Actress Kate Winslet is back at HBO following her Emmy winning performance in the title role of Mildred Pierce. This time she’s portraying Mare Sheehan, a small-town Pennsylvania detective, who’s investigating a local murder in Mare of Easttown. All the while, raising her grandson and managing a personal life that is in shambles.

Her co-star and Emmy winner for Mildred Pierce, Guy Pearce, joins her in this miniseries as writing professor, Richard Ryan.

Kate spoke with the TV Critics Association about her fierce performance in Mare of Easttown, which premieres on April 18, 2021.

Entrenched in a society

Mare of Easttown, Episode 4 - Julianne Nicholson, Kate Winslet
Mare of Easttown, Episode 4 – Mare’s best friend since childhood, Lori Ross (Julianne Nicholson) and Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) ©2020 HBO, photograph by Sarah Shatz

Can you talk about what interested you in this project?

I had never done anything like this and was excited to read something that just gripped me right away. I really felt the sense of not just who she was, but the world that she lives in. (And) that sense of community, being so entrenched in a society that you forget who you are from time-to-time. The sense of responsibility/burdens that Mare carries, for lots of reasons to do with her backstory, really intrigued me.

Scary

Is Mare anything like you?

Mare Sheehan was one of the biggest challenges I think I’ve ever been slapped with. She’s nothing like me. That’s pretty scary in a great way if you’re an actor like me who likes to feel terrified and exposed. (she laughs)

I think the one thing I did feel I had in common with Mare that I was able to lean on was that real sense of family. How much it means to her to hold that together at all costs.

Also to be able to admit to herself from time-to-time that she has failed in a lot of areas and tries desperately to correct those errors.

Kate Winslet’s Work with Police

Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 - John Douglas Thompson, Kate Winslet
Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 – Mare’s boss at the Easttown Police Department, Chief Carter (John Douglas Thompson) and Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) ©2020 HBO, photograph by Sarah Shatz

What kind of research did you do for the role?

(I had to learn) how to be a detective. I didn’t want to be quickly shown on the day. So I spent several months working with the Easttown and Marple Township Police Departments. They were amazing. I had a great woman named Christine Bleiler who is a female sergeant detective, (who) was incredible and very supportive. (She) was on set with us a lot.

Stamina

Would you be a good detective?

Mare of Easttown, Episode 2 - Kate Winslet, Evan Peters
Mare of Easttown, Episode 2 – Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) and Detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters), the county detective called in to assist with Mare’s investigation ©2020 HBO, photograph by Sarah Shatz

No, I’d be a f-cking lousy detective. I’d be very good at the coffee and the after-beers, definitely. I could never do the job that Mare does (and) be a detective. I don’t think I have the mental stamina that is required. I have stamina, but in a different way.

No crime dramas

Did you binge on any TV crime dramas and pull on any personality traits from popular female TV detectives?

I deliberately didn’t. It’s such a good question, actually, because it was a real dilemma for me. Not knowing this world at all, where can you find those things? TV shows.

What I did do was I watched a lot of real crime drama and a lot of YouTube footage. Particularly of the opioid district, Kensington, because I spent some time working with real police department individuals. (We were) in blacked-out vehicles driving around those areas in order (for me) to learn.

We really wanted to capture the essence of what it’s like to be a detective from that town. It’s a place that really exists. The people there were just wonderful and so incredibly helpful with everything we had to do. If anything ever felt fake or phony, we would say, ‘Please tell us right away.’ So this wonderful woman Christine, would come to me and say, ‘No, that’s what they do on TV. Don’t do that.’

Kate Driven crazy

Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 - Chinasa Ogbuagu, Kate Winslet
Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 – Beth Hanlon (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) ©2020 HBO, photograph by Michele K Short

You’ve always been very good with American dialects and you’ve done it again here. Was this one a challenge for you?

Honestly, the Delco dialect drove me crazy, because there are really varying degrees of it. The thing that was hardest for me was that you shouldn’t hear the act of doing it. I always hate when you can hear someone doing an accent. That’s one of the things for me that is more important than anything. It’s just making it disappear and blend in. So I did spend a long time working with a coach and with people locally, as well.

It was one of the only two dialects in my life that has actually made me throw things. ‘I can’t do it! They’re gonna think I’m shit!’ That dialect and the dialect I had to do in the movie about Steve Jobs. That was another one I’d be like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t do it! They’re going to fire me.’

Quite weird?

Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 - Guy Pearce, Kate Winslet
Mare of Easttown, Episode 1 – Richard Ryan (Guy Pearce) and Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) ©2020 HBO, photograph by Sarah Shatz

It’s obvious by your roles that you love challenges. But what do you do if you’re given a part that you really don’t think you can do?

Panic! It’s such an interesting question. I will say yes to something. Then spend the entire time up to shooting it, telling myself, ‘I can’t play this part. Why did I say yes?’ Actors are quite weird like that, and I’m definitely no exception.

It doesn’t matter how long I’ve been doing this job, you just can’t ever rest on your laurels. My dad has said to me my whole life, ‘You’re only as good as your last gig, babe.’ And I really believe that to this day.

You’ve gotta deliver on integrity every time. No matter how much experience I’ve had, maintaining that high standard of work ethic and integrity is important to me. I think audiences can tell if you’re lazy; if you haven’t quite learned your lines properly, and you’re skirting over the top of it.

Audiences need to be respected fully because, if it weren’t for audiences, then none of us would have a job. And being part of Mare of Easttown really hammered that into me. When it’s television, you’re going right into somebody’s home and entertaining them in their front room. You have to honor that place and you have to deliver.

Avatar

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.