Life in Easttown, Pennsylvania might appear peaceful on the surface but underneath its small town, working class topography lies a web of dangerous and very dark secrets. In HBO’s new whodunit, Mare of Easttown, everyone seems to have something to hide.
The seven-episode limited series comes from creator, writer, showrunner and executive producer Brad Ingelsby (The Way Back) and will premiere on April 18. The story is set against a small, blue-collar town representative of a hardworking and struggling America. In Easttown, you may think you know your neighbors but nothing is as it seems.
Kate Winslet (HBO’s Mildred Pierce) absolutely mesmerizes as traumatized, rough-around-the edges detective, Mare Sheehan. Her life is upended when a local young woman is murdered and other women seem to vanish into thin air.
Ingelsby, who is also known for his recent film Our Friend, starring Dakota Johnson and Casey Affleck, explained in a recent interview that this series is an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.
“I had this idea about this character and she’s a cop in a small town. I was really interested in telling her story and I built this world around her,” explains Ingelsby. “What I was trying to do here is tell the story of this woman who hasn’t dealt with her grief. She’s just not been able to confront this trauma in her life, which is the death of her son. She’s haunted by what she considers to be her failure as a mother. She’s just not going to confront it and is instead going to completely throw herself into these cases with these missing girls.”
Ingelsby definitely doesn’t make things easy for Mare. “We wanted to make it hard for her because she has to confront this thing. She has to go through something really hard and she must confront what’s haunting her and go through this journey to come out the other side.”
After writing the first two scripts, he had a conversation with his agents and was asked about Winslet for the role. “I said count me in if you think she’ll read it. As soon as her name was mentioned, I knew she was perfect.”
At the time, he adds, Winslet was looking for a role that would be different from anything she’d done before. “She told me she’d never held a gun in any part she’s done. She was looking for a challenge and wanted to play a character who was completely unlike her. Sometimes it’s just the right place at the right time and we got Kate at the right time.”
Winslet truly melts into this character and Ingelsby says he was immediately able to buy her as this woman. “I was just completely in awe of her performance.”
When asked what he thinks makes a great crime drama, Ingelsby says there are certain things he looks for. “You have to have the whodunit element and keep your audience guessing but it has to pay off well. You cannot cheat viewers. You want them to really connect in a deeply emotional way so when the reveal occurs, they really do care about these people. It has to be a ripple effect that tears through the viewer and it has to be emotionally compelling and suspenseful.”
He definitely nailed it with this story and despite her many flaws, we want Mare to find peace and forgive herself. “She does some terrible things to those closest to her but we are always on her side because there’s a certain empathy to her. She’s so kind to those in her community and this kindness, this beating heart inside of her, makes us root for her even when she does bad things. Also, she’s resilient as hell and you have to admire someone who gets knocked down time and again and always gets back up. That’s a very admirable quality.”
This cast also includes Guy Pearce, Jean Smart, Julianne Nicholson, Angourie Rice, Cailee Spaeny, David Denman and Evan Peters. Craig Zobel (HBO’s The Leftovers) directs all episodes.
When asked if there is any hope of a second season and a new case for Mare, Ingelsby briefly pauses. “I love Mare as a character. I’d be in if the opportunity presented itself to spend another season with her.”