to on a certain night of the week, or something for which I wait, and I think that the anticipation sometimes helps. So especially with Grand Hotel, because there is so much going on, you don’t want to give everything away, and if people were to watch in one day it would be less dramatic and less of a big ending. I want the season finale to be like: “Oh my God! I can’t believe this!” and I want it to last a while.

I don’t know, because if 13 Reasons Why was week to week, it would get a little drowned out, it would be a little bit slower. Because it is a little bit of a slower pace and the drama is something that is much more slight, you have to really pay attention and understand the characters and everything, so that would be a little bit confusing to have from week to week. But I’m thinking, personally, I love Netflix, I just binge-watched the show Trinkets and I loved it. That was such a good show!

BT: What does the support of your fans mean to you?

AW: It feels amazing. The validation and support from all of my fans and even people with whom I’ve worked and everything has been incredible. It makes me feel like I’m on the right track and I’m doing what I should be doing and I want to keep going. [laughs] My parents have always been very supportive of my career and that really set me up for support.


BT: Do you think that the responsibility of being a performer extends to working well on set?

AW: One hundred per cent and I definitely get told that. [laughs] I want to be a pleasure with whom to work. I want to walk on set and make people feel good, and as long as I am doing that and doing my best work, I feel like nothing can really stop me. Also, working with Eva Longoria and seeing how she treats everyone around her, being such a super high-status actress in Hollywood, everyone knows her name, everywhere she goes and she’s Eva Longoria. But she still treats every person around her like they are equal and they are nice and she is so nice to everybody, and I think that working with her has really encouraged me as well off set to keep up that mindset and how to treat people is very important.

BT: It’s probably also inspiring that Eva Longoria is a multihyphenate.

AW: Yes. She taught me that when people say “I’m busy”, they have no idea what Eva does, because Eva is so busy. [laughs] That is what I want, I want to be doing all the things. I want to eventually write or direct and produce—whatever I can do in this industry, I think that I am going to take those opportunities and be busy like Eva and keep working.

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Brief Take