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Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s action-thriller Kate was just released on Netflix. But in a new interview, the actor says she was exhausted when she approached the role just after completing Birds of Prey. Here’s what she had to say about training, doing back-to-back action films, and what really wore her out. 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead shot two action films back-to-back 

Mary Elizabeth Winstead with long earrings.
Mary Elizabeth Winstead | Paul Archuleta/Getty Images for Film Independent

Mary Elizabeth Winstead’s journey to the title role of Netflix’s newest hit action-thriller Kate wasn’t easy. In the film, Winstead is an assassin with only 24 hours left to live. It’s caught on like wildfire, and as of September 11, 2021, it’s the number one movie streaming on Netflix in the U.S. 

That’s no small feat. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Winstead admits as much. She accepted the role in April of 2019, just after wrapping production on Birds of Prey, in which she played Huntress. By September of 2019, she was already shooting Kate, another incredibly physical role. 

The actor pointed to long, difficult takes as the source of her post-Birds of Prey exhaustion 

“I was really tired after Birds of Prey,” the new mom told THR. “Just the way that that film was shot was pretty taxing because there were really long takes.” Winstead said that the way director Cathy Yan handled shooting the movie didn’t leave a lot of room for breaks.  

“Most action movies break it up into pieces, and just the way that Cathy directed it, she wanted these beautiful, long, cinematic, no-cuts kind of movements,” Winstead explained. “And that looked really cool, but it was really hard to pull off. So I was coming off of that, and I remember meeting with Cedric [Nicolas-Troyan], and just going, ‘Okay, but can we have some edits in this? Because I don’t know if I can do just one long take anymore.’ So he was just really lovely and really assured me that we would do it how I needed to do it and that it would be okay. And by the time we got there, I was so ready to go again. I was ready to do whatever needed to be done.“

Mary Elizabeth Winstead said her training from Birds of Prey actually helped her 

Exhaustion from Birds of Prey notwithstanding, Winstead said it actually worked both ways — the relatively recent training for the movie was still there when she began shooting Kate. So while back-to-back action flicks aren’t relaxing, it makes a certain amount of sense to do it that way. 

She told THR that it “was perfect because all of the training for Birds of Prey was still alive somewhere in my body, so I didn’t have to do as much training for Kate as I otherwise would have. All of the basic training was already done.” 

And it’s not as though Winstead hasn’t been exposed to athleticism in the past. According to The List, she was a trained ballet dancer growing up, but turned to acting when being “sized up with measuring tape” turned her off it. 

She pivoted to acting instead, and after steadily escalating roles ranging from NBC soap opera Passions to Disney’s Sky High, she was a recognizable actor with solid credentials. The rest is history. 

And so it turns out it was a mere measuring tape that stood between Mary Elizabeth Winstead and her career as a global action star. The genre certainly wouldn’t have been the same without her.