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14 things you probably didn’t know about ‘Mare of Easttown’

Summary List PlacementWarning: This article contains "Mare of Easttown" spoilers through episode six.While "Mare of Easttown" is not based on a true story, it does take inspiration from the creator's real life. Since its premiere on HBO in April, "Mare of Easttown" viewers have been enthralled watching Detective Mare Sheehan (played by Kate Winslet) try to solve the murder of a young girl, Erin (Cailee Spaeny), and the disappearance of another, Katie (Caitlin Houlahan), all while grappling with her complicated personal life. In Easttown, where the story takes place, there's no shortage of secrets and virtually no one is left off...

Mare of Easttown Kate Winslet 1

Summary List Placement

Warning: This article contains “Mare of Easttown” spoilers through episode six.

While “Mare of Easttown” is not based on a true story, it does take inspiration from the creator’s real life.

Since its premiere on HBO in April, “Mare of Easttown” viewers have been enthralled watching Detective Mare Sheehan (played by Kate Winslet) try to solve the murder of a young girl, Erin (Cailee Spaeny), and the disappearance of another, Katie (Caitlin Houlahan), all while grappling with her complicated personal life.

In Easttown, where the story takes place, there’s no shortage of secrets and virtually no one is left off the list of suspects.

While there are plenty of TV dramas based on real crimes, “Mare of Easttown” isn’t one of them.

Creator and executive producer Brad Ingelsby told Town & Country Magazine in April that the show is not about a true crime story he was interested in. Rather, he said it is meant to tell the story of “a crime that felt like it could generate the most conflict within a small community.”

He said he drew inspiration for the town and its characters from his hometown of Easttown Township in Pennsylvania, where the show was also shot. Mare is based on a police officer friend who Ingelsby grew up with, the filmmaker said.

“Through my conversations with him, I became interested in this idea of a small station with a small group of officers and one detective,” Ingelsby told Town & Country about his childhood friend who inspired Winslet’s character.

He added: “Then I had the character of Mare, a woman who had been a hero as a teenager but whose community is now starting to turn against her. I was trying to figure out what the story around her could be.”

The show is Winslet’s first project as an executive producer.

While Winslet has spent several decades in front of the camera starring in critically-acclaimed movies such as “Titanic,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “The Reader,” Vanity Fair reported in April that “Mare of Easttown” marks Winslet’s first time working as an executive producer. 

Winslet says she feels more like Mare than “any of the characters I’ve ever played in any period films.”

Mare is a good detective who watches out for her friends, neighbors, and everyone else who lives in Easttown. 

She’s also a bit of a mess — at least when it comes to the way she dresses and presents herself to those around her.

For example, she’s vaping constantly, her hair could use just another minute or two of brushing each morning, and she wears the same outfit most days of the week.

But Winslet has argued that Mare’s lack of attention to her appearance is what makes the character relatable, adding that the detective is like most busy working moms (including Winslet herself). 

“Mare Sheehan is — she’s kind of disgusting,” Winslet told IndieWire in early May about Mare, who is a mother to a teenager and a grandmother to her late son’s toddler. 

“She’s a hot mess most of the time, she doesn’t give a s— what she looks like, she’s kind of stopped caring what people even think about her,” she continued.

Winslet added: “But listen, I’m much more like Mare Sheehan than any of the characters I’ve ever played in any period films. Newsflash: I don’t live like those people. I live much more like Mare.”

“Mare of Easttown” hairstylist Lawrence Davis told Insider that he was asked to essentially give all the characters bedhead.

There’s absolutely nothing on the show that distracts from the suspense of the plot — and that includes the purposely plain makeup, hair, and wardrobes of the characters.

Easttown residents never wear any designer clothes or ornate jewelry. Mare and her neighbors are trying to continue with their lives while working through the grief of having lost two young women — and they look it.

To that end, “Mare of Easttown” hairstylist Lawrence Davis previously told Insider reporter Zac Ntim that he was asked to give everyone “bed hair.”

“When I came on board, I was told bed hair for everyone. I was basically told that everybody has bed hair,” Lawrence told Ntim about the characters’ hairstyle. 

“Everybody was basically, you know, get up and go, and that was the whole feel of it. But I was basically told from day one: ‘Bed hair,’ and I had to ride with that,” he added.

The characters’ wardrobes, on the other hand, were partially inspired by real customers from the East Coast convenience-store chain Wawa.

In a behind-the-scenes video shared on the official HBO YouTube page, “Mare of Easttown” director Craig Zobel said that the show’s clothing was inspired by shoppers at Wawa. 

“We were dealing with costumes. Our costume designer would constantly be texting me pictures from the Wawa convenience store. Just of people in the line,” Zobel said in the video that also included short interviews with other filmmakers and some of the cast.

In the same video, Julianne Nicholson, who plays Mare’s best friend Lori, said that all of the clothes her character wore on the thriller felt “lived in” to her, like someone had worn them for days already.

