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Angourie Rice on Kate Winslet, Guessing the Killer, and Spider-Man

From creator Brad Ingelsby and director Craig Zobel, the seven-episode HBO limited series Mare of Easttown follows small-town Pennsylvania detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet, who’s also an executive producer on the project), as she investigates a grisly local murder that threatens to tear the community apart. At the same time, Mare’s own family life is a mess, which is starting to bleed into her career in a way that will lead to unavoidable consequences.

During a 1-on-1 interview with Collider, Aussie actress Angourie Rice (who plays Mare’s daughter Siobhan, a teenager trying to form a life of her own) talked about how nervous she was to join the project, getting to improvise with co-stars Winslet and Jean Smart, how Winslet went above and beyond in helping her shoot an intimate scene, what she loves about Siobhan, the accent, and why they made her wait to read the final scripts. She also talked about her experience on the current Spider-Man films, where she plays Betty Brant, and why it’s important to keep everything top secret.

Collider: What’s it like for you to work on a project where you have Kate Winslet as your mother and Jean Smart as your grandmother? Do you have to take a moment, over how surreal that is?

ANGOURIE RICE: Yeah, definitely. I was so nervous coming into the project. I didn’t expect to be cast, first of all. I just thought it was gone. I didn’t think they’d cast me. I was so surprised and overjoyed. I was so interested in the project because I knew Kate was attached. It’s funny, we did a roundtable with all of the actors and everyone was like, “Oh, yeah, I signed on because of Kate.” We all knew it was gonna be brilliant because Kate was gonna be playing this character and we knew she could pull it off. And as you can see in the show, she totally does. She was definitely what drew me to the project initially, and then reading the script, I was like, “Wow, I can see her playing this. I can see the world. I can see how they’re gonna create it.” Definitely, there were many, many pinch me moments, in the lead up to filming. Once I got there, I was like, “Okay, let’s do this. I’m excited. I’m nervous, but I’m excited.”

You said that you didn’t think you’d get the role. Why is that? Is it just because they didn’t tell you for a long time, or are you always like that?


Image via HBO

RICE: I’m always like that. I’m always like, “There’s no way I’m gonna get this.” I had missed out on roles in a similar vein before. Siobhan is a bit darker and edgier than characters I’ve played before. Also, when I auditioned Spider-Man: Far From Home had just come out, and I play very preppy, goodie two shoes Betty in that film, and I had played similar girl next door characters before. I just didn’t think they were gonna cast me as Siobhan or give me a shot, but I was overjoyed that they did because I really connected with her. I really connected with her story and felt that I had a lot to give her, and I really wanted to be a part of the project, so I was really overjoyed that they offered me the job.

What was it like to shoot the family scenes in the house? Both Kate Winslet and Jean Smart told me about getting to improvise a bit in some of those moments. Did you get in on any of that yourself?

RICE: If they took the lead, then yes. The great thing about improvisation is that, if one person does it, you have to respond straight away and think of a response. That’s was a really fun challenge, as an actor. When you’re in that world, it’s just having a lot of fun. It’s really great to watch it back and to see those little moments that were improvised that did make it in. I think that really gives it a bit of authenticity, as well. The way that the show is written, watching it back, there are some moments where I’m like, “That could have been a rewrite, or that could have been improv on the day, or that could have originally been in the script.” The way that Brad [Ingelsby] wrote the dialogue, it’s so natural and it feels on the spur of the moment, even if it’s not. Those moments of improvisation really blend into the world.

You’ve previously talked about how Kate hung around on set to help you through an intimate scene that you had to shoot. How did that come about? Did you guys talk about that ahead of time? Did you know that was going to happen, or did she just suddenly appear there?

RICE: She had wrapped for the day. She had a scene before ours that had wrapped and she was like, “I’m just gonna hang around.” We talked about it beforehand and she said, “I’m just gonna make sure you guys are okay and that everything’s running smoothly and that you’re feeling comfortable.” It was really lovely. The scene was in a car, so she hopped in the trunk of the car, which was really nice. Usually, direction is broadcast over the walkie talkie, but she was like, “I’ll just hop in the car. I’ll like help you out from there. I’ll be the go-between, between you and the director, who’s outside of the car.” It was really great because it meant that we could all have a laugh about it and everyone felt more comfortable. Laughing about something makes everyone feel a lot more at ease.


Image via HBO

Because Siobhan is the most together person in this family, people do tend to assume she’s okay rather than actually asking how she’s doing. It was especially interesting to see the moment with her father, where he even makes a point to say that to her. So, how is she doing?

