Kate Winslet on Keeping the ‘Mare of Easttown’ Ending Secret and Falling in Love With Cheez Whiz

Variety's Awards Circuit Podcast: Also in this episode, 'Saturday Night Live' star Bowen Yang on the Titanic iceberg, his breakout 'Weekend Update' segment and more.

Kate Winslet
ioulex for Variety

Emmy nominated actress Kate Winslet admits that she has spent the past year eating far too much Cheez Whiz.

In HBO’s Emmy nominated limited series “Mare of Easttown,” Winslet plays a no-nonsense police detective who eats the liquid spray cheese right from the can. And yes, the British actress confesses she “actually likes Cheez Whiz… I must have gone through about three and a half cans.”

For six weeks, viewers tuned in to follow Winslet’s Mare as she worked to solve the murder and the disappearance of a local teenage girl. By the series finale, 3 million people tuned in to learn who committed the murder — but only after a series of twists that led to a satisfying conclusion.

Winslet joined Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast for a conversation about “Mare of Easttown,” Cheez Whiz, and a lot more. Listen below!

Winslet is not on social media, and admits she didn’t dive down the rabbit hole to see what audiences were saying about “Mare of Easttown” or reading their theories. “I was more obsessed with keeping the secret. I was so concerned,” she says, even fearing that someone in the cast might spill the secret before the finale. “That was when it became terrifying for us. I was like, ‘Oh my God, why do we have to all do this press? Someone’s going to let something go.”

Such lengths to keep the murderer a secret extended to shooting. First Assistant Director Kayse Goodell would go so far as to change scene descriptions to prevent other cast members from learning the true identity. “In the interrogation scene with Ryan that happens in Episode Seven, she literally just wrote the Ross family and Mare have a chat. She just didn’t put anything,” Winslet says.

Winslet also explains how the shooting schedule for the series meant she shot the important shed scene very early during filming and the monitor where she sees Ryan go into the shed was blank – the scene was added in post-production.

Winslet credits Brad Ingelsby’s writing and the community of characters he created for the show’s success. “It has all the usual suspects in it: It has the disgruntled mother, the naughty kid on the block, the irritating old couple, who always need taking care of and it has that world of friends and neighbors,” she says, all characters that viewers can relate to.

She also credits the show’s success on her fellow Emmy-nominated co-stars Evan Peters, Jean Smart and Julianne Nicholson. “[They] took those roles and made those characters completely their own and gave them a reality and a sense of purpose and belonging,” Winslet says.

Winslet, who served as an executive producer on the series, had to live with Detective Mare Sheehan longer than expected due to the pandemic shutting production down. But the challenge was in the character, a woman who is also mourning the suicide of her son.

“There were times when it was incredibly painful,” Winslet says. “I’m not going to lie. There were days when Julianne and I would have a very difficult scene. Or the actor who played Kevin (Cody Kostro) would be on set and because of the amount of trauma that I had created around Mare’s failed relationship with Kevin, I couldn’t even look Cody in the eye. I’d have to go and stand in a separate room because it would trigger something in me.”

As for working with Jean Smart, Winslet says they shared banter: “We had this verbal shorthand. Luckily, we both have a pretty punchy sense of humor. We could fling these caustic verbal grenades at one another, and then we would just fall about laughing.”

Also in this episode: Bowen Yang first joined the writing staff of “Saturday Night Live” in 2018, and was promoted to on-air for the show’s 45th season in 2019, becoming one of the first Asian American and openly gay cast members in the show’s history. Later that season, as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the show went remote. And this past season, even though it returned to Studio 8H, it was with a limited audience and with plenty of safety protocols.

And yet, Yang stood out for his portrayals of everything from Fran Lebowitz to the iceberg that struck the titanic. And he earned high marks for his bit on Weekend Update discussing the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes.

Yang is now nominated in the outstanding supporting comedy actor category, where he’s up against notables including his ‘SNL’ co-star, Kenan Thompson. Awards Circuit’s Michael Schneider recently spoke to Yang about his standout moments of the year, such as that Weekend Update bit, and what it was like working on “SNL” in such an unusual year.

Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast is hosted by Michael Schneider, Jazz Tangcay and Danielle Turchiano and is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in television. Each week during Emmy season, “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday.