Famous Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe actress Kate Winslet stars in the mini-series Mare of Easttown, signed by creator and screenwriter Brad Ingelsby (The Way Back), directed by Craig Zobel (HBO show The Leftovers).
Mare of Easttown, a seven-part mini-series that truly examines how family and past tragedies can define our present, debuts on Sunday, April 18 on HBO and will be available for streaming on HBO GO.
How did you come to play the lead role in the Sea of Easttown?
It was through a series of bizarre events, in fact. It was September 2018, I was filming in the UK and in one month I received the screenplays from Ammonite and episodes one and two from Mare. I ended up saying yes to both projects, amazing and gigantic. I was very, very excited to work with HBO again – I had worked at Mildred Pierce with them and it was an amazing experience. I read the script and, honestly, it was like a dream for an actress my age, middle-aged. I don’t necessarily like this term, but I’m 45 now. I’m not 20. And when I read Mare, I was very lucky to be asked to read something that could have been offered to an American actress, for example. The way the script was written was so real and wonderful and I could see myself saying those words. This is always a real indicator for me: I read pieces aloud when I read a script and I play with the lines – I tell my son or daughter: “come and read this scene with me”. And then I get that feeling, “Oh, this project could be good. It could be good. ” Mare and I had this feeling right away. So I was flattered from the beginning to receive the offer, but I also felt challenged.
What were those challenges?
Kate: This is a project with action in Delaware County, near Philadelphia, in the state of Pennsylvania. He has the action set in a country that is not mine and he is a totally different character from me or any other role I have played. I hadn’t even been to Delaware County before working on this project. There is a very specific dialect that the people of Delco have, and that was another important factor for me – “God, I have to learn another American accent!” I like to learn accents, but it caused me some problems.
Who is Mare Sheehan?
He is a character who has been a pillar of the community for many years. He’s a detective and a police sergeant – and he’s a good detective – but a girl had disappeared a year before, Katie Bailey, a girl in her twenties. And Katie was the daughter of another local woman, a good friend of Mare. Everyone knows everyone in Easttown, so all eyes were on Mare to find Katie – and she couldn’t do it. No one knows if she died, if she is still alive or what happened to her. They have no idea. In addition, when Mare was 16 years old, she managed to score a decisive point in a girls’ basketball championship. It is a moment that made the city famous at that time. And every year there is a ceremony that celebrates that moment. Mare is walking in front of the city and everyone considers her a heroine, but she doesn’t feel that way. She just wants to stay put and disappear most of the time, but she still has to move on.
What is the story about, from a narrative and thematic point of view?
Well, it’s about a murder in a small town, and each episode ends in suspense. I was captivated episode after episode – that wonderful feeling you have to feel when you watch a drama about a murder and the characters try to discover the murderer… the aspect of curiosity about who committed the crime is very irresistible. It seemed to me a very clever story in this category.
It’s just not a police story. It’s more about community and mercy and compassion and mourning; and how real people live and deal with real things and how those real things aren’t always happy, you know? They can be very difficult. Family dynamics may change based on past events or present circumstances.
Mare is a former sportswoman and a police officer. How did you physically prepare for the role?
I knew it would be a big challenge. It was a massive production, over 124 days and with COVID right in the middle. I played this character in a year and another five months of training. I had to stay very fit. Not necessarily because we have to see a fit body or something, but because I had to run a lot on film. I had to knock people to the ground and beat and arrest people, slam giant adults on the ground. I always had to be like a sportswoman training for something. This does not necessarily mean that I was exercising at the gym, but I rode a lot, about 20 kilometers a day or something. I mean, nothing major, it doesn’t take that long to do that! But I had to be healthy and ready for anything. And the truth is that it was good to feel that she was physically strong once, in her youth, but it’s not necessarily like that now. I didn’t want to be an unmatched superman, 40 or so. For the most part, women are not like that – we do what we can in the middle of all the other things we juggle. So I wanted to represent that demographic. For me, however, I had to stay in good shape to survive, because it was a massive project.
What kind of documentation did you do?
We spent a lot of time at the real police department in Easttown and Marple, which are next to each other. It was a group of detectives, sergeants and police officers who helped me very, very much. But it was mostly a woman named Christine Blaylor. He’s a police sergeant and a detective like a pocket rocket, small in height, extraordinary, ferocious. She had a life not exactly like Mare’s, but similar in the sense that she had a child as a young woman and did not have a rosy future and had to do something to make sense of her existence. She had met a friend in a mall when she was pushing the stroller with the little one, at the age of 22, and this friend of hers from the mall had just graduated from the police academy. She thought, “I could do that too. I’m in shape. I am strong. I mean, yes, my child is almost three years old now – in a year and I can try my luck ”. And she did that – and she was one of two women to graduate from her group of 55 people. And he ended up being a detective sergeant and almost the same age as me. It was incredible; he offered me so much support. Any scenes I had related to police or detective work, for which I needed to understand how their work went, or whether I used a weapon or something, was always there. He said: “Yes, that’s right – it’s real. That’s how it’s done. ” And that’s all I needed to hear.