RICE: That’s something we talked a lot about in pre-production, how it’s a given that Siobhan is okay. It’s because, for a long time, her parents have been dealing with other stuff and they don’t have the mental capacity to deal with the possibility of her not being okay. They’re dealing with so much other stuff in their lives. Mare clearly has got so much going on, as you see in the show. It’s one thing off her to-do list, if Siobhan is fine. Siobhan has always felt that pressure to just be okay and sort everything out. She’s essentially a part-time caretaker for this 4-year-old boy and that’s a big responsibility, as well as high school and homework and her band. What I really loved about her character is that she’s found a way to process the grief and she’s found a way to understand that. What I really loved about Brad’s writing is that, even though she’s found a way to process it, that doesn’t mean that her healing process is perfect and that she’s totally fine, all the time. The show, as a whole, is an exploration of grief and how different people understand it and how community understands it. The show has some really dark points and Siobhan has some really dark points, but there’s also a lot of lightness. It’s very nuanced. There’s light and shade. That’s what I really love about how Siobhan deals with anything in her life. She’s a complex being. She doesn’t have to feel one thing about something forever. She can change her mind and she can feel contradicting feelings and still be valid, if that makes sense.

It’s also one of the really interesting ways that mental illness is handled in the show. We see how, even if you’re not the person who’s directly diagnosed, it still affects you.

RICE: Yeah. Talking about the characters and what Siobhan’s upbringing would have been like, that was very present in how they would have functioned as a family, what led to the fracturing of their family, how they dealt with that together, and what the timeline of that was like. Now, Siobhan takes a lot of that responsibility on, and that might still be a carry over from growing up and it being taken for granted that she’s okay. She’s still the go-between with her parents, and even with her mom and her grandmother. She’s very much the peacemaker. She’s taken that role on.

How did you find the accent for this? How challenging was that for you to get it right and do you put a lot of pressure on yourself with that kind of thing?


Image via HBO

RICE: Yes, I put a lot of pressure on myself for everything. The accent was very, very nerve-wracking. I didn’t wanna mess it up. My accent is probably the lightest in the show, which in some ways was easier, but in some ways it was harder because with something so light or so subtle, you don’t wanna accidentally slip out of it. A lot of it, for me, was bringing the placement of my voice down a bit because Australian accents are so hideous. It’s very up in your nose, whereas Siobhan wouldn’t talk like that. Because I’m talking to Americans now, I tone it down a bit, but around my friends, it’s horrible. With Siobhan, it was about picking out certain words that we wanted to emphasize in the Delco accent, and then also bringing vocal placement down into the chest. That was what we worked on. It was easier that everyone else was in that accent world, as well. We were all working hard on it, so that made it easier.

Because this show is solving a crime, there are twists and turns and they are shocking moments. Was the mystery of it all kept a secret from you until you had to know, or did the cast know the whole story from the beginning?

RICE: I didn’t know the whole story before we started shooting. I had read all of the scripts. But in the pre-production process, before I got to the States, they were still sending me the script to read through. I was offered the job and they were sending me the scripts, but they wouldn’t send me the last episodes until I had guessed. They gave me the episodes up until a certain point, and then they made me guess what happens. That was pretty mean of them, but it was fun to keep the mystery alive for me, as well. I was getting ready to shoot this show and still reading the episodes, one by one, and not sitting down and binge -reading them all. I like how the episodes are coming out, one by one, like the olden days of television again.

You must be used to at least a little bit of secrecy, doing Spider-Man movies. What’s it like to deal with the height of everything being top secret?

RICE: The way that like Marvel protects the story is beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s so secret. Shooting Spider-Man was like getting to go to a really cool theme park, but you couldn’t tell anyone because it’s the world’s most secret theme park. That was tricky. The good thing about the second film was that I had my mother and my sister there with me, the whole time, so they were in on it and I could talk to them about anything because they were there. They are super secretive about everything. After being a part of it and seeing how people speculate from photos online and single lines in previous films, the fans of Marvel do some really great guesswork, for sure, so I understand.

Is it fun, in a situation like that, where it is so secretive and you’re in this bubble where you can’t tell anybody anything outside of that bubble, that you get to have the band back together each time, and you keep returning to the character with the same group of people there?


Image via HBO

RICE: Yeah. I grew up on Spider-Man, not in the sense of growing up reading the comics, but I was 15 when I signed up to do the first one and by time this last one comes out, I’m gonna be almost 21. It happened during very formative years in my life. I’m a very different person now than I was at 15, although maybe some people would beg to differ. But I feel like my life has changed so much since I was 15. In my mind, Betty growing up, Betty getting ready to graduate, and Betty getting her first boyfriend and going to school dances and traveling overseas, that happened in my life, at the same time. Betty and me, our trajectories are very parallel, in terms of how we grew up. That community and that story will always be a huge part of my life and my adolescence.

Mare of Easttown airs on Sunday nights on HBO.

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