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May 01, 2014

Cry From the Heart: Anna Anissimova

As actress Anna Anissimova of Lifetime’s The Trials of Cate McCall found out, crying on cue isn't always easy.

Ann Farmer
  • Anna Anissimova

Some would say that Anna Anissimova — a former Elite model and the daughter of a Russian billionaire - has nothing to cry about.

Last year, though, while filming Lifetime’s The Trials of Cate McCall, she had to conjure up tears for 5 different scenes on the first day of shooting.

“I was terrified that they’d say, ‘Action!’” recalls Anissimova, who played a woman convicted of murder, “and nothing would come out.”

The nascent actress was speaking recently at her family’s real estate offices, located on an upper floor of a glassy skyscraper in midtown Manhattan.

She sat quietly composed in a black sweater and slacks that effectively disguised her pregnant belly — her first child with producer husband Peter Schafer would arrive several weeks later.

Though tabloids once dubbed her the “Russian Paris Hilton,” she’s been serious about acting since a young age.

Her family called her “little clown” for her ready imitations of others. A favorite movie was Splash. “I’d cross my legs and pretend I was the mermaid,” says Anissimova, who immigrated to the U.S. when she was 6.

But her father, industrialist Vasily Anissimov, didn’t approve. So, for a while, she dutifully attended New York university, majoring in business, while taking night classes at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting.

She subsequently earned parts in a handful of films, including The Whistleblower, starring Rachel Weisz, and The Father of Invention with Kevin Spacey.

For The Trials of Cate McCall — which debuted in April, featuring Kate Beckinsale as her lawyer — Anissimova proved that she could weep on cue. But after summoning 4 (out of 5) crying jags that first filming day, she felt emotionally drained.

She called her mother from the set. “You have to help me,” she implored. “I think I’m dried up.” Then she returned to the set and cried again.

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