Kate Winslet on playing Mare of Easttown: âCompletely crazy... but I love it!â
The Oscar-winning actress plays a small-town police detective in the upcoming HBO crime drama Mare of Easttown: ‘It was like an actor’s dream but also a bit of a nightmare because I was playing (Mare) for such a long time. And she really got under my skin. I’ve had a very hard time letting go of her. I’ll be honest, I would quite like to still be playing her.’
Photos courtesy of HBO

Kate Winslet on playing Mare of Easttown: ‘Completely crazy... but I love it!’

Nathalie Tomada (The Philippine Star) - April 14, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Have you experienced being in a room with a person so authentic and empowered, that you’d leave the room feeling somehow inspired to become one as well? It’s not hard to feel that way after being in the same, albeit virtual, room with the Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet.

During a recent Zoom interview, the 45-year-old British star dropped truth bombs not just about being an actress, but also as a woman, wife and mom while discussing her latest lead role via the upcoming HBO series Mare of Easttown — a project she described as both “a dream and a nightmare.”

In the crime drama, Kate plays a police detective in a small town in Pennsylvania, who is tasked to piece together and solve a local murder case, while trying to keep her personal/family life from crumbling apart.

She said she embodied Mare for 20 months and did nothing else during that time so much so it was very difficult to let the character go. “I was like this for 20 months — barely drawing breath, you know, like it was crazy. It was completely crazy playing Mare. But I love it!” said Kate, who’s also credited as an executive producer on the series and “believe me, it wasn’t in name only.”

Kate recalled that the trauma she had to “create” and hang on to for a long period — particularly in relation to her character’s relationship with her child — became “so real and so raw” that even in her own home, her real-life children had to reassure her, “Mom, it’s just an imagined thing.”

When The STAR asked Kate about the main attraction of Mare (for which she went to such lengths of dedication), she replied, “What is there not to be attracted to this character? She’s just a lifeforce, but she’s also quietly dying inside. For me, that’s a juxtaposition of those things. I’ve never come across it before.

“And she is just so real. She’s a mother, a grandmother, she’s trying to function, cope and juggle all these things, was being held in such high regard by Easttown where she has lived and grown up all of her life, and people expect her to be so much on a daily basis. But inside, the only reason she feels they think that way is because she made a winning shot in that basketball game when she was 16 years old.

“Dealing with the complexities as well of her internal anguish and grief, and injecting that level of real humanity, struggle and crisis into her, combined with her diligence in her job and her capacity to be both loathsome and lovable at the same time, warm and prickly, disgusting and charming and strong yet vulnerable — I mean, it was absolutely everything.”

And yes, this actress of almost three decades (who many will forever remember as the beautiful Rose in one of the highest-grossing films of all time, Titanic) has always been after authenticity, even more so now. “I definitely feel that at this time of my life, I’m much more focused on playing characters that honor real levels of truth in terms of not just emotions because, of course, that’s always been a big thing for me, but (also) of how they look.”

Written by Brad Ingelsby and directed by Craig Zobel, the seven-part limited series Mare of Easttown debuts at the same time as the US on April 19 at 10 a.m. exclusively on HBO GO and HBO, with a same-day encore at 11 p.m. on HBO.

Here are more excerpts from our chat with Kate:

How would you describe working on the series and was it an immediate yes to the project?

“It was like an actor’s dream but also a bit of a nightmare because I was playing (Mare) for such a long time. And she really got under my skin. I’ve had a very hard time letting go of her. I’ll be honest, like, I would quite like to still be playing her. And I contacted the director and the writer the other day, and I was like, I still can’t believe it’s finished. Because it was such a huge process, you know. What was meant to be a five and a half/six months shoot turned into 15 months plus five months of prep. So, I was playing her really for 20 months of my life and haven’t done any other jobs in between. So, in the end, she really became like a little bit of an alter-ego for me. And it was very, very easy to say yes.”

Your character’s nickname is Lady Hawk. Did you ever have a nickname growing up and what is your current nickname?

