“Mare of Easttown” creator Brad Ingelsby can’t believe the overwhelming response to the limited series. It shattered ratings records for HBO when it aired weekly this spring. Not surprisingly there is already talk of a follow-up. Ingelsby was delighted to see the buzz building every week. “We saw an audience get wrapped up in the mystery and begin to put out their theories. Having a weekly drop was so helpful where you spend time with the mystery and get to know the characters in a deeper way. I am grateful HBO has this model.”
“Mare of Easttown” is set in a fictionalized version of Ingelsby’s hometown, Berwyn, PA. Viewers spent seven weeks guessing the identity of the killer of a teen mother before detective Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) cracked the case in the thrilling finale. Every episode added more pieces to the puzzle. Ingelsby readily admits he felt the pressure. “The tightrope we had to walk in the editing was that you couldn’t hide the killer too much so when you got to the ending you were saying ‘Who’s that’ so you had to plant enough crumbs along the way so that you got to know the person and when the reveal happened there was an emotional connection.” Be warned: Spoilers ahead
For Ingelsby, who was lauded for his feature film scripts “Out of the Furnace” and “The Way Back,” any story begins with the main character. He was inspired to create Mare Sheehan, who had a fleeting moment of glory as a high school athlete, by a long-time friend. The screenwriter still can’t believe Kate Winslet said yes after reading just the first two episodes. Ingelsby crafted an arc for Mare that sees her finally break free from the burdens that come with losing a child to suicide. The catalyst is her arrest of the teenage son of her best friend, Lori Ross (Julianne Nicholson) for the murder.
Ingelsby succinctly describes “Mare of Easttown” as a “family drama with a murder mystery.” He deftly combined comedic elements with the dramatic unfolding of the investigation. He is particularly pleased with the interplay between Mare and both her mother Helen (Jean Smart) and the partner that has been foisted upon her, detective Colin Zabel (Evan Peters). Much of that was added during filming. “I’d like to think that when someone has a better idea, I can hear it. Evan had so many good ideas in terms of his character that we said, ‘Go ahead and do it.’ And the same can be said for all the women on the show. I had Kate and Jean and Julianne tell me if a line wasn’t registering. It is all about being a good listener.”
The pandemic caused an unexpected break in the production. The resumption of filming under COVID-19 restrictions necessitated a revamping of the script. Gone were set pieces with hordes of extras, replaced by more intimate scenes between the principal characters. For Ingelsby, meeting this challenge was exhilarating and added to the richness of the show.
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