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Episode three finds Mare of Easttown‘s eponymous detective at an early stage of her investigation into the death of local teen Erin McMenamin (Cailee Spaeny).
When Mare receives a tip that her ex-husband, Frank Sheehan (David Denman), now engaged to Faye, may be the father of Erin’s baby, she immediately goes to confront him, upending a peaceful family game night.
“[This scene is] servicing the needs of the procedural in this moment and also the needs of the family drama,” says creator Brad Ingelsby. “It was a great opportunity to have an emotional scene where you could understand what’s happened to the family unit after Kevin’s death and how each of them is trying to deal with it or not [deal] with it.”
Mare’s confrontational approach to both working and parenting is on full display at the top of the scene. “[She’s] unable to hold back, just always a bull in a china shop, first one through the door type,” says Ingelsby. “She sort of isn’t aware that Faye’s son Patrick has come to visit,” setting the stage for a tense, explosive argument.
“Like a lot of the details in the show — the beers, the T-shirts, the music” — the characters’ regional Pennsylvanian dialect was written into the script to further the impression of an authentic and highly specific locale, Ingelsby notes, adding: “I really wanted there to be a distinct sense of this dialect in each of these [scenes], especially argument scenes where maybe you’re able to [hear] the dialect more than in just a casual conversation.”
Before filming this scene, Ingelsby had conversations with the actors about what the past two years had been like for their characters. It was important to share an understanding of each family member’s grieving process “so that when you get to this place, the dialogue is authentic, and yet it has some level of history to it,” he says. “The audience [needs to] believe [that] what’s coming out in this scene has been on their minds for a long time.”
“There were a number of versions of the scene where we didn’t have [Frank and Mare’s daughter] Siobhan [Angourie Rice] as vocal, but we knew that the end of [her and Mare’s] relationship was an embrace,” says Ingelsby. “To get [them] to a good place, we had to start them in a really awful place.” To illustrate how Siobhan is often caught in the middle of her parents’ arguments, “the scene is actually staged so that she’s right in the middle of them in the doorway as they’re going at each other.”
In the close-knit community of Easttown, someone is always eavesdropping — in this case, it’s Mare’s mother, Helen (Jean Smart), and best friend Lori (Julianne Nicholson). Their presence in the background speaks to the characters’ relationships while providing some comic relief. “There’s so much heaviness in the show [that] you’re always looking for some opportunities to cut it with some levity,” Ingelsby says. “Because life is like that too, right? You’re laughing and crying, and sometimes those things are happening within moments of each other.”
After Mare humiliates Frank in front of his family, he gets the last word with a devastating reference to their son, Kevin, who died two years before the events of the show. “You get sort of a gut punch — it’s like the wind’s been knocked out of her in that moment,” says Ingelsby. “It tells the audience a lot about how she’s handled this, which is that she’s chosen not to talk about it or deal with it in any way.”
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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