“My nickname growing up actually was Blubber. It’s funny now but was not funny then believe me. So yeah, I was bullied as a kid and the kids called me Blubber which was hideous. But now I have a nickname that I actually like and film people actually call me K Dub... after KW, my initials. And it was started by Jack Black when we did The Holiday, he was like, ‘Hey, K Dub.’ And then people just sort of picked it up so that when I’m on set, no one calls me Kate, it’s K Dub. Anyone seen K Dub? Isn’t that funny? I quite like it. And actually, I signed e-mails K Dub without even thinking. And my dad calls me Katie even though that’s not my name at all.”

The series tackles different themes including how our past defines who we are. Do you often look at the past to see how you have evolved?

“Yeah, I do, definitely. I mean, oh my God, I never watched myself on screen. I recently had to do a thing for BAFTA where they showed this really elaborate cut together, like a tribute reel of all my work over the years. And I was like, oh, my God, I was terrible. Watching clips of myself and things from years ago, and I’m like, what on... how did I even get a job? I mean, I’m so clearly, not very skilled (laughs). But yeah, I absolutely think about things in my life, things in my past that I’ve processed, or maybe I’m even still processing. I’ve sort of given up trying to keep life and work separate because they always merge, they just do.

“And actually for Mare, it was better. Everything just kind of crashed into each other. And you know, there were days when it would just feel messy and terrible to be her. And it was, I’m sure, absolutely very hard for my husband… I was honestly awful depending on what was going on during the week. My husband is a saint, I mean, he’s an incredible person...

“But, you know, my job is such a family affair. We’re all sort of affected by the job that I do in some way. And you often hear actors say, ‘All my family are so supportive.’ For me, what that means is, my kids are really understanding of what the job I’m doing, what it’s going to take out of me, and where they might sometimes lose out…”

You’ve played so many iconic characters over the years. But Mare is so interesting because it feels like she represents this sort of new type of heroine... she’s in the center of it, but she’s not really likable when you look at her at first. As an actor, do you see this transformation, that the models are changing?

“I do think that the way in which women are portrayed on screen, we are seeing it change a bit. There’s only a bit, but I think it will continue to change more. But for me, this is enormously important, because I have for a very long time now and I’ve spoken about this publicly, too. I understand that social media can be incredibly powerful and very important for some people. But for certain generations, particularly young women, I think social media can be incredibly damaging because these unattainable ideals that are put out there are more often than not completely unrealistic, photoshopped or retouched images of a perfect existence, or a perfect body, or a perfect face. I disagree with that. So fundamentally, I would turn myself inside out to rectify it.

“So, in the roles that I play, I am very, very conscious of being a real person. And Mare is that real person. Now, we could have still done the film or TV version of that character, we could have absolutely made her hair, you know, barrel curl-perfect each day, and she could have been the kind of character who would have put on some simple makeup before going to work. But I didn’t believe for one second that she would first of all have time and secondly, care about looking in the mirror.

“And I know a lot of people like that, actually, I myself (am). And believe me, I’m sitting here with you guys, had put on a bit of mascara and you know, tried to make myself a little, halfway decent, but I really don’t look in the mirror actually very often in my own life. I mean, I just have other things to do and most people I know are the same as women. As a busy mother, you’re taking your kids to school, you’re trying to get everyone fed and out the door, who has time to worry about what they’re looking like before going to work? So what was important to me in this character was making sure that we really showed all of that.

“And I think that makes her very relatable because once you point out that she appears to be not that likable, a lot of the reason for that is because she’s protecting herself the whole time… She’s kind of an outrageous character, but she’s a very, very loving parent and grandmother. She’s a loyal friend… And for me, that’s a decent human so it doesn’t matter what they look like.

“So, when you start from that place in creating these female characters, I do think that we are seeing a little bit of a shift. I hope it continues because it can’t go on, it’s not right. These images of perfection that we’re putting out there in the world that young women feel this terrible pressure to be like that, too, it’s crazy! We just can’t do that anymore.”

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