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Kate Winslet Pushes Her Characters, and Herself, to the Edge

Kate Winslet Pushes Her Characters, and Herself, to the Edge

Like many of her characters, Winslet considers herself a survivor: She survived two public divorces, and she survived the paparazzi, packs of men who chased her in cars or staked out her house. (When she was a new mother, she would put on a hat and sunglasses, hand her baby over a wall to the next-door neighbor, climb over the wall herself, then take the baby through the backyard gate and get on a city bus, where, she swears, no one ever recognized her.)

It’s clear that some of the strength Winslet projects — her nothing-stops-me attitude on set — is a defense she built up, by necessity, years ago. “I was already experiencing huge amounts of judgment, persecution, all this bullying,” she said. “People can call me fat. They can call me what they want. But they certainly cannot say that I complained and I behaved badly. Over my dead body.” To object, especially for young women, was to risk a ruined reputation. “I would not have known how to do that without people in power turning around and saying, ‘Oh, Jesus Christ, you know, her again, that complainer,’” Winslet said. “I would rather suffer in silence than ever let that happen to me, even still today.”

To Winslet, as a mother, it’s a particular horror that the public body-shaming once reserved for celebrities is now a trial that any young woman with a phone might go through. For British television, she recently made an improvised film, “I Am Ruth,” with her daughter, Mia Threapleton, about a mother trying to understand the unraveling of her teenager; behind the closed door of her bedroom, amid the privacy of the world of her phone, Threapleton’s character is enduring bullying on social media in response to revealing images she has posted of herself. With “I Am Ruth,” Winslet became an Everymom, opening her up to interactions of a different kind. “I’ll go to the grocery store, I’ll go anywhere, like walking down the street, and people will stop me,” she said. A parking attendant put her hand on Winslet’s arm and started to weep; Winslet knew intuitively it was about “I Am Ruth.”

In her roles, and in her own life, Winslet has moved, sure-footed, from the role of ingénue to the role of the fierce protector. Roybal described Winslet as an advocate for the crew on “Mare of Easttown,” someone who would personally call the executives if she felt there was some inequity on their part. While shooting “Mare,” Winslet sat in the trunk of a car where the then-19-year-old Angourie Rice would be filming a kissing scene, so Winslet — a safe, big-sister figure — could personally pass on notes from the director coming in through a radio.

By the time she filmed “Mare,” Winslet had decades worth of emotional experiences she could readily access. “In the beginning,” she said, “I would rummage around my emotional toolbox and pull out something that had actually happened to me. But that stopped working for me at a certain point. I don’t know why. As you get older, you live more life; you have more real experiences that you add to the emotional toolbox without realizing that you’re doing it. And so sometimes, as you get older, quite honestly, emotions are easier to access because they just simmer below the surface all the time — because there’s just so damn many of them.” Winslet’s scripts are heavily covered in notes laying out the emotional marks she would need to hit.


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