Kate Winslet has embodied a wide variety of characters throughout a long and illustrious career but she's somehow made it this far without ever playing a cop. That changes in the gritty new limited series, Mare of Easttown, in which she stars as Mare Sheehan, a detective investigating a grisly murder in a small tight-knit Pennsylvania town while struggling with a chaotic personal life.
Speaking to the Herald via a Zoom call, Winslet positively bursts with enthusiasm when discussing the role.
"I love talking about Mare. I'm talking about her for the first time today and it's so exciting!"
It's fair to expect a bountiful amount of charm when interviewing such an accomplished performer, but Winslet practically jumps through the computer screen during our chat.
"I spent a lot of time preparing to play this part," she says."I didn't know anything about detective work [or] how to solve a crime scene but I have always been very intrigued by that world."
She spent time with detectives from the actual Easttown as part of her research.
"It was about keeping it real and sometimes when you're keeping something real, it doesn't necessarily need to be perfect. One thing these police officers would say is that it's messy sometimes . . . you're arresting somebody whose wrists are covered in blood from a robbery or something and the handcuffs might not go on in the way that you were trained."
After explaining that she has long since finished up her time in New Zealand working on the Avatar sequels, Winslet says that Mare of Easttown's production was unexpectedly prolonged by you-know-what.
"We actually only had five weeks to go when we were shut down, and we went back to work in October of last year, then five weeks turned into eight with Covid protocols."
The extended shooting period led to the character getting under Winslet's skin.
"Mare Sheehan has completely occupied my life since May 2019 until now. I'm still trying to, like, get her out of my system, which is quite hard because she's sort of loathsome but lovable at the same time. I feel very possessive of her, like she's mine. She's only my friend, she's nobody else's friend.
"I did love playing her, it was very, very hard, though, because of all the trauma I had to create, and the grief that I had to manifest and carry that I had to keep simmering away in me. "
Despite Sheehan's intensity, Winslet says the role helped sustain her during that crazy period.
"Because this is set within the heart of a community, in many ways it almost got me through Covid a bit, having that character to kind of disappear into, and to preoccupy my mind with. It became a very immersive experience for me, where there were times when Mare almost became like an alter ego for me and that's never really happened to me before. So that was quite weird and new and I'm not sure my husband was entirely thrilled."
Starring opposite Winslet in Mare of Easttown is Australian actor Guy Pearce and it appears that Winslet was a Neighbours fan growing up.
"I have been in love with Guy since I was 11. He was not one of my crushes, he was the only one I ever had. I first met Guy in 2010 when we did Mildred Pierce together, I walked into rehearsal and on the first day I said: 'Before you say anything, please don't speak, I have to come clean. I've been in love with you since I was 11.'"
Mare of Easttown premieres Monday, April 19 at 9.30pm on SoHo