Kate Winslet will be ready in a second. “I’m just going to put more eye drops in my stye,” he says. The culprit is his intense crime drama Mare of Easttown, one of the television hits of the pandemic. “It was quite a stressful job, and within nine weeks I had three styes in my left eye, the third of which turned into a small solid ball and had to be removed. But I kept going. I went ahead with the series! ” In it, she plays Detective Mare Sheehan, raising her grandson, coping with her son’s suicide, and attempting to solve the murder of a young mother in a working-class suburb of Philadelphia. All without makeup: Mare is more likely to go for a Cheeto topped with a spray of cheese spray than anything in the Max Factor range.
“The conversation about Mare’s looks blew me away,” says Winslet. The 46-year-old actress speaks by phone from the West Sussex home she shares with her husband, Ned Abel Smith, and their seven-year-old son Bear, as well as their two children from previous marriages: Mia, 21. , from her first husband, Jim Threapleton, and Joe, 17, from her second husband, director Sam Mendes. “People asked: ‘Did you gain weight? Didn’t she look disheveled? Wasn’t it brave of him? ‘ But, Why should I be brave? I guess it’s because that’s not how lead actresses are portrayed. Maybe Mare is the turning point, and let’s stop examining the women on the screen so much“.
Realism spread to every corner of the series. “We always said on set, ‘This is too television. Keep it real. ‘ I always rubbed Marmite on the knees of my jeans, or scratched my sneakers with a glitter sponge. You can’t make just one thing seem real: it has to be everything. ” For example, Mare’s car. “He would have taken his grandson back and forth to kindergarten, giving him breakfast on the run. I know what the floor in the back of my own car looks like: there is crushed cereal, with containers and spoons clinking, because we had breakfast on the way to school. You’re sitting on crumbs that are so buried in the seat that it would take a bloody blowtorch to get them out. “
Here’s Winslet’s trick: She may be a seven-time Oscar nominee (she won it in 2008 for the Holocaust drama The Reader) and a double Emmy winner (for two HBO series, Mildred Pierce and now Mare of Easttown), but she is still the star who is scruffy like us. She is a personality that fits in perfectly with Mare – Winslet stepped in to make sure the publicity photos weren’t touched up to make her look more presentable – as well as our times. “Mare is the way most of us feel during confinement,” he says. “She validated the permanent pajama style“.
Involuntarily or not, Winslet narrowly became the face of the pandemic. When news about the coronavirus, his 2011 disaster movie, broke out early last year, Contagion, in which she plays an epidemiologist, reached the top of the charts streaming. Three months later, she and several co-stars from ContagionThey, like Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard, featured public information videos.
Winslet became a kind of Vera Lynn de Covid-19, encouraging people by teaching them to wash their hands, cough into their arms and correctly pronounce the word “fomite“.
During the endless third confinement she gave two outstanding performances: the first as the 19th century paleontologist Mary Anning in Ammonite, and the second in Mare of Easttown. Both characters force Winslet to act against her natural warmth: in Ammonite more than an hour passes before Mary smiles, while Mare doesn’t laugh until the fifth episode. “I took some of what I learned in Ammonite for Mare ”, he says. That brooding stillness. It is difficult for me because I am a happy, busy, active person who gives hugs. That is what I am”.
The scripts of Mare of Easttown They arrived one by one as she and Saoirse Ronan filmed Ammonite on the Dorset coast. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the fifth episode just came,’ and Saoirse would say” –and here Winslet adopts her co-star’s Irish rhythm– “Damn, this is so exciting, you have to tell me what’s going on. ! ”. The audience turned out to be just as enthusiastic. “It appeared just at the time when people desperately needed something to talk about, aside from people who knew they had died from Covid-19. He had families sit on the couches, and the one-episode-a-week format was nostalgic. It keeps the conversation going while you wait for the next one. “
Winslet’s fondest television memories growing up in Reading, Berkshire revolve around precisely those kinds of dramatic endings. “You desperately wanted to know what was going to happen to Zammo in Grange Hill, or the Fowlers in EastEnders“. Now is it someone who gets hooked? “The Covid-19 taught me to do it. In more ways than one. But yeah, Ned and I watched Ted Lasso almost back to back. Covid-19 made you not feel so bad for hanging out on the couch“.
