Pictured: Actress Anna Anissimova. Photo Credit: © Andy McCallie.

In the short time she’s been in the acting business, Anna Anissimova has already shared the big screen with notable names, including Rachel Weisz, Heather Graham and John Stamos. The 5’8″ brunette began her career as a number of actresses have — she started out as a fashion model.

The Russian-born New Yorker was signed to Elite Modeling Agency when she was a teenager, and found herself traveling the globe, appearing in high fashion spreads and runways. After a short stint at New York University, Anissimova enrolled in the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, and later moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting as a full-time career. Her first gig came in 2010, when she appeared alongside Kevin Spacey in the indie comedy Father of Invention, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival. Since then, she’s appeared in The Whistle Blower and Flutter.

Her latest film, The Trials of Cate McCall, premiered on Lifetime earlier this month and features an all-star cast, including Kate Beckinsale, Nick Nolte, Isaiah Washington, James Cromwell and Taye Diggs. Anissimova — who’s married to film producer Peter Schafer and is pregnant with their first child — recently spoke to GALO about being inclined to take on darker roles, filming the first scene of her life with Spacey and her interest in becoming a TV actress.

GALO: Your most recent film is The Trials of Cate McCall, which premiered last weekend. The plot revolves around a former successful lawyer and recovering alcoholic (Kate Beckinsale). She takes on the appeal of a woman who’s wrongfully convicted of murder. Talk to me a little bit about Lacey, the character you portray.

Anna Anissimova: I play Lacey Stubbs. I’m the girl that’s convicted for murder and sentenced to life in prison. Kate plays my lawyer. It starts off where I’m in jail for five years already. She takes on my case, not by choice really. She has to work pro bono, because she’s in trouble with the court. At first she doesn’t believe me, and she really doesn’t want the case because she thinks it’s a lose-lose [situation] for her. And then when she meets me and interviews me, and all these things start coming out, she starts to believe in me and the trial is reopened and they get to reinvestigate the case.

GALO: The plot sounds really intense. What was it like filming on set?

AA: It was intense [laughs]. I don’t think I ever had to cry so much in my entire life. You shoot a scene like 30 times, and in most of my scenes, I had to just lose it in one form or another. I think my biggest challenge in this movie when I came on was [asking myself], “Can I get there? Can I emotionally get there with 30 people staring at me and with a microphone attached to my shirt?” I think that was the biggest challenge, but I got to go to some really dark places and made it work. It was very challenging, but it was awesome. It was great to sort of prove to myself that I could do it. I never think I had a role where I had to cry so much, and get so emotional and make it feel real.

GALO: After filming this, would you consider taking on other dark roles such as Lacey?

AA: Yeah, I think they’re the most fun ones. I have another movie coming out later this year. It wasn’t the same, it wasn’t as emotional. [People tell me], “I don’t understand. You’re always the bad guy.” I’m just like, “I’m not always the bad guy; I’m always the dark one.” They’re the most fun to play. I use my own experiences in life to kind of bring out the emotion. That’s how I work and that’s how I work best. I like to go there.

GALO: You moved from the Soviet Union to New York when you were six, and you were signed to Elite Modeling Agency by age 13. Talk to me about starting your career at such an early age. Was it ever chaotic at times?

AA: So, I kind of fell into it by accident. I was 13, I was in eighth grade. Geez, that sounds so long ago. And my sister had a production company where they represented new, upcoming photographers. She had this photographer named Paola Kudacki, who told my sister I had a nice face and wanted to take pictures of me. So my sister asked me. You’re 13, so you’re like, “yeah, I’ll be photographed by a photographer. It sounds like fun.” We did this whole photo shoot and the next thing I know, a week later, I get a call from Elite saying, “will you come in? We want to sign you.” It was kind of surreal and crazy. I remember that day it was pouring rain, so I was soaking wet when I walked in. I was like, “They’re not going to like me; they’re not going to want me.”

We took a bunch of pictures and next thing I know, I was signed with Elite and going out on casting calls, booking jobs, doing magazines and runway shows at 13, 14, 15-years-old. And it was crazy. I went to high school the following year and I never really had the high school experience that most kids had. I missed so much school and I traveled so much. I think I had to grow up a little too fast. But I don’t regret a second of it.

GALO: Eventually, you moved to Los Angeles to become an actress. Was the dream of becoming an actress always in the back of your mind, or was there a certain experience that sparked your interest?

AA: It was ever since I was six-years-old. Or maybe even before that… I don’t know if it was just every little girl’s dream, like “Oh I want to be in the movies, I want to be an actress.” I think I realized it was actually real when I was probably 11, when I did my first play. Then I realized this is real, this is what I love to do. And I didn’t get around to it for quite some time, because life got in the way.