Christine Bleiler’s name flashes by so fast in the credits of HBO’s Mare of Easttown, you’d need a quick finger on the pause button to catch it. But thanks to Kate Winslet, the Oscar winner who plays small-town police detective Mare Sheehan, Bleiler’s name is getting out there.
Winslet’s been talking up the Chester County detective to reporters for months, calling Bleiler her “go-to person” to help her nail police jargon and procedure for the seven-episode murder mystery, which was largely filmed in Delaware and Chester Counties.
Bleiler is credited as one of the show’s police technical advisers, along with Marple Township Police Sgt. Pete Baylor and Easttown Police Chief David Obzud. She drew on more than five years as a Chester County detective as well as her earlier experience as a police officer for nearly a dozen years in the Chester County borough of Oxford to help Winslet and Mare creator Brad Ingelsby with the law enforcement aspects of the story.
We spoke with Bleiler about the time Winslet visited her at work, finally hearing her own accent on TV, and why you won’t be seeing Mare Sheehan wearing yoga pants on the job.
This interview has been edited and condensed, and may contain mild spoilers for previous episodes of Mare of Easttown, which will premiere the fifth of its seven episodes at 10 p.m. Sunday.
So did you see “Saturday Night Live’s” “Mare of Easttown” parody “Murdur Durdur”?
I did. Ultimate compliment, right, when SNL spoofs you? I had about 10 people text it to me [Sunday] morning. … It’s funny. It’s actually pretty well done for SNL.
Kate Winslet told me she used to call you up with questions at 5 a.m. True?
It was probably about 6 [but] yes, that’s true. I would probably be just getting out of the shower, getting ready for work. I remember one day I was drying my hair, I think, when the phone rang and it was Kate. But, yeah, she would call me in the morning, she would call me at night [about] scenes that she was going to shoot, lines that she wanted to reword, just general questions, like how would you act when you go into this type of situation? What would your demeanor be like? She would want me to say lines so she could, I guess, hear the voice, the inflection.
I got the impression that while she worked with other people on the accent, you might have influenced that a little, too.
Yeah, I think a little bit, but I think I heard her say that mine was a little too strong. I never heard it till now. I never thought I sounded different. Now it’s on a show. And I’m like, “Oh, God, that’s how I sound. Oh, man.”
I told her, “You’re so eloquent. You have an accent. I don’t have an accent.”
Did she ever come to your office?
She came for about half a day. I showed her my desk and where we work, where we do the interviews. Gave her a little tour of the different units. We were going over some lines and some scenes that were going to be coming up. She recorded our conversations, I guess to preserve what we were talking about as far as the scene.
She also went with me to the training campus [on another day] and we worked on how you would hold your weapon and how you would run and hold your weapon, clearing rooms, doorways, [using] handcuffs.
So what’s it like to have Kate Winslet visit you at work?
When she told me she wanted to come here, I was like, I don’t know. I work in the Justice Center, there are a lot of people coming in and out of this building. And criminals [are among them]. She insisted. I told my lieutenant at that time, he couldn’t believe it. He said, “All right, she’s your responsibility. Get her in and get her out, keep it quiet.”
I’ll never forget, I walked out the front door, and I hear, “Christine!” and I’m like, oh, freaking God. And I looked and she’s coming down the street, arms wide open, like yelling my name. And I’m like, “Shh. Please don’t draw attention to you.”
She’s like, “Oh, it’s fine. I can go anywhere. Most people don’t know me.”
So I held my breath, got her through security, and, honestly, I think only a handful of guys knew she was there. She doesn’t have an entourage, which is kind of awesome of her.
Was she what you’d expected?
I didn’t know what to expect. I’d been talking to Brad [Ingelsby] and I’d been reading scripts. So when he told me that Kate had signed on — I don’t think I’d appreciated how big this show was going to be.
She was incredibly engaging, kind, very much a perfectionist, she wanted to get everything right. She would ask a question, whatever my answer was, she took to heart and she actually listened. She very much wanted to understand policing, detective work, and the whole area.
Can you think of something that’s in the show because of your feedback?
You know the episode where she plants the drugs? Brad had reached out to me and said, “Mare’s gonna be planting these drugs like, but obviously, we don’t want to fire her. Of course you wouldn’t do this, but if you did do this, how would your place handle it?”
I explained to him that if someone has like an addiction issue, it’s mandatory that they’re sent to some type of rehab and their job is held for that. So I said in this case, she doesn’t have the addiction issue. She has this grief issue. So they might put her on administrative leave, get her into grief counseling, and just take her badge and gun. And that’s literally [what they did] in the show.
Did you have any influence over Winslet’s wardrobe? Because the few police detectives I’ve known have dressed better than that.
Being at the county, we have to wear suits every day, and that’s why [Evan Peters’ character, Colin] Zabel is in a suit, because he’s a county detective. But I’ve seen detectives in Hawaiian shirts in small towns. Like I don’t want to be seen with them, but, yeah, they roll in with their jeans and their flannels. They might try to church it up with one of their department polos, but what she’s wearing, that would go in small town U.S.A. as a detective.
[Once Winslet called] and she said they were putting her in leggings for something. And I’m like, “No. No. Don’t wear yoga pants. This isn’t Saturday morning at the soccer game.”
When we first meet Mare, she’s dealing with a call about a prowler — the kind of thing detectives don’t really do, as she points out. But based on your previous experience on patrol in Oxford, did that seem real?
It’s absolutely 100% real. I would get called out to elderly people’s homes to turn off their computer in the middle of the night. You get into police work to handle the exciting things, the big calls, the big cases, the big capers. And like a lot of times you’re dealing with people that have prowlers in their backyard or someone egged their house, someone stole their political sign.
I watched that scene and I cracked up.
You’re one of the people who knows how “Mare of Easttown” ends. Were you satisfied?
Yeah, I was happy with how [Ingelsby] ended it. He does an amazing job with the twists and turns.
Are people trying to pry information out of you?
Oh, absolutely. I work with a bunch of cops. They’re the nosiest people.