It would be wrong to suggest that Mare of Easttown it is simply due to a nostalgia for late satisfaction, when there are many other things to praise her for, including her female characters. “Middle-aged women have long been underestimated, despised and ignored in the film and television community., and now that is changing, “he says. “Let’s look at the actresses who won the Emmys. None of us were 20 years old, far from it, and that’s cool! I feel so much cooler as a forty-something actress than I ever imagined“.
She also felt a deeper connection between herself and the character compared to previous roles. “I knew Mare and this world vividly. I grew up in a small townhouse in a small-town working-class community, where your life overlaps with your neighbors simply because the walls are so thin. If Lorraine, who lives at the end of the street, had her varicose veins operated on, everyone knew about it. And if, for the first time, the couple who live two streets away voted for the Tories instead of for the Labor Party, then – damn it! – everything exploded in our house, and my parents argued whether they should talk to these people about your choices. This was not a small dead end. It was Oxford Road. If I was in my parents’ room, I could be face to face with the people on the second floor of the bus on line 17 ”.
Winslet is proud that Mare of Easttown focus on the community; The detective factor may be the driving force, but the atmosphere is what makes the series so intense and rich. Furthermore, there is much less emphasis on injured female bodies than the public expects from police dramas. “You’re right, we show less,” he says. “In the morgue scene, we had a mannequin that was an exact replica of the actress’s body and we were even respectful of it. Between takes we covered the mannequin with a sheet ”.
For all the series’ sensibilities, its perception that the police are uniformly attentive, meticulous, and sincere seems to be outdated considering the murders of George Floyd and Sarah Everard, to choose only the most shocking recent examples of police crime. Shouldn’t television reflect the fact that the police badge is not necessarily a reassuring or honorable symbol?
“I don’t know if I’ll ever play Mare again,” replies Winslet. “But if we did a second season, no doubt these atrocities that exist in the police here and in the United States will find their way into the stories that we tell. Completely. You can’t pretend that these things didn’t happen. ” Sighs. “It’s horrible, right? This epoch in time. It is awful. Can you hear me, I can’t find the words because we all feel so betrayed and powerless. We have to transform this moment into something meaningful. We have to use our voices on behalf of the people who don’t have one. Now I care about this in a way that didn’t even cross my mind in my 20s. “
Possibly he had other things to think about. His 20s began, after all, with Titanic. “Do you know that Leo just turned 47?” She asks, suddenly surprised. Then her voice becomes nostalgic as she remembers DiCaprio and her when they were young. “I turned 21 during that filming, and Leo turned 22,” he says. I tell you that when I first met DiCaprio at that time, he complained about the arduous production of Titanic and how bad it felt. She lets out a hearty laugh. “I remember! I remember that was how it felt! It wasn’t pleasant for any of us, but we were all in it together. Even if he had many more days off than I did. I guess they brought me up to be thankful and just move on. I didn’t feel like I had the right to feel bad, and if I felt bad I definitely wouldn’t have let a journalist know. ” Laughs again. “No way would I have missed that!”
Later, she and DiCaprio played a troubled marriage in Revolutionary Road and they recently met again in Los Angeles for the first time in three years. “I couldn’t stop crying,” says Winslet. “I’ve known him for half my life! It’s not that I found myself in New York or that he had been to London and we had a chance to have dinner or coffee and catch up. We have not been able to leave our countries. Like many friends in the world, we miss each other because of Covid-19. He is my friend, my true friend. We are united for life“.
If she were sitting in front of me right now, it gives me the impression that she might look like she has something in her eye. Or maybe it would just be the drops.
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Kate Winslet: ‘I feel so much cooler as a 40-something actress than I ever imagined’