While it may have been a slow burn at first, by the time HBO’s Mare Of Easttown finale aired on May 31, it had dug its talons into just about everyone who sat down to watch (Stephen King included). Much of what made the show compelling was its commitment to making the story and its characters gritty and "real." With a historically poised and graceful star like Kate Winslet, that might seem counterintuitive, but Winslet made sure her character came off as a "hot mess" and even "kind of disgusting."
In the limited series, Winslet plays titular character Marianne “Mare” Sheehan, a small-town Pennsylvania detective investigating the murder of a local teenager, and the disappearance of another local single mom. The Oscar winner recently revealed to The New York Times the many conscious decisions she and the show's staff made to keep things "unglamorous." When she noticed that her skin looked too glowy in an early cut of the show, she asked for the team to "light it to make it look not nice." She also sent the promotional poster for the show back twice because it looked too retouched. “They were like ‘Kate, really, you can’t,’ and I’m like ‘Guys, I know how many lines I have by the side of my eye, please put them all back,” Winslet said.
After filming her sex scene with Guy Pearce, director Craig Zobel offered to edit out “a bulgy bit of belly," to which she told him, “Don’t you dare!” She further wanted to normalise the idea of a middle-aged grandmother having sex and one-night stands in a way that didn't seem made for Hollywood.
Even her clothes needed to be ripped right off of the discount rack. Mare Of Easttown's costume designer shopped for Mare's clothes at Wawa, and Winslet would purposefully leave all her clothes crumpled on the floor of her trailer after filming without ever washing, drying, or hanging them. “Whenever we’d find something unflattering,” Winslet said, “we’d be jumping up and down like, ‘Yes! We’re wearing this.’” And according to Indiewire, the lead hairstylist was told to give every character bedhead so that nobody felt done-up. As Davis explained, “Everybody was basically, you know, get up and go, and that was the whole feel of it.”
“Listen, I hope that in playing Mare as a middle-aged woman — I will be 46 in October — I guess that’s why people have connected with this character in the way that they have done because there are clearly no filters,” Winslet added. “She’s a fully functioning, flawed woman with a body and a face that moves in a way that is synonymous with her age and her life and where she comes.”
It's something that other shows need to remember: A flawed but sympathetic character calls for actual flaws.