Kate Winslet: “I feel much cooler as an actress in my forties than I ever imagined” | Television
Keaten Winslet will be ready in a second. âI’m just going to put more eye drops on my stye,â she said. Blame his intense crime drama Mare of Easttown, one of the pandemic’s TV hits. âIt was a pretty stressful job and about nine weeks later I had three styes in my left eye, the third of which turned into a small, sturdy bead and had to be cut out. But I continued. Let’s go to the show! She plays DS Mare Sheehan, who is raising her grandson, faces the suicide of her son and tries to solve the murder of a young mother in a working-class suburb of Philadelphia. All Without Makeup: Mare is more likely to achieve a Cheeto topped with a squirt of cheese spray than anything in the Max Factor range.
âThe discussion of Mare’s appearance blew me away,â says Winslet. The 46-year-old actor speaks by phone from the West Sussex home she shares with husband Ned Abel Smith and seven-year-old son Bear, as well as his two children from previous marriages: 21-year-old Mia by her first husband, Jim Threapleton, and Joe, 17, by her second, director Sam Mendes. âPeople would ask, ‘Did she gain weight? Didn’t she look awkward? Wasn’t that brave of her? But why should it be brave? I guess because that’s not how the main actresses are portrayed. Maybe Mare will be the tipping point, and we’ll stop scrutinizing women onscreen so much.
Realism has spread to every corner of the show. âWe always said on set, ‘This is too much TV. Keep your feet on the ground. ‘ I was constantly rubbing Marmite on the knees of my jeans or scuffing my sneakers with a Brillo pad. You cannot make one thing seem real: it has to be all. Â»Take Mare’s car. âShe reportedly drove her grandson to and from kindergarten, giving him breakfast on the fly. I know what the floor looks like in the back of my own car – there’s crushed grain, with jingling bowls and spoons, because we had lunch on the way to school. You’re sitting on crumbs so encrusted in the seat it would take a fucking blowtorch to get them out!
That’s Winslet’s shtick: she’s possibly a seven-time Oscar nominee (she won in 2008 for the Holocaust drama The Reader) and a double Emmy winner (for two HBO shows, Mildred Pierce and now Mare of Easttown) but she remains the star who is a bastard like us. She’s a character that fits Mare perfectly – Winslet stepped in to make sure the ad images weren’t touched up to make her more presentable – as well as with our times. âMare is what most of us felt during the lockdown,â she says. âShe validated the permanent pajama look.
Inadvertently or not, Winslet has almost become the face of the pandemic. As reports of the coronavirus spread early last year, her 2011 disaster film Contagion, in which she plays an epidemiologist, rose to the top of the streaming charts. Three months later, she and several Contagion co-stars, including Matt Damon and Marion Cotillard, showed public information videos. Winslet has become something of a Covid Vera Lynn, making people happy by teaching us to wash our hands, cough into the crooks of our arms, and properly deploy the word ‘fomite’.
During the interminable third lockdown, she gave two outstanding performances: first as 19th century paleontologist Mary Anning in Ammonite, and then in Mare of Easttown. The two characters force Winslet to play against her natural warmth: It’s over an hour after Ammonite starts before Mary smiles, while Mare doesn’t laugh until episode five. âI took some of what I learned about Ammonite in Mare,â she says. âThis brooding stillness. It is difficult for me because I am a happy, busy, active and cuddly person. This is who I am.
The scripts for Mare of Easttown arrived one by one as she and Saoirse Ronan filmed Ammonite on the Dorset coast. âI’d say, ‘Oh my God, episode five just happened,’ then Saoirse would go ‘- and here Winslet slips into her co-star’s breathless Irish beat -” “Mad Jesus Christ, it’s so exciting, you “I have to tell myself what’s going on! ‘ The audience was equally enthusiastic. “It happened just when people were in desperate need of something to discuss, other than who they knew who had died from Covid. It was putting families on couches, and there was a nostalgic quality in the one episode per week format. It gets the conversation going while you wait for the next one.
