Based on Kate Winslet’s track record with HBO, the announcement that she’s embarked on another pair of projects with the premium cable channel is a promising development.
HBO seems to bring out Winslet’s considerable best. Consider “Mare of Easttown” and “Mildred Pierce.”
She is slated to star in and executive-produce a new limited series titled “The Palace,’’ described in Variety as “the story of one year within the walls of the palace of an authoritarian regime as it begins to unravel.’’ (Hmm, sounds like a certain residence in Mar-a-Lago.)
Created by “Succession” executive producer Will Tracy, “The Palace” will be directed by Stephen Frears, whose own extensive track record includes “The Grifters,” “My Beautiful Laundrette,” “High Fidelity,” and “The Queen.” The writers’ room will be populated by a few interesting talents, including novelist Gary Shteyngart (”Absurdistan”) and playwright Sarah DeLappe, whose superb “The Wolves” was a 2017 Pulitzer Prize finalist and was produced at Lyric Stage Company of Boston three years ago.
Winslet is also going to star in and executive-produce “Trust,” a limited series now in development at HBO, based on Hernan Diaz’s just-published novel. According to Variety’s description of the series, “When a wealthy financier reads a novel based on his own life and is dissatisfied by his and his wife’s portrayal, he asks a secretary to ghostwrite his memoir and set the record straight. She, however, grows uncomfortably aware that he is rewriting history — and his wife’s place in it.”
Winslet’s film career has obviously gone just fine, but television has proven to be a nourishing artistic home for her as well, with HBO allowing her to further demonstrate her impressive range.
In the gritty “Mare of Easttown,’’ directed by Craig Zobel, Winslet was wholly believable as Mare Sheehan, a detective in a Pennsylvania town whose grim dual task was to solve the longtime disappearance of a local girl and investigate the recent murder of a teenage mother.
There was a weariness to Mare that went beyond fatigue to a deep soul-sickness. The detective had suffered a terrible loss, and Winslet beautifully captured the toll on Mare as she carried the weight of that loss through all her days and nights. (And to these Boston ears at least, the British Winslet seemed to nail the regional accent, that very funny “Saturday Night Live” parody “Murdur Durdur” notwithstanding.)
Winslet ended up winning an Emmy Award for her portrayal of Mare. A decade earlier, she also won an Emmy for an HBO project, playing the title role in the five-part miniseries “Mildred Pierce,” directed by Todd Haynes. For my money, Winslet’s performance is far superior to that of Joan Crawford in the soapy 1945 film of “Mildred Pierce,” based on James M. Cain’s novel.
Again, Winslet utterly disappeared into her character — in this case, a single California mother struggling to launch her own restaurant in the teeth of the Great Depression while coping with a monstrously selfish and snobbish daughter.
Speaking of actors who’ve had fruitful relationships with HBO, the daughter was played by none other than Evan Rachel Wood of ”Westworld.”