Great actors put a lot of work into bringing their characters to life that might not necessarily get noticed — and that’s the point. If they do a good enough job of embodying their characters, the efforts seem, well, effortless. Plenty of stars have gotten into amazing shape in order to bring a particularly fit character to the screen. Many stars also turn to extensive research in order to make sure they understand their characters when there’s a real-life counterpart — even if most of the details they learn never make it into the script.
Actors change their appearance, learn new information, and adapt their mannerisms to transform into a different person while they take on a role, and that includes changing the way they talk. Getting an accent right, however, can be a very tricky thing, and many who attempt to pick up a dialect that’s not their own will earn themselves some snickers from native speakers.
The reception of Kate Winslet‘s Delco accent in Mare of Easttown has been quite conflicted.
‘Mare of Easttown’ is undoubtedly Pennsylvanian
There’s no doubt about the fact that Mare of Easttown is fully immersed in its Pennsylvanian locale. Not only is the name of a real Pennsylvanian town in the title, but the show also shot on location, which is fairly rare for a series located out of a major filming city.
The Los Angeles Times spoke with Marc Heppe, chair of the real-life Easttown’s board of supervisors. He explained that locals are really proud of creator Brad Ingelsby’s success with the series and their adjacent part in it: “We have it posted as a banner on the township website. The director, Brad Ingelsby, hosted a special meeting at our library. I would say that folks here are equally happy for him and his production.”
Even though the show is named for Easttown and partially shot in the real-life town (as well as in surrounding small towns), it’s not meant to fully represent reality. As Ingelsby told Philadelphia Magazine, the fictional Easttown is “an amalgam of some of the towns in the area.”
What was more important than capturing the specific details of one small town was capturing the general culture of the area as a whole, and Ingelsby did so in multiple ways. While the fictional portrayal of Easttown is more “blue collar” than the real-life one, Ingelsby set out to capture a particular Pennsylvanian lifestyle.
Food and speech patterns helped define ‘Mare of Easttown’ aesthetic
One way that Ingelsby captured the heart of Pennsylvanian culture was through the food. The characters are frequently chowing down on authentic Philly-area fare such as hoagies from Wawa. Another major aspect that helps demonstrate the show’s authenticity is the speech patterns of the characters.
Winslet plays protagonist Mare, and she got into character from head to toe. Part of that required wearing a sloppy wardrobe that helped demonstrate Mare’s lack of care for how others viewed her. Another part of it was slipping into Mare’s accent.
Mare’s accent is supposed to be rooted in the Delco language variant (which stands for Delaware County). Winslet was born and raised in England, but she’s taken on American accents before. This one, however, was a real challenge. “This accent drove me crazy! There are varying degrees of it,” the actor explained. She worked with a dialect coach in an effort to get it right.
Real-life Easttown citizens are torn about the accent
Winslet certainly hits the accent hard, and it has even become a running gag that showed up on an SNL sketch parodying the series. As Kate McKinnon’s Winslet-like character slurs her words together to the point of unintelligibility, the poke at Winslet’s efforts is clear.
Evan Peters, another star of the series, also worked hard to get his accent right, and when the pandemic shut down filming, he had to work extra hard to not lose the work he’d done while he waited to wrap up filming. He explained to Variety that he listened to a clip of a man named Steve Baylor to practice it over and over.
Did the actors’ hard work pay off? Obviously, some people are poking fun at it, and not all locals are convinced they got it right, but the prop master grew up in the area, and her daughter overheard a local dental assistant talking about how realistic the series was. Even if the stars didn’t get the accent exactly right, they certainly showcased sincere effort at capturing the heart of Delco.