Philly’s a tough town. If there’s a quintessential story about the City of Brotherly Love, it’s this one: in 2015, when Canadian researchers developed a child-sized hitchhiking robot with a big smile and yellow wellies, the hitchbot made it across Europe and halfway down the east coast of the United States, offering friendly small talk to anyone it encountered. Then it got to Philadelphia, where it was promptly torn limb from limb and left in an alley.
Residents have pelted Santa with snowballs and hurled batteries and beer at their own quarterback. They flip cars and set things on fire even when they win the Super Bowl and World Series. The unloved cousin of Boston and New York is often overlooked by Hollywood. The accent is so tricky to replicate, most actors won’t go near it. (Even Rocky didn’t even have a proper Philly twang.) So it’s funny, then, that it took a Brit with an elegant voice, creamy complexion and sunny outlook to parachute into the Philly burbs and totally nail the look, feel, sound and salty attitude of the denizens of Delaware County, or Delco, as it’s known.
Kate Winslet gets emotional talking about the end of her Sky Atlantic series, Mare of Easttown, which scored its own Saturday Night Live skit and found a fan in the self-described Philly girl in the White House, Jill Biden. (“You don’t screw around with a Philly girl,” Joe Biden said of his wife last year, after she blocked an anti-dairy activist who bum-rushed him at a campaign stop.)
Winslet has said, in the past, that it’s hard for an actor to tell what will wow audiences while you’re shooting, that sometimes you think you’re doing great work and then it turns out to be “a limp biscuit”. Mare Sheehan is anything but a limp biscuit. The police detective exists in a cloud of vape smoke, trysts, flannel, Rolling Rock and Jameson shots – “a very hot grandma”, as Guy Pearce’s character calls her, sparring with a mother (Jean Smart) who loves drinking Manhattans.
Winslet said that she has been bowled over by the way audiences have fallen “in love with this wildly flawed, messy, broken, fragmented, difficult woman. I loved her marks and her scars and her faults and her flaws and the fact that she has no off switch, no stop button. She just knows ‘Go’.
“Not only did I have to hide myself in the character completely, but I had to hide this story, carry the secret,” she says. “I kept it hidden since 2018, when I first read the scripts. My job was to take them on this horrendous journey and hope to God that they’d be prepared to come into the attic with me at the end. It has been agony, agony, agony. You can see I’m still, like…” She sounds as if she might cry, something she would never let Mare do, then pulls herself together and lets fly one of her frequent, merry F-bombs. “I can’t deal with it. It’s ridiculous.”
THE SHOW IS a murder mystery with many motifs: grief, the American opioid crisis, small-town life. Winslet, a mother of three, sees it from this perspective: “It’s about mothers protecting their children at all costs, and the lengths that a parent will go to in order to protect their children,” she says. About the finale’s twist ending, she adds, “Oh God, it’s just unbelievable, it’s heartbreaking.”
Underneath Mare’s facade, she says, “is a woman who is so entrenched in grief for her son that she has not processed, and as she shares it, as she talks about it with a therapist, she will crack. She doesn’t want affection. She doesn’t want to be loved. And she doesn’t want to be cared for, because if she has to experience those things it makes her feel vulnerable, and if she feels vulnerable then she can’t be strong any more, and she can’t carry on.”
Winslet is known for what one producer calls an “insane work ethic”. She prepares elaborate back stories for her characters, and she says she prepped more for Mare than for any other role in her life. (But she is not Daniel Day-Winslet: she is said to be fun once the shooting wraps for the day.)
She is Zooming in from her house on the south coast of England, curled up with bare feet, her blond mane looking much glossier than Mare’s. She’s wearing an old white Calypso T-shirt, a couple of gold necklaces and some black Sweaty Betty pants.
