If you perpetually mispronounced “Downton Abbey” as “Downtown Abbey,” you only have a few months to master the pronunciation of HBO’s new limited series, “Mare of Easttown” — that’s mare, like a horse, not mayor, like Ted Danson plays on “Mr. Mayor.”
During WarnerMedia’s TCA presentation on Wednesday morning, HBO announced its seven-part series starring Kate Winslet will premiere Sunday, April 18 at 10 p.m. ET. Each episode will also be available to stream on HBO Max. (But you knew that much already, right?)
Winslet, who’s also executive producing for the first time in her storied career, plays Mare Sheehan, a detective living in the titular Pennsylvania town who’s tasked with investigating a local murder under trying personal circumstances. HBO’s official synopsis dubs “Mare of Easttown” (you’ve got it now!) “an exploration into the dark side of a close community and an authentic examination of how family and past tragedies can define our present.”
Speaking in a virtual panel alongside writer Brad Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel, Winslet said getting into this character coming off of “Ammonite” was a challenge, particularly learning the Delaware County accent.
“It was up there with the hardest accents I’ve ever done, in the top three for sure,” Winslet said. “It’s one of only two dialects in my life that made me throw things — that and the dialogue that they made me do in the movie about Steve Jobs.”
“The Delaware County accent is known as one of the more difficult accents, and Kate did a great job,” Zobel said, before Ingelsby — whose wife grew up in the area — seconded her accomplishment.
“The thing that was hardest for me was to do it well enough that you don’t really hear it. […] That’s what’s important to me: to make it disappear and blend in,” Winslet said.
Winslet said she spent several months working with local Pennsylvania police departments, including those in the real county of Easttown, PA, just outside of Philadelphia.
“We wanted to capture what it really means to be a detective in that town,” she said. “If anything felt fake or phony, we’d ask [the consultants] to tell us.”
Still, Winslet said she couldn’t cut it as a real-life investigator.
“I’d be a fucking lousy detective,” she said. “I’d be very good at the coffee and the after [work] beers. […] But I don’t think I have the mental stamina that is required.”
The series marks a reunion on multiple fronts. Winslet’s first TV role in a decade brings her back to HBO, after 2011’s award-winning limited series “Mildred Pierce.” Winslet won an Emmy and her third Golden Globe for Todd Haynes’ magnificent adaptation, which won four more Emmy Awards. One of those went to co-star Guy Pearce, who joins Winslet again for “Mare of Easttown,” playing Richard Ryan, a local creative writing professor.
The rest of “Mare’s” cast includes Julianne Nicholson as Lori Ross, Mare’s best friend since childhood; Jean Smart as Helen, Mare’s mother; Angourie Rice as Siobhan Sheehan, Mare’s teenage daughter; Evan Peters as Detective Colin Zabel, the county detective called in to assist with Mare’s investigation; Guy Pearce as Richard Ryan, a local creative writing professor; Cailee Spaeny as Erin McMenamin, an isolated teen living with her volatile father; David Denman as Frank Sheehan, Mare’s ex-husband; John Douglas Thompson as Chief Carter, Mare’s boss at the Easttown Police Department; Patrick Murney as Kenny McMenamin, Erin’s father; James McArdle as Deacon Mark Burton; Sosie Bacon as Carrie Layden, Drew’s mother and Kevin’s ex-girlfriend; Joe Tippett as John Ross, Lori’s husband and high school sweetheart; and Neal Huff as Mare’s cousin, Father Dan Hastings.
Many of the cast members have worked on HBO series in the past, from Nicholson’s recent turn on “The Outsider” and Jean Smart’s on “Watchmen,” to Sosie Bacon on “Here and Now” and Neal Huff in “The Wire.” Also returning to the network is director Craig Zobel. Though his more recent work includes the 2020 horror-satire feature film, “The Hunt,” as well as directing all 10 episodes of CBS All Access’ short-lived original series, “One Dollar,” Zobel is perhaps even more beloved for his trifecta of perfect episodes on “The Leftovers: He directed Season 2’s “Lens,” featuring an all-time stare-down between Regina King and Carrie Coon, the groundbreaking “International Assassin,” and the series’ trippy, bloody penultimate entry, “The Most Powerful Man in the World (And His Identical Twin Brother).”
Last and certainly not least, “Mare of Easttown” reunites writer Brad Ingelsby with his director of “The Way Back,” Gavin O’Connor. Ingelsby wrote the feature script for Ben Affleck’s 2020 Oscar contender, and while O’Connor is only executive producing “Mare of Easttown,” Ingelsby created the series and wrote all seven episodes.
We’ll see if all this shared history results in a new title worth remembering when “Mare of Easttown” premieres April 18. Check out the first-look photos below.
Michele K. Short / HBO
Sarah Shatz / HBO
Sarah Shatz / HBO
Michele K. Short / HBO