Winslet’s fondest TV memories of his childhood in Reading, Berkshire revolve around exactly those kinds of cliffhangers. “You would desperately want to know what would happen to Zammo next in Grange Hill, or the Fowlers in EastEnders.” Is she a binger now? âCovid taught me to binge. In more than one way. But yes, Ned and I watched Ted Lasso pretty much back to back. Covid didn’t make you feel so bad hanging out on the couch. “
It would be wrong to suggest that Mare of Easttown simply responded to the nostalgia for deferred gratification when there are so many other reasons to praise her, especially her female characters. âMiddle aged women have long been underestimated, looked down upon and looked down upon in the film and television community, and now that is changing,â she says. âLook at the actresses who won the Emmys. Neither of us were in our twenties, and that’s cool! I feel a lot cooler as an actress in my 40s than I ever imagined. “
She also felt a deeper connection between herself and the character than she did in her previous jobs. âI knew Mare and this world perfectly well. I grew up in a small terraced house in a working class community in a small town where your life overlaps the lives of your neighbors simply because the walls are so thin. If Lorraine down the road had had varicose veins treated, the whole world knew it. What if, for the very first time, the couple two streets across the way voted Conservative instead of Labor, then damn it! – all the shit broke out in our house, and my parents were wondering if they should tell these people about their choices. It was not a very small cul-de-sac. It was the road to Oxford. If I was in my parents’ room, I could be face to face with the people on the top deck of the # 17 bus.
Winslet is proud of Mare of Easttown’s focus on community; the polar element might be the driving force, but it’s the medium that makes the show so salty and rich. There is also much less emphasis on damaged female bodies than the public would expect from police dramas. âYou’re right, we showed less,â she says. âIn the morgue scene, we had a mannequin that was an exact replica of the actress’s body and we were even respectful of that. Between takes, we covered the mannequin with a sheet.
For all of the show’s sensibility, its view of the police as uniformly caring, conscientious, and true seems archaic in light of the George Floyd and Sarah Everard murders, to pick 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?
âI don’t know if I’ll play Mare again,â Winslet said. âBut if we were to do a second season, then for sure those atrocities that have existed in the police force here and in America will end up in the stories we tell. One hundred percent. You can’t pretend these things didn’t happen. She sighs. “It’s horrible, isn’t it?” This moment in time. It’s horrible. You hear me, I can’t seem to find the words because we all feel so betrayed and helpless. We need to turn this moment into something meaningful. We must use our voices on behalf of the people who do not have them. It matters to me now in a way that hadn’t even crossed my mind when I was 20.
Maybe she had other things to think about. His twenties started, after all, with the Titanic. “Do you know that Leo has just turned 47? “she asks, suddenly shocked. Then her voice becomes nostalgic as she thinks of herself and DiCaprio as puppies.” I was 21 on this set and Leo turned 22 ” I tell him that when I first met DiCaprio at the time, he complained to me about the grueling production of Titanic and how miserable he felt. She let out a hoarse laugh. ” I remember! I remember he was! It wasn’t pleasant for any of us, but we were all in the same boat. Although he had many more days off than I ever had. I guess I was brought up to be grateful and keep going. I didn’t think it was my right to be miserable, and if I has been miserable, I certainly would not have warned a reporter. She laughs again. “There’s no path I would have dropped that!
She and DiCaprio then played a struggling married couple on Revolutionary Road and met again in Los Angeles recently for the first time in three years. âI couldn’t stop crying,â Winslet says. âI’ve known him for half of my life! It’s not like I’m in New York or he’s in London and there’s been a chance for dinner or coffee and a catch-up. We have not been able to leave our countries. Like so many friendships around the world, we missed each other because of Covid. He’s my friend, my very close friend. We are bound for life.
If she was sitting in front of me now, I think she might seem like she has something in her eye. Or maybe it would just be the drops.