The actor often saves something from her sets, and she shifts her camera to show off the sign from the Easttown police station she has hung on a wall. She kept Mare’s jacket and badge, too. She has been harking back to her breakout role as another strong, but more upper crust, Philly girl: Rose DeWitt Bukater. “It’s like Titanic again,” she says, chuckling. “I’m on the side of buses again! It’s like going back in time 24 years where I’m walking down the street and people are nudging and pointing and whispering again.” When the actor was on a bike ride in England recently, a woman ran up to stroke her arm and offer all her theories about whodunit.
Winslet says she knows people are saying, “Oh my God, how can she let herself look so unglamorous?” When Craig Zobel, the director, assured her he would cut “a bulgy bit of belly” in her sex scene with Guy Pearce, she told him, “Don’t you dare!” She also sent the show’s promo poster back twice because it was too retouched. “They were, like, ‘Kate, really, you can’t,’ and I’m, like, ‘Guys, I know how many lines I have by the side of my eye. Please put them all back.’”
She says she baulked when she saw an early cut in which her ordinarily luminous skin looked too good. “We tried to light it to make it look not nice,” she says. “Listen, I hope that in playing Mare as a middle-aged woman – I will be 46 in October – I guess that’s why people have connected with this character in the way that they have done, because there are clearly no filters. She’s a fully functioning, flawed woman with a body and a face that moves in a way that is synonymous with her age and her life and where she comes from. I think we’re starved of that a bit.
“In episode one, she’s having sex on a couch. I said to my husband, ‘Am I okay with that? Is it all right that I’m playing a middle-aged woman who is a grandmother who does really make a habit of having one-night stands?’ He’s, like, ‘Kate, it’s great. Let her do it.’”
In moments of doubt she tortured herself and her assistant director, wondering about other actors – “three real people were haunting my mind. I will not name them” – who might have done a better job. The show’s costume designer did recon in Wawa convenience stores, finding inspiration for Mare’s flannel, inexpensive T-shirts, Ocean City sweatshirts and “bad jeans”, as Winslet says.
“Whenever we’d find something unflattering,” Winslet recalls, “we’d be jumping up and down like, ‘Yes! We’re wearing this.’”
She would leave her clothes in a crumpled pile on the floor of her trailer after filming, “and they would stay in a rumpled-up ball overnight. We were not washing and drying and hanging those clothes. Never.” They filled in her shapely eyebrows to give her face a heavier look, and left the sunspots and imperfections. “We’re so used to seeing this stuff airbrushed away,” she says. She wanted Mare to reflect the burdens she carried, a physical and emotional heftiness. She borrowed a Peloton exercise bike to work out at night, to make her thighs more muscular. “There’s a sloppiness to her, and there’s a looseness to how she sits and how she walks and just how she holds herself,” Winslet says. “Her body posture is totally different to mine. I actually stand quite upright.”
In one peak-Mare scene, she comes home and scarfs down a cheesesteak that her mother has got her, without taking off her jacket, still clutching her police files. “This is so clearly a woman who does not cook, doesn’t care about what she puts into her mouth, also probably forgets to eat, so that when she does eat, she’s so starving she doesn’t even care what it is that she’s shovelling in,” she says.
Winslet’s father, Roger, also an actor, helped inform this bit. “My dad actually reminds me quite a lot of Mare, to be honest. He was slightly the inspiration,” she says. “He basically moves like Mare and eats like Mare. Well, he does eat with his mouth full. We do tell him all the time, ‘Dad!’ He’s going to be so mad I just said that.”
AND YET WINSLET, a vegetarian, could get into character only so much. She sheepishly confesses to a Philly sacrilege: the show’s hoagie rolls contained no meat and, most shockingly, no onions. “I felt really, really bad, because I know onions are a very important part of a hoagie,” she says, “but because we had so many hours of filming scenes with all of this food, it basically wasn’t fair on the crew to have all this stinky onion food on our tiny set all day long.” (She says she was aware of the existence of scrapple but did not try it.)
