Kate Winslet on playing ‘Mare of Easttown’: ‘I’m from a world very similar to her’

HBO’s exceptional mystery drama “Mare of Easttown” captivated both audiences and critics as the seven-part series revealed most twists and turns then a maze. Created and penned by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, “Mare of Easttown” revolves around Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), a no-nonsense police detective in small Philadelphia suburb who is attempting to find a missing young woman and solve the murder of another. And needs a detective herself to solve her dysfunctional family life-divorce the suicide of her drug addicted son and an acerbic mother (Jean Smart). The series also stars Julianne Nicholson as her closest friend, Angourie Rice as her teenage daughter, David Denman as her ex-husband and Guy Pearce as an author and creative writing teacher who sparks a romance with Mare.

The series earned strong reviews and is rated 94% fresh at Rotten Tomatoes. As Sophie Gilbert observed in the Atlantic: “For a work about a neglected corner of America, there’s none of the sneering critique of ‘Hillbilly Elegy’ or the ludicrous rivalries of ‘Ozark.’ Instead, ‘Mare of Easttown’ is just a subtle, textured portrait of a place where some people are suffering, and a woman is doing her imperfect and insufficient best to help them.”

Recently, Winslet, Smart, Rice and Nicholson, Ingelsby, Zobel, executive producer Mark Roybal and cinematographer Ben Richardson discussed the series via Zoom for Deadline.

Origins of “Mare”
Brad Ingelsby: I think the inspiration was really two-part. It was wanting to write about home, and kind of how I grew up, the way I grew up and the people I grew up with and kind of the rhythms of life there. That was a desire I’ve had for a long time. And wanting to tell a story about this character I’ve had in my head for a long time and was passionate about. I had grown to love this character. I grew up around a lot of women. My mom and her three sisters.  I grew up with two sisters and a lot of my childhood was spent hanging around these women. I mentioned before in another interview, I grew up with a stutter, a really awful stutter. So, I didn’t like to talk all that much. So, when I was hanging around these women, I just liked to listen to the conversations and the relationships and the way they look and care of each other and supported each other. It was something that I got to witness as a kid. I think I wanted to do justice to the relationships that grew up with.

PREDICT the 2021 Emmy nominations through July 13

Casting Call
Kate Winslet: It was almost like every page I turned, there was another gem, another extraordinary new character, or another glorious fake food that Mare ate and just didn’t give a shit about. I think for me it was much more than a genre-based, small-town cop drama. Yes, there’s a murder. But to me, the real voices, the real spine of the piece are the people, the community of Easttown. It struck a chord with me because contrary to people belief, I’m not an English rose at all. Everyone decided that for me. It’s a huge myth. In actual fact, I’m from a world very similar to Mare’s. We’re really different people, obviously from totally different countries. But I grew up in those environments where my dad would have some kind of argument with the neighbor across the hall and then two hours later, they’re drinking beers in the backyard. That kind of shared history with people and knowing someone’s grandmother and the new baby that’s coming into the family and everyone is somebody’s cousin. It’s a world that I hold closest to my heart and really struck a chord with me.”

Jean Smart: I liked the fact that Helen’s role was a little bit of comic relief occasionally. I mean, she’s not a very happy person and her relationship with her daughter is prickly to say the least. I think humor often goes hand hand-in-hand with those kinds of relationships because they are unfiltered around each other. I just found her an interesting character because first, we find out that she’s been having a fling with her neighbor’s husband and she’s just kind of a funny gal. She’s coming to the house to help take care of Mare’s grandson. I guess we’re four generations under one roof, aren’t we? Good god.

Angourie Rice: Siobhan has been through so much in her life and I wanted to bring elements of the truth to that because I think it’s so important to give it time and the dedication it deserves.  I think it was really hard for her growing up and was forced into a position of becoming an adult too soon.  What I really love about her story is she’s learning to, I guess, become a teenager.

Julianne Nicholson: I’ve known Kate for a long time. I was a huge fan of hers from before that. We’ve been with each other sort of in big moments in each other’s lives, there’s been many years in between that we’ve not seen each other. So, to have that as a baseline for how we were able to come together was special. That sort of history you can’t fake.

Working during the pandemic
Mark Roybal: We started shooting in the fall of 2019. So, when the pandemic hit, we shut down in March 2020. We had six months of shooting under our belt. We had formed a really, really close tight bond with our crew. It was heartbreaking for us to kind of leave each other.  When we came back in October it was quite a challenge. We didn’t know what we were doing. We’re feeling our way through the dark. We knew we had something special. We wanted to finish it and wanted to take care of each other. We didn’t want to get anybody sick.

Craig Zobel: I know on the production side; it was just very hard to make something during COVID. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. In the existential way, no one should be fearing for their life while trying to make a movie or a television show. Just the existential worry, was a lot to overcome. Because the subject matter of the show can be heavy, I was always worried that it would start showing up in the show-all of angst. I was really trying to make sure that we weren’t putting ono screen the concern that we had

Ben Richardson: Aside from the angst that Craig rightly observed, it’s very hard working as close as we do with people where you are obliged to keep these distances, respect these rules, respect all these very specific limitations. But in a lot of ways, we got through these long, tough days by bonding as a team and have that camaraderie.

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