‘Mare of Easttown’s’ Evan Peters on that emotional drunk bar scene with Kate Winslet
After eight seasons on the lurid FX anthology series “American Horror Story,” Evan Peters longed for some time away from the Satan worshipper-cult leader-deranged frat boy roles. Enter county detective Colin Zabel on the HBO crime drama “Mare of Easttown”: He still lives with his mother, thinks of zucchini as an exotic food and, once assigned to solve a murder with Det. Sgt. Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet), is enamored with her even though, at first, she clearly doesn’t think much of him.
“I wanted to play someone more grounded in reality,” says Peters of the part that has drawn some of the best reviews of his career. “I’ve played a lot of fantastical, supernatural characters. This was a challenge, something I was looking to do.”
Whether you’re a newcomer or a committed fan, our week-by-week guide to HBO’s crime drama will help you understand all things “Mare.”
Zabel is earnest and dependable, if just beginning to figure himself out. What was your way into this affable beacon of wholesomeness?
I grew up in a small suburb outside of [St. Louis]. I understood the dynamics of the characters, the way everybody interacted. I always say that St. Louis, it’s all about the people. Everybody there is so nice and friendly, and nuanced, very interesting and real. I think we made him a little bit more bumbling than we originally set out to. I was always tripping on things, dropping things. You know he’s not as good of a detective as Mare is. He’s just a little bit behind the curve. Not totally. Just a little bit.
What did you learn about policing from your preproduction prep?
When we first got out to the Marple Township, I did a ride-along. It consisted of helping to unlock someone’s car, then a 16-year-old was driving with her mother and she accidentally sideswiped someone’s side view mirror, and then, I believe, there was a lost St. Bernard at one point. [laughs] I thought, “Small town. Small town police.”
You scored lots of points for realism in the bar scene where a drunk Colin approaches Mare.
I always say I’ve done a lot of research over the years. [laughs]
Did you ever think you’d generate widespread internet love for acting wasted while cycling through many different emotions?
No. In fact, I thought I failed miserably on that scene. At the end of it, I was so disheartened and depressed. Sad. I thought I didn’t get it. I was like, “Oh, my God. I failed.” The irony is not lost [on me] that people like that scene so much.
I read you were swilling shots of apple cider vinegar. Why that?
Sometimes they give you water [as your drink]. It’s so wrong. Alcohol is such a horrendous taste. It just kind of came to me. I was trying to think of something that tastes strong, pungent, astringent. Acidic. [Vinegar] can be pretty awful, but it also has a nice taste as well.
Locals also praised the authenticity of your Upper Darby accent.
We had a wonderful dialect coach, Susanne Sulby, on this show. And we shot in Philly. So we were able to hear it all around us, which was great.
I also had a recording of this guy named Steve. It was about 20 minutes long and I’d listen to it every morning. He’s talking about his [chrysanthemums], his job and his wife. His brother, Pete. I felt like I really knew this guy. When the pandemic hit, we [shut down] until September. I thought, “Oh, my God. I have to keep listening to Steve talk about the mums he planted?” So I didn’t listen to it every day — just a couple of times a week.
Why not request that Steve make a new tape?
I probably should have. A little update on the family. “How was Thanksgiving?” “Where did you end up hosting it?”
So while shooting on “Mare” you were also playing a fake Pietro Maximoff in “WandaVision”?
It was crazy. I was shooting in Philly, they’d fly me to Atlanta, then fly me back to Philly. To stay in the sitcom era for “WandaVision,” I’d watch “Full House” and “Malcolm in the Middle.” Then I’d get back to Philly, eat the food and watch “The First 48.” It was weird, but I had to compartmentalize.
Talk about your and Kate Winslet’s now legendary visit to the Wawa convenience store.
They’ve got great coffee, hot food, chips, they got all of it. Most importantly, they have this [hoagie] around Thanksgiving called the Gobbler. It has all of the Thanksgiving accouterments. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy. You don’t even need to cook Thanksgiving dinner. You can just [eat] the Gobbler.
Even though Mare’s initially not very welcoming, Colin likes her. Why?
I think he liked a lot about her. Her strength and her impressiveness as a detective created this admiration and respect. It was that mixed with this very confident, strong woman. She didn’t have all of her s— together but was carrying on and getting through it. There’s something very attractive about resilience. Especially that she hasn’t been able to solve this case and she’s putting everything into it. Also, it’s Kate Winslet. She’s beautiful. That doesn’t hurt.
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