Even with the counterfeit hoagies, locals are thrilled with Winslet’s metamorphosis. They have even named a hoagie after Mare. Shawn McCreesh, who works with me at the New York Times and grew up, like the first lady, in a nearby town very similar to Easttown, spotted someone he recognised from back home on the show. Patsy Meck, who plays the woman working the desk at the police station, says that Winslet was “genuinely who you would want her to be – she was so real”. Meck, whose three grandchildren were extras on the show, says it was amazing to see Winslet “walk off set, sit down and talk to me in a deep British accent, then pop right back on set and start talking like the rest of us”.
Winslet says she had to change the way the muscles in her face moved – often in freezing weather – in order to emulate Philly’s midatlantic dialect, with its selectively elongated vowels and smushed consonants. “Look, when you’ve done Polish-Armenian and German,” she says, referring to her accents in Steve Jobs and her Oscar-winning turn as a Nazi in The Reader, “frankly, I thought, Delaware County, oh, it’ll be fine: the vowel sounds a little bit different, but it’ll be fine. Honestly, it was just so hard.”
Still, mastering the sound wasn’t the hardest part. Stepping into the shoes of a mother raising a child with severe mental-health issues, as Mare did, was. (Mare’s son, Kevin, had struggled with depression and addiction before taking his own life.) Winslet met parents who had been through it all, and worked with a grief counsellor.
“There’s that moment,” she recalls, “when the therapist says to Mare, ‘Did he frighten you?’ and she just says, ‘Sometimes.’ A huge admission for Mare to even say out loud, ‘My son scared me.’ Of course, you see it in that flashback when Carrie and Kevin take Mare’s money for drugs in the bathroom.” She says the detective strives to fix everything else because she could not fix Kevin.
In order to truly understand the opioid epidemic, how its many tendrils can wrap around a place like Easttown, she went to what Philadelphians call “the badlands” – the north Philly neighbourhood of Kensington and its open-air drug markets. “We would go in an undercovery type of car and just drive around a lot,” she says.
“I remember seeing – and actually it broke my heart – a man with the most beautiful face and a beard. You could see there was a soul right there. He had been amputated from the knee down on his right leg, and he was injecting into the toes of the other foot.
“People are fighting for their sliver of life there. I would see people in these teeny-tiny houses, and they would be not just sweeping their front stoop but sweeping the pavement and the guttering in front of their home. Sometimes, for some people, that’s as much as they can do to keep their pride, to keep a feeling of something that is theirs and that is intact.”
What did the dark heart of the United States’ opioid crisis look like to a Brit? “I have to be honest,” she says, “I was really staggered that there aren’t more of those support networks in place to help with people. In this country we do definitely have better support networks for people in crises like that, we absolutely do.”
WINSLET HAS BEEN KNOWN to warn young actors on a set not to confuse social-media fame with the hard work of acting. “I have certainly heard, twice, of certain actors being cast in roles because they have more followers,” she says. “I’ve actually heard people say, ‘She’s not who we wanted to cast, but she has more followers.’ I almost don’t know what to say. It’s so sad and so extraordinarily wrong. I think the danger is not just for young actors but younger people in general now. I think it makes you less present in your real life. Everyone is constantly taking photographs of their food and photographing themselves with filters.”
She leans her face close to the camera, and notes her lack of filters, with an expletive. “What worries me is that faces are beautiful. Faces that change, that move, are beautiful faces, but we’ve stopped learning how to love those faces because we keep covering them up with filters now, because of social media, and anyone can Photoshop themselves, and airbrush themselves, and so they do. In general, I would say I feel for this generation, because I don’t see it stopping, I don’t see or feel it changing, and that just makes me sad, because I hope that they aren’t missing out on being present in real life and not reaching for unattainable ideals.”
The actor is so famous for disrobing in movies that her IMDb profile says her trademark is her “voluptuous figure”. But she says nude scenes may be in her past. “I think my days are getting a little bit numbered of doing nudity,” she says. “I’m just not that comfortable doing it any more. It’s not even really an age thing, actually. There comes a point where people are going to go, ‘Oh, here she goes again.’” She jokes that it’s not fair to camera operators to have to work to get the best angles as her body changes.