“I think I had a Dave Matthews concert T-shirt and certain things that you won’t even see on camera,” Nicholson said about her character’s wardrobe. “But those little details for her, and for the actors, are important.”

Mare is seen vaping throughout “Mare of Easttown,” but director Craig Zobel told Insider there’s no nicotine in the vape Winslet uses while playing the character.

Mare’s vape pen is a constant in her life as she drives around Easttown trying to solve murders and disappearances. She’s seen taking long drags from the pen at crime scenes, during interrogations, and even when she’s socializing with friends (however rare that might be).

In fact, Mare is seen vaping so often, Saturday Night Live wrote that detail into their “Murdur Durdur” skit spoofing the HBO murder mystery, where Kate McKinnon plays a “grizzled lady detective” named Care, who is clearly modeled after Mare right down to the messy hair and casual wardrobe. 

Viewers have zeroed in on the vape as well — and they love it.

“‘Mare of Easttown just makes me want to vape and go to Wawa,'” one viewer tweeted.

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Mare of Easttown just makes me want to vape and go to Wawa

Taking Insider behind-the-scenes, Zobel said that the custom-made vape Winslet used in the show “just made the vapor, but didn’t have any sort of chemicals on it.”

“She just wasn’t getting any tobacco,” Zobel told Insider over the phone.

In a scene where another character throws a milk carton through Mare’s window, getting broken glass all over her, Zobel told Insider that the carton was actually filled with paint.

As so much of her job as a detective involves interrogating people, not everyone in Easttown is always happy with Mare. The fact that so many of the people Mare interrogates have grown up with her only complicates things. 

While trying to find out who killed Erin, Mare brings the current girlfriend of Erin’s ex-boyfriend’s, Brianna (played by Mackenzie Lansing), in for questioning at the police station.

Unfortunately, Mare and Brianna’s dad, Tony (played by Eric T. Miller), have known each other for almost 30 years. Mare doesn’t let that cloud her judgment when she’s questioning Brianna as a suspect, and later in the episode, an angry Tony accosts Mare at a gas station. He then proceeds to throw a gallon of milk through her window later that night. 

While chatting with Insider, Zobel revealed that the milk jug Tony uses to shatter Mare’s windowpane is actually filled with white paint, which gave it enough weight to break the glass.

“Patrick [Edward White], our special-effects foreman, designed a milk jug that actually had dried paint in it,” Zobel told Insider. “Then we just put a little tiny bit of milk in there above the dried paint, so that stuff kind of spilled out.”

Zobel also explained that while in the scene, you see Tony standing at a fair bit of distance from the house when he tosses the carton at the window, in reality, they used a ladder propped against the house when they filmed the scene and they also used a “special kind of breakaway glass.”

Zobel also told Insider that Jean Smart, who plays Mare’s mother Helen, got really into playing Fruit Ninja while shooting the thriller — just like her character.

When Mare is out on the town chasing criminals and making questionable decisions, Helen is responsible for a few moments of some much-needed lightheartedness in an otherwise dark thriller, like hiding ice cream in a bag of frozen vegetables, for example.

More than once, Helen is seen totally engrossed in playing Fruit Ninja, a mobile video game, in the living room. Zobel says it wasn’t all acting, and Smart actually took a genuine liking to the game while getting into character. 

“Not 100% sure if [Smart] ever played Fruit Ninja prior to the show, but she certainly took to it like really, really fast,” Zobel told Insider.

Winslet hid in the trunk of a car while Angourie Rice, who plays her daughter Siobhan, shot an intimate scene.

In the fourth episode of “Mare of Easttown,” Mare’s teenage daughter Siobhan (played by 19-year-old Angourie Rice) shares a kiss with her new girlfriend Anne Harris (played by Kiah McKirnan) in her car. 

Winslet told Vanity Fair in September that while Rice and Harris were filming the scene, she actually hid in the trunk of the car because she didn’t want the two young actresses to be alone with male crew members as they filmed the scene. 

“It didn’t require an intimacy coordinator either because it was just kissing and tenderness in the car,” Winslet told Vanity Fair’s Julie Miller. “But sometimes it’s very hard when you’re young to know how to have a conversation about intimacy in your own room, let alone in the workplace. So I said, ‘I will say the things that you can’t actually make your mouth say. Just tell me.'”

Winslet told Miller that she “screwed up in a little ball” while the cameras were rolling, adding that the two camera operators Rice and Harris were working with were “completely lovely.”

Rice separately told Insider in early May that it was very “helpful” having Winslet around while filming that particular scene in the car, where it was “very intimate” and “all the sounds are amplified.”

“Our two cameramen were delightful people. Really, really loved them,” Rice said about the shoot experience. “But it was nice to have her there to just, like, keep the energy up and to make sure that we’re all having a laugh.”

Rice added: “It was nice to kind of laugh about it because that made us less nervous.”

Winslet revealed that when she was a young girl, she had a crush on Guy Pearce, who plays Mare’s love interest on “Mare of Easttown.”

