SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Sacrament,” the series finale of “Mare of Easttown.”
HBO’s “Mare of Easttown” almost did not end with Mare (Kate Winslet) finally ascending into the attic, where her son died by suicide.
“We said, Does it feel like we’re doing two endings? Do we really need Mare going in the attic?” Winslet recalled during a live Instagram Q&A hosted by the network and moderated by Variety‘s senior artisans editor, Jazz Tangcay, on Tuesday.
Winslet, who executive produces the seven-part limited series in addition to starring in it, said she had conversations with creator Brad Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel about whether or not the show should just end at the powerful moment between her character and Lori (Julianne Nicholson). The team decided to shoot the scene and determine whether they would use it or not when they were in post. Ultimately, they used it.
Winslet called that final moment one of grief and tragedy with which she hopes the audience connected: “There is a universally shared complicated set of emotions that come hand-in-hand with what it feels like to be someone who’s left behind, grieving that loss, and you can’t start confronting grief until the time is right,” she said. “That time might come right away or it could come two years later. At that moment — Mare going up into the attic — all I could hope was that people would come with her, in a way. That is for me what that moment is, and I think it is the beginning of her facing what she hasn’t been able to face.”
Winslet also discussed the lengths to which the crew went to keep the secret that Erin’s killer was Ryan Ross (Cameron Mann), which included not telling everyone on set the details of every scene. Moments such as Mr. Carroll Patrick McDade) telling Mare his gun was stolen from his shed the night Erin was murdered and the interrogation of Ryan were “cryptic” in their descriptions, she said. “That moment was described differently on our schedule so that our immediate crew wouldn’t know.”
Working on a project with such a big reveal was something the Academy Award-winning performer said was “a huge amount of pressure. I’ve never been part of something where the huge reveal and great big twist is so important, and I was just terrified someone was going to let it slip.”
What helped was that she and co-star Nicholson share a personal history, and Nicholson’s husband, actor Jonathan Cake, is also godfather to Winslet’s son Joe. “I held her son before he was even 24-hours-old, so we have this kind of emotional canvas that was already within us coming to play these characters.”
She admitted that history made her feel worried for Nicholson in shooting the key scene in which Mare came to Lori’s house, aware that Ryan was now the prime suspect in the case.
“I felt instinctively worried about her because I knew how painful that scene with her and Ryan inside of the house was for her and was going to be,” she explains. “I allowed myself to go into the real emotion of that moment. We’d already been filming at that point for several months so we were very embedded in these characters by that point in our story.”
Similarly complicated was Mann’s role in portraying a teenager who was so distraught over what he thought would be the dissolution of his family that he stole a gun and confronted another teenager with it. Winslet had nothing but praise for Mann, calling attention to his warm and gently quality, which she believes lent themselves to the role. “He took all of that on with incredible humility, composure and grace. He was really concerned to make sure that he knew all of his lines about interrogations,” she said.
Since the production had to shut down for a few months when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, there were large gaps in the work Winslet performed alongside Mann. The scene in which Ryan is put in a police car was shot back in November 2019, one of the very first scenes they shot together, but the interrogation scene was not filmed until production resumed in 2020, after the pandemic-induced hiatus.
Since the journey to bring “Mare of Easttown” to life was longer than first expected, Winslet has lived with her character — and her character’s accent — for so much time she now isn’t sure how she’ll shake it.
“I don’t know how I’m going to get it out,” she said of the Delco accent. “I’ve got to get it out somehow. I’m sure I’m not going to be doing a Delco dialect again anytime soon so I need to get rid of it.”
Watch the full video below.