Winslet has a daughter, Mia, who is 20, with her first husband, Jim Threapleton, a director whom she met on the set of Hideous Kinky. She has a son, Joe, who is 17, with Sam Mendes, her second husband. And she also has a son, Bear, who is seven, with her current husband, who has gone back to his original name, Edward Abel Smith, from his playful pseudonym, Ned Rocknroll.
“He added ‘Winslet’ as one of his middle names, just simply because the children have Winslet,” the actor says. “When we’re all travelling together, to all have that name on the passport makes life easier.” (Bear’s middle name is Blaze, after the fire that Kate and Ned escaped that burned down the British Virgin Islands home of Richard Branson, her husband’s uncle.)
“He’s the superhot, superhuman, stay-at-home dad,” she says of her husband, as she smiles happily. “He looks after us, especially me. I said to him earlier, like, ‘Neddy, could you do something for me?’ He just went, ‘Anything.’” She swoons, noting that his long hair now gives him the look of “an ocean warrior”.
She breaks into song, crooning that they go together like “shama lama ding dong”. “He is an absolutely extraordinary life partner,” she says. “I’m so, so, so lucky. For a man who is severely dyslexic, as he is, he’s great at testing me on lines. It’s so hard for him to read out loud, but he still does it.”
She adds that “he didn’t particularly plan on meeting and marrying a woman who is in the public eye and therefore having been so judged”. She finds it amusing that, instead of being rock’n’roll, he’s very Zen. “He’s vegan, does yoga, breath work and cold-water swims.”
Winslet grew up in Reading, west of London, in a modest house and worked slicing ham in a deli when she was young. “I came from a small community not dissimilar to Easttown in the sense that there were paper-thin walls,” she says. “You could hear the neighbours rowing through the wall. You could hear the verbal grenades that were being hurled at one another.”
She says her father had called to tell her he loved an episode of Mare, then added his usual caution: “But you know, babes, don’t rest on your laurels. You’re only as good as your last gig.”
Confirm or deny
Maureen Dowd: Bob Iger approached you about making Titanic II for Disney+.
Kate Winslet: No, never did, and I never would.
You pocketed a few things before you jumped ship from the set of Titanic.
People stole the White Star Line cups and saucers. I was good. I did take a pair of Rose’s earrings, but somewhere I lost one.
Like Mare, you have a gloriously filthy mouth in real life.
(Laughs.) True, yes.
You can’t stop reading about Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez.
What? No! I’ve never read about Jennifer in my life. What are these questions?
Hideous Kinky was neither hideous nor kinky.
I don’t even know how to answer these questions.
You keep your Oscar on the back of your toilet.
I don’t actually know where the Oscar is at the moment. I think it’s possibly in my son’s bedroom. But it was on the back of the toilet for a long time, yes.
You lived in New York for 10 years and never once went to Philly.
You’ve incorporated the Philly slang word “jawn” into your vocabulary.
John, as in a man’s name?
This role is the first time you held a gun, and you didn’t like it.
In John Turturro’s Romance & Cigarettes, you simulated sex with James Gandolfini bouncing on an exercise ball.
I had ripped all the ligaments on the left side of my foot. I’m nursing my son. As I’m bouncing on that ball, I’m actually bouncing using one foot with my leg in the cast, improvising at three o’clock in the morning. We were in hysterics. Oh, God, I loved Jimmy Gandolfini so much. He was just so wonderful, so insecure and just so honest.
Guy Pearce washes cans in the dishwasher before he puts them in the recycling can.
All Health Service Executive (HSE) staff, including those working in administrative roles, should get a financial bonus for the work done during the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.
“I want to see something done, yes, I absolutely really do. I think our healthcare teams have been incredible. We are still fighting the fight, but I definitely want to see some form of recognition for the extraordinary work that they have all put in,” he said.
