Julia Garner January 2022 Cover Spread
Knit dress, Hervé Léger. Rose gold and diamond necklace; Double Row necklace; gold and diamond necklace; (right hand) rose gold Double Row ring; (left hand, from top) gold Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond Double Row bangle; rose gold Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond ring; rose gold Double Row ring; gold and diamond ring, Tiffany & Co. Leather heels, Balenciaga.

Actress Julia Garner has a habit of doing many things concurrently. Apart from sitting for magazine covers and apartment hunting, the 27-year-old has just wrapped filming for two Netflix series: The fourth and final season of Ozark and the highly anticipated Shonda Rhimes-produced Inventing Anna. In the former, set for release on the 21st of this month, Garner reprises her twice Emmy-winning role as the hot-headed riot Ruth Langmore. (She won Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2019 and 2020.) In the latter, a true story based on the viral New York Magazine article that is slated to premier on 11 February, she plays Anna Sorokin, the 31-year-old Russian who posed as German heiress Anna Delvey and left a trail of swindled hotels, banks and Manhattan’s wealthy elite in her wake between the years of 2013 and 2017.

To say Garner lends a magnetism to intense, unconventional roles is an understatement. But is it intentional? “I look at scripts and I’m like, this isn’t complex enough. When it’s complex, there’s more stuff to do!” she explains over the phone from New York City. (Our hour-long conversation is intermittently interrupted by the snoring of Biz, the English bulldog she owns with her musician husband Mark Foster, of Foster the People; Garner apologises on Biz’s behalf.)

Filming both roles at the same time during a pandemic, pre-vaccine, and with two complicated accents that are worlds apart—Langmore speaks in a deep Southern American drawl while Sorokin does British English with American musicality and sprinklings of German and Russian inclination—was challenging, Garner admits. “It was a moment in time that I’ll remember forever because it was so difficult. I didn’t even have time to think how crazy it was,” she says. “There’s a part of me that wonders what colour my hair would be if I didn’t get highlights; maybe I’d be grey!”

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Julia Garner January 2022 Cover Spread
Silk shantung dress, Prada. (Left hand) Rose gold and diamond ring; rose gold Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond Double Row necklace; (right hand) rose gold Double Row ring; rose gold and diamond Double Row ring, Tiffany & Co.

She credits her Ozark co-star and mentor, veteran actress Laura Linney, for helping her get through the intense dual filming schedules. Linney had shared with her a piece of simple advice that she now lives by: “It’s one bite at a time, take it hour by hour”—a coping mechanism that Linney learned while filming Love Actually and Mystic River at the same time, between two countries, back in the early Noughties.

For Garner, preparation for the role of Delvey/Sorokin involved a meticulous study of the magazine article on which the show is based, and reviewing the limited but valuable footage acquired by powerhouse creator and producer Shonda Rhimes, some of which were taken during Sorokin’s first few weeks in prison. But it was the scheduled meetings with Sorokin when she was behind bars that helped Garner with the development of the character the most. “She’s funny,” Garner shares. “I kind of expected that, but she’s hilarious. I also expected her to be intelligent and was surprised because she’s like a straight-up genius!” The one thing she didn’t expect was Sorokin’s soft-spoken tonality. “I imagined her to be kind of aggressive,” she admits, “but she isn’t. It was slightly intimidating though because as soon as conversation got tense for a split second, you could tell that [she] could go [in] the opposite [direction] too!”

That said, Garner’s approach to a character is always grounded in a policy of no judgement. “If you carry around that energy, that’s going to be on screen,” she says. “The screen doesn’t lie, cameras can’t lie. The audience has to be willing to understand. They don’t have to like your character, but they have to be willing to understand why your character did certain things.”

Related article: Everything We Know About Netflix’s Anna Delvey Series, ‘Inventing Anna’

Julia Garner January 2022 Cover Spread
Silk chiffon dress, Valentino. (From left) Gold and diamond Double Row bangle; gold Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond Double Row necklace; gold and diamond necklace; rose gold and diamond Double Row bangle; rose gold Double Row bangle, Tiffany & Co.

