One of the best performances of the season comes from Evan Peters in Mare of Easttown. We have come to know Peters as the go-for-broke presence in the Ryan Murphy universe–he’s played everything from a psychopathic Trump supporter to a man afflicted with lobster claws for hands–but here his versatility is on full display. He isn’t shaking off that intense persona but adding another complex shade. His Detective Colin Zabel is the exact person who can test and learn from Kate Winslet’s conflicted heroine.
Colin Zabel is a fish out of water when he joins a new case with Winslet’s Mare. A weaker show would’ve had Colin butting heads with Mare or letting them fall into the sack for a cheap thrill, but these writers and actors are too smart for that. What on the surface appears to be a prestige cop procedural is actually a weathered, beautiful character piece. These relationships are so tethered to one another that the dangerous pull they have towards one another can lead to these characters’ individual salvations.
We fell in love with Colin because we all know what it’s like to be stuck. Coming off a failed relationship, he enters a new world with a new partner and his personal life is in shambles. What Peters does so flawlessly is show how the struggle doesn’t have to wear you down. He is desperate to get out of his mother’s house and rekindle his own personal passions, but he would never let you see that. Peters is riveting and the adoration we feel for him is undeniably earned.
Awards Daily: People were losing it when they saw what happened to your character. What was that reaction like for you?
Evan Peters: That’s more than I could have ever hoped for. We wanted his death to be such a shock and I am incredibly grateful that the surprise wasn’t spoiled. People ended up liking Colin so much but it exceeded expectations. It was fantastic to have that strong of a reaction. It was what we were hoping for.
AD: You’ve played a lot of extreme characters, but the writing on Mare on Easttown is so rich. Did you approach it a different way?
EP: We all really wanted to make something very grounded. If you come from a small town, you know the energy is a lot more toned down than it is in a big city. We did a lot of research to make sure we were doing all the detective scenes correctly and the detectives on site would walk us through what would actually happen. I did some ride-alongs, too.
AD: Oh, that’s cool.
EP: Yeah. We wanted to make sure that what we put on screen was actually authentic.
AD: I was so glad that Craig Zobel directed the entire thing. Sometimes with limited series you have multiple directors. It’s still great but having one large vision had to be helpful.
EP: Yeah, that definitely established a tone so we could reference things in previous episodes.
AD: You bring a boyishness to Colin that I didn’t expect. It’s very earnest and not like something we usually see in a standard procedural, so that felt different, too. It’s very pure.
EP: Absolutely. It’s funny you say that because that was just really a lot of me. I was so stoked to be working with Kate Winslet in an HBO crime drama. I was so geeked and thrilled to work there and just be there. I was a little starstruck so I wanted to incorporate that a little bit into the performance when Colin sees Mare. She is such a pistol and such a great detective, so Colin was always trying to break through on that level. Just doing that honestly and earnestly was something I wanted to get right, too.
AD: I mean, I would freak out every time I saw Kate Winslet walking towards.
EP: It’s pretty hard to keep your cool. Originally the character was going to be a lot cockier, but I felt disingenuous doing that. I felt strange doing it and I didn’t think it would lend well to that shocking moment.
AD: Hearing you say that reminds me of that scene where you interview James McArdle’s character and Colin is by himself. His interview style is different—he’s harder and there’s an edge to you. .
EP: Thanks, yeah.
AD: Watching Colin learn from Mare was an interesting aspect, so what do you think he learned as a cop from watching her go through this town that she knows like the back of her hand?
EP: One thing I always wanted to incorporate was that Colin was more by the book. He is trying to perform things like from a textbook. I read a book that had a bunch of literal steps that you take when you get on a crime scene, and I thought about that any time we did a scene set there. And then you have Mare who comes in and goes with her gut and she is really in the moment. She tries to figure it all out based on what she knows. I think that’s what Colin learns about life from her. It’s not just about being a cop. He can really take away something from Mare. It’s more about him trying to figure out how to be in the moment because that’s what makes you a good detective, and hopefully, leads to a good life. He realizes that she’s in this grey area that’s kind of dangerous.
AD: What do you think Colin worries about most when it comes to asking Mare out?
EP: That she would say no! (laughs) I think rejection is the hardest thing, especially when you’re on shaky ground. He’s living with his mom and I imagine he’s watching a Netflix crime show with her. He’s probably wondering what has happened to his life and he’s trying to get out of that hole. Mare is the light at the end of the tunnel to get him out of his head. She is the key to that. He is really hoping and praying that she will say yes.
AD: You have this great moment where Mare is waiting for you outside and Colin is filling up a coffee tumbler and his mom is questioning it all again. I can tell how desperately he wants to get out of there.
EP: Yeah, his mom is breathing down his neck. And he is kind of hoping that even though they are working on the case…maybe she will come back around. Maybe she is doubting her decision. You know that feeling when you like someone and they don’t necessarily reciprocate it. Like, fine I’ll hang out with you anyway.
AD: That weird tension.
AD: You have this heartbreaking line when you are drunk at the reunion and he tells Mare, “Here’s who I thought I should be and this is what it actually is.” Is Colin constantly thinking about that?
EP: Yeah. I had that feeling and I feel like a lot of people do. You have this plan and then life takes so many different turns. Sometimes it gets so thrown off course and it eats away at you. Colin probably thought that he was going to be something entirely different. Then there’s the breakup with his ex-wife and she’s moving on. He’s living with his mom. You really want to help him out. When you’re in the thick of it, it’s really rough.
Mare of Easttown is streaming now on HBO Max.