Speaking after a visit to the HSE’s Limerick Covid-19 vaccination centre at Limerick Racecourse, Patrickswell, Mr Donnelly said: “We need to listen to the frustrations that they have.
“We do need to acknowledge that for nurses, doctors, allied health professionals, administrators – for everyone who has worked in the HSE over the last year and a half – that they’ve had an incredibly difficult time.
“I think they represent the very best of us and they have stepped up to the plate,” he said. “When the rest of us were told to stay at home to keep ourselves safe, they went into the hospitals, and into the Limerick hospital to keep other people safe, and we need to recognise that.”
The arrival of the Delta variant has been delayed by the use of some of the “strongest” lockdown measures in the European Union, but foreign travel now is adding to case numbers.
“We are seeing spikes in some parts of the country. There are cases linked to [international] travel, we know that. Most of the cases we are tracking are Irish people going abroad and coming home,” he said.
Some people travelled without a vaccination, or before their vaccinations had time to work. “They shouldn’t have done that. Some of them have come back and they have contracted Covid, but we will take care of them, we’ll make sure they get the care they need,” he said.
In “certain cases”, people have received a second dose of vaccine within 17 days of their first jab, as opposed to the previous advice of four weeks, and this may happen more generally, he said.
A HSE spokeswoman later said “For operational reasons and due to the pace of the rollout we are in a position to offer the second dose after 17 days in some cases. Second doses within this widow are clinically safe and effective.”
On the vaccination programme, the Minister said: “There aren’t that many people who would have thought just a few months ago that, in July, we would be vaccinating 16-year-olds.”
There will be no immediate change to rules around attendance at funerals, Masses, Confirmations or Communions, while the closure of indoor summer camps is being kept under review.
“More than half of the total population is now very well protected against the coronavirus and thus the highly contagious Delta variant thanks to the full immunisation,” Health Minister Wolfgang Mückstein said on Thursday afternoon.
Burgenland has the highest percentage of vaccinated people with 66.1 percent, followed by Carinthia (55.7 percent) and Salzburg (55.2 percent).
The lowest percentage is in Upper Austria, where 54.9 percent of the population is vaccinated.
Kleinmürbisch in the Güssing district has the highest percentage of vaccinated people in Austria, with just under 80 percent of people vaccinated.
The village however only has 230 residents.
“But we are still a long way from reaching our destination,” warned the minister.
About the author: For lovers of Russian culture, folklore, and history, Kotar’s work is a treasure. The grandson of White Russian immigrants, the 34-year-old is an author of epic fantasy novels inspired by Russian fairy tales. You can see his four books here on Amazon.
He is also a deacon of the Russian Orthodox Church, a professional translator, and choir director at the Holy Trinity Monastery in Jordanville, NY, where he lives. Here is his bio from his blog, where he writes about many aspects of Russia. We highly recommend following it and subscribing to his email list to get exclusive material.
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Stereotypes are a funny thing. On the one hand, they’re often no more than caricatures. On the other hand, there’s a surprising amount of bitter truth to some of them. Like the Russians say with their morbid humor, “In every joke, there’s a bit of a joke.”
This is especially interesting when we consider old Rus. We don’t have much to go on, historically speaking, other than chronicles, treaties, and a few bits of birch bark.
However, Russians have preserved some interesting stereotypes about the inhabitants of old Russian cities. Whether there’s any truth to them or not is almost beside the point. They’re fascinating, revealing a window to a world long gone, yet still persisting in the habits and personalities of today’s Russians. (Here’s the original Russian article that I translated)
EVERYONE IN GREAT NOVGOROD IS A REBEL
Novgorod’s rebelliousness is legendary. The image of a brawling Novgorodian is almost a calling card of the city. The reason this stereotype came about has to do with the old chronicles. They were filled with illustrations of the constant arguments at the Novgorodian Veche, a kind of popular assembly that met in the central square. (See my translation of “Martha the Mayoress” for a vivid fictionalized example).
