The untold truth of Margarita Levieva

Margarita Levieva is the star of Netflix’s new spy series, In From the Cold. She plays Jenny Franklin, an American mother who escorts her daughter to an ice-skating competition in Spain. While there, the CIA confronts her citing her past as a former Russian spy. The agency offers her two choices: help stop a series of crimes or lose everything. 

Levieva is not a former KGB spy, but she hails from Leningrad, Russia. She’s plastered the word IMMIGRANT on her Instagram bio as an expression of pride in her identity. 

This piece will explore Margarita Levieva’s roots, career, and love life. 

Margarita moved from Russia to America when she was eleven

Margarita Levieva was born on 9th February 1980 in Leningrad (now Saint Petersburg), Russia, to a Jewish family. Levieva’s told Vulture that her family had experienced the worst of World War II:

“The Holocaust is just a very sensitive issue for me. My grandmothers were in St. Petersburg during the blockade and they were little girls then. And my grandparents have lost their fathers and brothers in the war.”

Levieva’s parents divorced when she was ten years old. A year later, her mother moved Levieva and her twin brother to Brooklyn, New York. In a foreign land with no knowledge of English, Margarita had to adapt quickly. “I’m Russian Jewish. And I had to grow up really quickly,” she told WWD

Margarita told Allure that her mom was always working, so she and her brother raised themselves. Thankfully, growing up in Russia had taught her how to be independent. She talked to Allure about her life in Russia:

“At five years old, I started going to practice by myself. My mom gave me a ruble, put me on the bus, and said, ‘Take the bus to this train station. Take the train to another station, and walk from there. I’m going to take you through it once, and then you’re gonna do it on your own.’ It’s unthinkable in America, but in Russia, things were different.”

Levieva earned a living by working as a fashion buyer for the now-defunct Assets London. By 17, she was a regular at Dolce & Gabbana sales offices. “The first thing [the sales teams] would say was, ‘Is your dad coming? Or your boss?’ I would tell them, ‘No, it’s just me,’” Margarita told WWD

“By 16, people thought I was going on 40,” Levieva told Allure. “So much of my younger life was about being responsible for my family.”

Margarita no longer bears responsibility for her family and is a successful actress. It’s been over three decades since she settled in America, but she’s never felt totally at home. She captioned a January 2021 Instagram photo:

“I have spent so many years trying to assimilate, and yet never quite feeling like there is a place I can truly call home, or where I felt like I belong. I am proud of my history, my ancestors, my roots, I am a Russian Jew. Sometimes, we must identify ourselves, for others to feel less alone. So, today, I am a proud immigrant. And a very grateful one.”

Levieva abandoned her Olympics dreams to pursue acting

Russian authorities identified Levieva as a gymnast when she was three years old. She started training in rhythmic gymnastics under a government-controlled program. 

Levieva told Under the Radar Magazine that training under the communist regime was brutal. The government controlled how much she trained and dictated the training techniques. Human rights were unheard of in Russian training camps. She explained:

“They do whatever they need to make the best gymnast out of you. And they work really hard; we train seven days a week. I went to gymnastics camp every summer. I basically had no life. But I learned from a very early age to work really hard. That served me the most.”

Margarita continued gymnastics in America, where she stood out from the competition. She defeated multiple opponents in local and state contests, but she couldn’t represent the United States at the Olympics as she wasn’t an American citizen. 

Levieva had no control over her citizenship: her mother had arrived in America illegally. She told Under the Radar Magazine that returning to Russia wasn’t a viable option:

“My other option was to go back to Russia and compete for Russia, which I obviously didn’t want to do since I was already living here. I continued training for several more years just because I loved gymnastics; it was basically my life since I was a little kid, but I knew that my Olympic dreams were basically over. It was pretty devastating.”

Margarita earned a place at New York’s Laguardia High School to study dance, but her mom blocked her from enrolling. “We have to do something real with our lives,” Margarita’s mom told her

Levieva responded by enrolling in NYU to study economics, which she completed with a year to spare. After completing her degree, she joined acting school. Margarita’s mom was still against it, but she approved Margarita’s decision after watching her perform off-Broadway. 

“She is a woman of a few words,” Levieva told the New York Post. “She told me, ‘Margarita you need to do this.’ All I needed was her stamp of approval.” 

Margarita loved acting because, unlike gymnastics, it didn’t demand perfection from her. “In acting, there’s no score, no perfection,” she told Allure. “There’s just your truth. Who wants to be perfect? Trying attain that is such a sad journey that closes doors to real creativity.”

Levieva feels that her acting experience prepared her for In From the Cold role

Margarita feels that it’s difficult to get Hollywood characters that are multidimensional. Jenny Franklin, however, is nothing if not multidimensional. She is a former Russian spy who’s built a life in America, but her past still dictates her life. 

Levieva told Looper that she needed all of her acting experience to portray Jenny accurately. She said:

“I knew [it] would be an incredible challenge, so I had to really prep myself as much as I could. I looked at this as going to the Olympics. I felt like everything that I has carried through my life as a human being, everything that I had learned as an actor and practiced over the years of my career, was like ‘This is the big game,’ and I get to really challenge myself and pour all of it into this woman.”

The show’s creator Adam Glass told Looper that it was important for a Russian actor to play the role. Margarita landed the role because of her acting skills and ideal background. Levieva told Lopper that actors don’t necessarily have to represent their cultures:

“I often watch stuff and I watch great actors who I represent and admire deeply, and it’s sad sometimes to go, ‘Oh right. They’re representing a culture and history that they can learn about but haven’t lived through.’ I don’t necessarily believe that an actor has to live through something to play it, but it certainly helps at times to understand.”

Margarita is currently single and dated Sebastian Stan from 2014 to 2016

As far as we can tell, Margarita Levieva is single. She hasn’t spoken of a relationship during interviews, and nothing on social media suggests that she’s dating. 

Levieva previously dated Sebastian Stan. The pair met on the set of Spread in 2009 and started dating five years later. 

“They’ve been friends for a while,” a source told Us Weekly. “They’re having fun together and seeing where it goes. They’re both very art-minded and thoughtful people.”

The pair enjoyed a low-key relationship from 2014 to 2016. It’s unclear why the couple split. 

Previously, Margarita had been linked with War of the Worlds actor Justin Chatwin. 

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