Garner’s studious dedication to understanding, and ultimately embodying, the characters she plays, along with her appreciation for art, is a product of her upbringing in the Bronx, in a family where creativity, discussion and debate were feverishly encouraged. “I would describe my childhood as highly creative and loud,” Garner says. “There were a lot of creative discussions happening and it was a very New York childhood; loud and opinionated!” She attributes her artistic taste and curiosity in people to her parents’ professions—her mother was a comedian before she became a therapist, and her father is a painter and a teacher—as well as teachers who have influenced her from a young age. “My dad’s a teacher and I grew up around teachers (she has worked with her acting coach Pamela Scott since she was 16). I feel like if you’re a permanent student, you’re always going to have really interesting, smart taste.” If she weren’t an actor, she’d probably be involved in “some sort of social work”, she muses. “I think every actor [can be] a good therapist, because acting is the study of people. It makes perfect sense why I ended up being an actor. It’s very predictable.”

Not dissimilar to her acting, fashion is something that Garner dissects in layers. The face of Prada’s latest Holiday campaign traces her early fascination with the medium to her grandmother, whom she says had exquisite taste and amazing style. “My grandmother was my style icon,” she shares. “What I love about that generation is that they’re always dressing up! I think there’s something really nice about that because it’s a sign of respect. These days, everyone’s just wearing sweatpants everywhere, or trying to look so cool.” The frivolity of fashion, which she believes can be used as an expression of identity, therapy and a tool for self-empowerment (look good, feel good), is something Garner leans into. “Clothes shouldn’t be that serious,” she says, while allowing that “you can have serious clothing, like serious movies, which are still entertainment in a way.” Her personal style, she reveals, is classic and timeless but with a difference: “I’m not crazy about cookie-cutter stuff, even if it’s really beautiful. I like it when my outfit has edge to it.”

Related article: The 10 Best Dressed At The 78th Annual Golden Globes

Julia Garner January 2022 Cover Spread
Wool jacket; matching wool skirt, St. John. Sunglasses, CELINE by Hedi Slimane. (From top) Rose gold Double Row ring; gold and diamond Double Row bangle; rose gold and diamond Double Row ring; gold and diamond ring, Tiffany & Co.

Originality, it seems, runs through all pillars of Garner’s being. Like the characters she’s drawn to, she, too, makes her own rules in life. When I ask about her relationship with Foster, whom she married at New York City Hall in 2019, she recounts a timeline that starts with their first introduction at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival before moving on to a spot of interaction on Instagram (read: Innocent likes and DMs), spending two Christmases together as friends in Cleveland with each other’s families, getting together as a couple by the third Christmas and getting engaged 10 months later. “It sounds like a Christmas movie,” she says with a laugh. Noting the ease of their relationship, Garner shares that since Foster is a musician and also creative, “there are certain things that are just so easy. He understands being somebody who’s making art.” Asked what she loves the most about their relationship, she answers without hesitation “Mark’s heart”—ahead of their shared brand of humour and creative prowess.

I’m always curious to know if celebrated artists and pioneers have a notable punctuation in which they acknowledge their success, their “I made it” moment of sorts. I’ve asked the same question in every interview I’ve conducted and Garner’s answer is by far the most relatable. While she bypasses the concept of success and the Emmys she has acquired (which she says still feels like a dream), she humbly acknowledges that there was indeed such a moment, which happened when she was riding in the back of a yellow cab. “The words ‘Who is Jason Bateman and Julia Garner?’ were blaring from a rerun of Jeopardy on Taxi TV,” she recalls. “That was when I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I made it! My name’s on Jeopardy. That’s cool.’”

So what’s next for Julia Garner? After splitting time between Atlanta (where Ozark was filmed) and Los Angeles, where she spent downtime during the pandemic, geographically and as the apartment hunt would imply, a return to New York is imminent.

“I’m still very much a New Yorker. I still have a New York phone number. I have a New York ID and I pay New York taxes. So yeah, I’m a New Yorker [at heart],” she says. Speaking to the immediate future, she is excited about the release of her projects, though she admits it is trepidatious to plan beyond what she can control. “I don’t want to say I’m looking forward to anything, because I don’t know what’s going to happen with the world,” she says. “That’s what I’ve learned with [Covid-19]. But my hopes are that things are really going to get back to normal at full weight.”

Photographed by Andrew Arthur
Styled by Tara Nichols
Makeup: Hung Vanngo
Hair: Bobby Eliot
Manicure: Mo Qin
Creative producer: Chloé Brinklow
Photographer’s assistants: John Law; Tucker Vander Wyden
Stylist’s assistant: Emily DeSimone

This article originally appeared in the January 2022 issue of Harper’s BAZAAR Singapore.