Of course, there were arguments and even fights during the Veche. However, they did not constantly devolve into fist-fights, as the legends suggest. Naturally, the chroniclers would choose the most vivid and bloody examples from history to illustrate their point. After all, Novgorod was often an opponent of Kiev and, later, Moscow. But in actual fact, the inhabitants of Great Novgorod were fiercely loyal to their government and loved their city. Compromise was the order of the day, not broken heads. Plus, they were more than usually literate.
EVERYONE IN PSKOV IS A THIEF OR A MORON
Even in modern times, Pskovians have had to endure countless jokes about their crudeness, stupidity, and their lack of good manners. This may or may not be true. As for their lack of manners, that is entirely a matter of hats. The inhabitants of Pskov, no matter what their social standing, hardly ever doffed their cap before anyone (which is extremely bad form in old Rus). However, this wasn’t crudity or bad breeding.
The painful topic of Russian alcoholism became especially relevant in Nizhni Novgorod at the end of the 17th century. A kind of epidemic of alcoholism rose up, and it was normal to see women as well as men lying in the streets in a drunken stupor. Foreign travelers recounted after their visits to Nizhni Novgorod that “Russians don’t do anything but feast.”
Of course, they did more than feast. But on holidays, Russians have always allowed themselves some excesses. It’s not entirely fair to single out Nizhni Novgorod, when alcoholism still is the gravest problem facing Russia today, as in olden times.
EVERYONE IN VLADIMIR IS A CRIMINAL
This stereotype appeared very early. It’s easy to understand. Vladimir itself had five prisons, including the famous “Vladimir Central Prison.” From the beginning, Vladimirians have been considered con artists who like a dangerous life. It didn’t help that the path to Siberia for exiled convicts went through Vladimir. It was even called the “Vladimirka.”
Exiled convicts stopped in Vladimir to have half their heads shaved (a scene vividly recounted in the excellent Russian film The Siberian Barber). Then they’d be branded as exiles or thieves, clapped in irons, and set upon the road to Siberia. In old times, the path could take as long as two years, and those two years were not counted as part of their allotted time.
Vladimir itself, for all that, was a typical enough provincial town.
EVERYONE IN ROSTOV IS AN ARTISAN
When a Russian hears the word “finift’” (enameling), he immediately thinks of Rostov. Nothing could change the old stereotype that every inhabitant of ancient Rostov worked in the enameling guild. That’s complete nonsense, of course. First of all, the best enamellists in old Rus were as a rule in Kiev, the capital city. There were also some famous artisans in Pskov, Yaroslavl, Kostroma, and Great Novgorod.
The only difference is that Rostov alone has preserved the traditional techniques of enameling since ancient times. Even today, there is a factory producing enameled work. Perhaps for this reason alone, tourists still visit Rostov exclusively to see enameled boxes.
THE INDUSTRIOUS YARSOLAVIAN
The industrious muzhik from Yaroslavl is an image that we even find in Gogol. From the times of Rus, Yaroslavians were known as people who were never apathetic, lazy, or prone to tiredness. Instead, they’re known to be active to a manic degree. This may have something to do with the odd tradition that Yaroslav is a city of buried treasure.
Apparently, wherever you turn, you see someone uncovering a jewelry box or trying to break into an ancient chest of drawers. Perhaps a little more seriously, Yaroslavians have long been known as “chicks of the cuckoo.” In other words, they’re more than usually capable of leaving their homeland without much regret. This quality has a clear historical origin.
Yaroslav was built on the crossroads of ancient roads—a path used by merchants from Scandinavia all the way to the Arab lands. From the middle of the 16th century, Yarsolavl became the most important center for trade in all of Rus. This constant movement often inspired young Yaroslavians to try out their luck in foreign lands.
True or not, such stereotypes make for fascinating stories. For myself, the “myth” of the boisterous Novgorodian comes to life in my third novel, The Heart of the World, in a semi-fictionalized setting of the Veche that goes fabulously wrong for all concerned.