Pearce makes a brief but memorable appearance in the show, playing author Richard Ryan. Richard and Mare meet at the bar the same night that Erin is murdered. The two go on a few dates but ultimately the relationship doesn’t go very far because of the complicated circumstances in Mare’s personal and professional life. 

Winslet told Entertainment Tonight’s Rachel Smith in April that she had a “childhood crush” on Pearce, who got his start in the Australian soap “Neighbors” and has since appeared in critically-acclaimed movies like “The King’s Speech” and “The Hurt Locker.”

“He was in a show called ‘Neighbours,’ Winslet told ET’s Smith. “I was completely obsessed with him from the age of 11 years old to the point I would skip school so I could watch the midday edition as well as the repeat at 5:30.”

“It was that bad, and so when I did work with Guy in 2010 on ‘Mildred Pierce,’ I had to come clean about all of this,” she added about working with her childhood crush.

Winslet added: “I had to say, ‘Look, I’ve been in love with you since I was 11. And we share the same birthday, which I’ve also known since I was 11 years old.'”

Evan Peters drank apple cider vinegar to act drunk in a bar scene.

Until his shocking and unexpected death in the fifth episode of “Mare of Easttown,” which aired on May 16, Detective Colin Zabel (played by Evan Peters) helped Mare solve Erin’s murder and find out more about Katie’s whereabouts.

In a particularly memorable scene from the third episode, Colin and Mare bump into each other at a bar where Colin tells her about one of his past relationships in a drunken stupor.

When a “Mare of Easttown” viewer praised Peters as “the most convincing drunk in a show that I’ve EVER seen” on Twitter and asked if the actor was actually drunk during the shoot, director Craig Zobel responded that Peters was sober when they filmed the interaction between Colin and Mare.

“[Peters was] Sober, but drinking lil Dixie cups of apple cider vinegar every half hour or so from the on-set props master, to trigger sense memories,” Zobel explained.

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Sober, but drinking lil Dixie cups of apple cider vinegar every half hour or so from the on-set props master, to trigger sense memories. “Let me out down my bagel,” was an idea Evan had the night before and had me howling and crying in rehearsals, and I insisted we keep.

Zobel also revealed that Peters came up with a funny line that made it into that scene, about his detective character’s reaction to an ex-girlfriend breaking up with him during breakfast.

“‘Let me [put] down my bagel,’ was an idea Evan had the night before and had me howling and crying in rehearsals, and I insisted we keep,” Zobel wrote.

The cast and crew had shot less than half of the series when they had to stop filming because of the coronavirus pandemic — and it gave Winslet “Contagion” flashbacks.

Winslet told “The Envelope Podcast” earlier in May that they had to take a long break from filming because of the coronavirus pandemic, adding that the pandemic gave her flashbacks to her 2011 film “Contagion” where Winslet played an infectious diseases expert trying to contain the outbreak of a deadly airborne virus that causes respiratory diseases.

Zobel told Insider that when they resumed filming after the COVID-induced break from March to September 2020, it felt like they were back for a second season, adding that they had only shot “a little over a third” of the show when they had to shut down the production due to the pandemic. 

“Everyone had gone away and gotten to be with their family for a bit,” Zobel said about their hiatus. 

“Even though it was, in a lot of ways, a scary time, it really did bring us closer on set,” he added.

Phyllis Somerville, who played Mare’s neighbor Betty Carroll, died while the show’s production was on its coronavirus filming hiatus.

Somerville, who has appeared in movies and TV shows like “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” “Castle Rock,” and “Madame Secretary” in an acting career that spanned over 50 years, died in July 2020 at 76

One of Mare’s first interactions on the show is with Somerville’s character Betty when Betty calls the detective over because she’s afraid that someone has been spying on her from the street outside her house. 

Betty dies on the show after her car crashes into a pole in the fifth episode, but Zobel told Insider that the crash had nothing to do with Somerville’s death — the character was always meant to die midway through the series. 

“The first episode is actually dedicated to her as well,” Zobel told Insider about Somerville, adding that she had already filmed all her scenes for the series before she died.

The show’s creator, Brad Ingelsby, says he knew how he wanted to end the series even before he wrote the rest of the show.

Ingelsby told Collider on Monday that knowing the ending to the series before writing the rest of it actually helped him write the story of Mare and Easttown a certain way.

“If you know where it ends, then you can cheat some things and have the audience leaning here when they should be leaning there,” Ingelsby said about the ending. 

He added: “It was a learning experience, and I hope we’ve pulled it off. We’ll see what the viewers think.”

The show is certainly filled with twists, especially in Erin’s murder case where there are at least a dozen suspects spread out all over Easttown. 

On last Sunday’s sixth episode, Billy (played by Robbie Tann), an older male relative of Erin, is revealed as her killer — and also her baby’s father.

However, some viewers aren’t convinced Billy isn’t being set up or willingly taking the fall for the crime, given that there’s another episode left to go.

The “Mare of Easttown” finale airs this Sunday, May 30, at 10 p.m. ET on HBO.

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