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Kate Winslet, Brad Ingelsby On Their Newest HBO Crime Drama

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:

People in Easttown, Pa., trust Detective Mare Sheehan. She's the protagonist of the new HBO show "Mare Of Easttown." And her reputation and relationships in the town work for and against her as she investigates the death of a local teenage mother. Show creator Brad Ingelsby and actor Kate Winslet, who plays Mare, joins us now. Welcome to you both.

BRAD INGELSBY: Thank you for having us.

KATE WINSLET: Thank you for having us. I also appreciate the gender-neutral use of the word actor there, Debbie. Thank you (laughter).

ELLIOTT: Oh, you're welcome.

WINSLET: Thank you (laughter).

ELLIOTT: So I want to start off by asking you, Brad, what inspired the story here? Is this based on a real case?

INGELSBY: No, it's not a real case. It's, I think, two things, really - one, a desire to write about where I grew up and kind of how I grew up and, really, Mare. The character of Mare was a character that I had in my head that I was interested in. And I kind of just let her, you know, marinate. And the more time I spent with her, the more I wanted to write about her.

ELLIOTT: Well, Mare is certainly not a glamorous role, but she carries a lot. She's a former basketball hero, a mother, a grandmother caring for her grandson. She's a detective. She sort of also operates sometimes as social worker in this town. Is that what drew you, Kate, to this part, that she's sort of held multitudes here?

WINSLET: The main thing really to me was that the heroine of this story is a middle-aged woman, and I think we seldom read stories about real things happening to real middle-aged women. And I think her stoicism and her remarkable emotional resilience in the face of the most extraordinarily overwhelming grief and anguish that she is dealing with was quite outstanding. And for me, the appeal really overall was that I knew I had so much to play with in terms of how much I could not only explore her but how much I would have to hide of what she was personally dealing with. And as an actor, that's quite an exciting challenge. You know, the hiding of stuff emotionally is often much more interesting.

ELLIOTT: You know, it is a pretty unflinching look at how layers of societal issues can pile up and cause generational trauma, that you deal with all kinds of things in this community. There's drug addiction, depression, grief, poverty, suicide. I'm wondering, in Easttown and its troubles, is this a composite of what you experienced growing up in Pennsylvania, Brad?

INGELSBY: Yeah, it's a composite of a number of spots in communities around where I grew up. You know, we shot the show in Aston. That's where our headquarters were, and that's where my wife grew up and where I've spent a lot of time. And my dad grew up in Springfield. And my mom was in Drexel Hill. I grew up in Easttown itself, in the township of Easttown. And so it's really an amalgam of a number of places that I wanted to capture. And really, I would say the biggest inspiration that I got out of my own upbringing were the people, you know? And again, I didn't grow up with a murder investigation, but I grew up with priests. I grew up with the church. You know, I grew up with a lot of women in my life.

And I think, you know, what I wanted to capture most were the rhythms and rituals of life in this town and just how these people live and how they take care of each other, especially Mare. She's looking after these people. And we wanted to capture a portrait of middle America that was heroic, that you have people that are living lives that probably aren't the life they dreamed, that the gap between the life they imagined and the life they're living is wide. And yet they're getting up every day. And they're going to work. And they're - you know, they're going to the grocery store. And they're earning a living. And they're doing that to take care of the people they love.

ELLIOTT: We also see Mare walk a delicate line as a law enforcement officer, right? Sometimes she's playing this crucial role in seeking justice for these crimes. And then, sometimes, she shows the abuse of power that many resent about her profession. I'm curious what it was like for both of you to strike that balance right now, you know, at a time when the country is certainly grappling with what policing should look like.

INGELSBY: I think the key was understanding why she made these decisions. And like, you don't always have to agree with Mare. She does a lot of things in this show that I think could turn people off. But I think Kate's incredible achievement is that you're always on her side because there's a lot of times in this show, a lot of moments where you're like, wow, I don't really like Mare that much.

ELLIOTT: Kate, I want to ask you about one other thing. The last time you were on WEEKEND EDITION, you talked a little bit about objectification on screen and how you actually rechoreographed sex scenes to make them feel more empowering. How did you do that here with "Mare Of Easttown?"

WINSLET: We had an opportunity to reshoot a sort of a, quote, unquote, "sex scene," if you like, that happens in episode one. But I had had a period of a bit of reflection during the time that we first shot it and the second. And I remember saying to Brad, this is - we got this all wrong, Brad. We'd originally set the scene in a bedroom, not in Mare's house. I'm in the scene, but it's not in her house. And I said, hang on a minute. Why would - why have we allowed her to go into this bedroom? That just says so much about how prepared she was to allow herself to be sort of wooed by a male figure in any way. And I was just - I think in the first version, I was just too naked, frankly. There was just too much going on. And so I was like, hang on. Let's just rethink this whole thing. It was a much more kind of messy scenario involving a couch and a lot more clothing and good humor - put it that way. And it was a little bit sort of clumsy and a bit more awkward and a bit more fitting.

So we had that moment. And then we had another moment, as well, which actually didn't involve any level of objectification at all. But Angourie Rice, who plays Mare's daughter, Siobhan - the character is at an LGBTQ relationship within our story. And there was an intimate scene involving her and another person. But I could just sense that she was just feeling a bit nervous. And I said to her, I think I should - I'll just hang around this evening, you know, when you're shooting that scene. And she said, oh, God, would you? Actually, that'd be great. And I said, yeah. And actually, they were - you know, she was OK. But I ended up sitting in the trunk of the car while they were shooting the scene.

INGELSBY: (Laughter).

WINSLET: Took place in the car scene, and I was in the trunk of the car. And it was just - she was just like, oh, thank God you're there. And I'd be yelling, is everyone OK? OK, girls, should we - do you want to cut? Just let us know. Like, no. Yeah, OK. Good, no, thank you. Just - it just made a difference. It's just that sense of sisterhood, you know, that sort of looking out for one another. And that was where I have to say, you know, sort of fiction did sort of melt into reality quite a lot on this show. You know, we really did become this tight community of people, not just the actors, you know? And that's when I love it the most of all. It's my most favorite thing at work - is when there is no distinction between the cast and the crew. It's everyone in something together and right in the weeds, you know, trying to sometimes dig your way out hand in hand.

ELLIOTT: That's Brad Inglesby and Kate Winslet. Their new show, "Mare Of Easttown," premieres tomorrow on HBO and on HBO Max. Thanks for being with us.

INGELSBY: Of course. Thank you for having us.

WINSLET: Yeah, thank you. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.