Kate Winslet has trouble letting go of her latest character even after production has wrapped.
On HBO’s seven-part limited series Mare of Easttown, Winslet — in her second major TV role after 2011’s Mildred Pearce, for which she won an Emmy Golden Globe — plays Mare Sheehan, a small Pennsylvania town detective investigating a local murder case while juggling her own messed-up life.
Speaking to 8days.sg and other press via Zoom from London, Winslet, 45, said, “Mare is a life-force but she’s also quietly dying inside and that for me — the juxtaposition of those two [qualities] is something I’ve never come across it before.”
Playing a character who “has the capacity to be both loathsome and loveable, warm and prickly, and strong yet vulnerable” is an actor’s dream — and nightmare. “I was playing her for such a long time, and she really, really, got under my skin,” Winslet added.
From the first time the script landed on her lap to the preparation to the filming, Winslet spent roughly 20 months inside Mare's head. “I have had a hard time letting go of her,” she said. “I’ll be honest, I would still like to continue playing Mare. I just contacted the director [Craig Zobel] and writer [Brad Ingelsby], I was, like, I can’t believe it’s finished!”
While Winslet missed her alter ego, her husband Ned Abel Smith and their three children — Bear, seven, Joe, 17, and Mia, 20 — didn’t. There were days when playing messy Mare had a spillover effect on Winslet’s real life. "There were days, it feels messy and terrible to be her and I'm sure it's very hard on my husband."
Winslet remembered snapping at her husband (“he’s a saint”) for suggesting that they head out for a Sunday brunch: “I would say, ‘Are you high? I have a seven-scene page with the therapist in Episode 2…I can’t just go and have a happy brunch!’ I was, honestly, awful, depending on what is going on during the week.”
For the Oscar winner, the heavy lifting wasn’t limited to the front of the camera but beyond it as well — as the executive producer. “I’m telling you [the credit is] not in name only,” said the first-time producer, who had a hand in putting together the script and the cast (it was her call to draft Mildred Pearce co-star Guy Pearce in to play Mare’s love interest.)
Winslet — who also goes by K Dub, an endearing nickname coined by her The Holiday co-star Jack Black — said casting the young actors was a bittersweet process.
“Because watching how much they yearned for those parts and the hard work they do on their self-tapes, they just give it their all,” she said. “It’s pure heart and soul… and that was what it was for me when I started out. So seeing that level of determination and passion was absolutely wonderful.”
Besides popping her producer cherry, Mare of Easttown marked another first for Winslet: handling firearms on-screen. “I’ve got little hands, so the gun grip didn’t really work for me, so I have to accommodate it and make it a kind of my thing,” she said.
For months, Winslet worked closely with the local Pennsylvania police ("I did a short version of police academy training"), even loosely modelling Mare after a real-life sergeant detective she met. “She was my go-to person from the beginning,” Winslet said. “She shared a lot with me about her training, her past, her own life [which I incorporated into] Mare’s backstories.”
On the law enforcement consultants’ contributions, she said, “They were very good at not making sure we were getting everything perfectly right,” she said. “They would say in real life, things go wrong. So when you want to get the handcuffs on someone quick, just get them on — it doesn’t matter if it’s not this perfect grip.”
It’s all about keeping it real — that was what drew Winslet to Mare in the first place.
“In the roles that I play, I am very conscious of being a real person,” Winslet explained. “And Mare is that real person. We could have absolutely made her hair barrel curl-perfect each day and she could have been the kind of a character would have put on some simple make-up before going to work, but I didn’t believe in one second that she would, first of all, have time, and secondly, care about looking in the mirror.”
She continued, “I think that makes her very relatable. She doesn’t have time for things. She’s kind of an outrageous character but she’s a very loving parent and grandmother. She’s a loyal friend. She would walk on hot coals to protect the people that she loves. For me, that’s a decent human being, so it doesn’t matter what she looks like.”
Mare of Easttown is now streaming on HBO Go. New episodes every Monday. Sign up for HBO Go via meWATCH for a three-month subscription for the price of two at $27.96 (UP: $41.94) or a 12-month subscription at $119.98 with a free $10 Grab Food eVoucher. Promo ends May 28.