Award-winning actress Kate Winslet signed on to play the lead in HBO’s Mare of Easttown without having any idea how the crime thriller would end. Mare of Easttown premiered on April 18 and quickly became a huge hit for HBO, so much so that its finale was HBO Max’s most-watched episode ever. The limited series was created by Brad Ingelsby (The Way Back), who wrote all 7 episodes, and was directed by Craig Zobel (The Hunt). A critical and commercial success, Mare of Easttown garnered an impressive 16 Emmy nominations.
Winslet played the titular Mare, a troubled police detective in Easttown, a small town in Pennsylvania’s Delaware County. Alongside Evan Peters’ Detective Colin Zabel, Mare is tasked with solving the murder of young mother Erin McMenamin, played by Cailee Spaeny. She is also dealing with an ongoing investigation into the disappearance of another young local woman while struggling to retain custody of her grandson. Featuring an impressive ensemble cast, the show also starred Julianne Nicholson, Angourie Rice, David Denman, Guy Pearce, and Jean Smart. Viewers were kept guessing about the murderer’s identity each episode, as red herrings abounded and Mare’s investigation honed in on many members of her tight-knit community. The series’ popularity — and the very specific accent of its characters — even led to a Mare of Easttown SNL parody.
Per Deadline, Winslet revealed that she signed on to play the lead in Mare of Easttown after reading only the first two episodes, and “had no idea how it was going to end” but did know that she wanted to be part of “this incredible story.” She also shared that making Mare of Easttown eventually “became about protecting the secrets.” Read her comments below:
“I had no idea how it was going to end. That was truly wonderful, because it meant I was responding to the script in the way that Brad [Ingelsby] was hoping an audience would respond, that feeling of getting to the end of each episode and going, no, that can’t be the end of the episode, we need more and we need it now. Waiting for each script to be sent to me after having committed to the first two and saying, yes, I want in for this incredible story, felt exciting. More than that, I felt scared, terrified of how the hell was I going to piece together how to play this very complicated woman who on paper is nothing like me, in terms of how she functions, looks and feels and sounds.
The writing was so unbelievably brilliant in those two episodes that I knew we had been taken down a rabbit warren that was not where the show was going to end. We had a watertight road map and it became about protecting the secrets…I would have tackled anyone to the ground who might have been tempted to give the secret away.”
Winslet also described how Mare’s closely bonded community of Easttown felt “very similar” to where she grew up, and how she “had never played a character” like that. Discussing the possibility of Mare of Easttown season 2, writer Ingelsby commented that he is “open to trying to crack it.” Winslet intimated that she would be interested in continuing Mare’s journey if the creative team “can find the right story and tick as many boxes” as they did in season 1, though she also said that playing the character of Mare “came at a cost” that she may not be willing to repeat.
The complex and surprising storytelling in Mare of Easttown captivated audiences from the very first episode, so it’s not surprising that Winslet was drawn in even without knowing how the series would play out. While viewers would no doubt be thrilled for more Mare, it’s encouraging that the team behind the lauded series is only interested in pursuing a follow-up if they feel strongly enough about where the show could go. With such a stellar first outing, it would be a shame to try to cash in on the show’s popularity without having a worthy storyline. Whether or not Mare of Easttown gets a season 2, the show has already cemented its place in TV history. The combined efforts of Ingelsby and Zobel, alongside Winslet’s powerhouse performance, will no doubt keep Mare of Easttown in viewer’s minds for a long time to come.