After eight seasons on the FX anthology series “American Horror Story”, Evan Peters longed for some time to step away from the roles of a frat boy deranged from the leader of the Satan worshiper cult.
Step into County Detective Colin Zabel in HBO’s detective drama “Mare of Easttown”: he still lives with his mother, views zucchini as exotic food, and once tasked with solving a murder with Det. Sgt. Mare Sheehan (Kate Winslet) is in love with her even though at first she clearly doesn’t think much of him.
“I wanted to play someone more grounded in reality,” Peters said of the role that drew some of the best reviews of his career. “I played a lot of fantastic and supernatural characters. It was a challenge, something that I was looking to do.
Last month, Peters, who grew up in the St. Louis suburb of Ballwin, Missouri, landed his first Emmy nomination for the role, in the category of best supporting actor in a limited series or film. It was one of 16 nominations received by the show.
Q: Zabel is serious and reliable, if he’s just starting to understand himself. What was your path in this affable salubrious lighthouse?
A: I grew up in a small suburb outside of (St. Louis). I understood the dynamics of the characters, the way everyone interacted. I always say that St. Louis is everything for people. Everyone there is so sweet and friendly, and nuanced, very interesting and real. I think we made it a little more awkward than expected. I was always tripping over things, letting things drop. You know he’s not as good a detective as Mare. He’s just a little late. Not entirely. Only a little.
Question: What did you learn about the police while preparing for pre-production?
A: When we first arrived in Marple Township, I took a tour. It was helping unlock someone’s car, then a 16 year old was driving with her mom and she accidentally slipped someone’s rearview mirror, and then I believe there was a lost Saint Bernard at one point. (laughs) I thought, “Small town. Small Town Police.
Question: You scored a lot of points for realism in the bar scene where a drunk Colin walks up to Mare.
A: I always say that I have done a lot of research over the years. (Laughs)
Question: Have you ever thought that you would generate widespread internet love for wasted acting by going through many different emotions?
A: No. In fact, I thought I failed miserably on this scene. In the end, I was so disheartened and depressed. Sad. I thought I didn’t understand. I was like, “Oh, my God. I failed.” The irony is not lost (to me) that people love this scene so much.
Question: I read that you drink shots of apple cider vinegar. Why this?
A: Sometimes they give you water (as a drink). This is so wrong. Alcohol tastes so horrible. It kind of came to me. I was trying to think of something that tastes strong, tangy, astringent. Acid. (The vinegar) can be pretty awful, but it tastes great too.
Question: Locals also praised the authenticity of your Upper Darby accent.
A: We had a wonderful dialect coach, Susanne Sulby, on this show. And we shot in Philly. So we could hear it all around us which was great.
I also had a recording of this guy named Steve. It was about 20 minutes long and I listened to it every morning. He talks about his (chrysanthemums), his work and his wife. Her brother, Pete. I felt like I really knew this guy. When the pandemic hits, we (close) until September. I thought, “Oh, my God. Do I have to keep listening to Steve talk about the moms he planted? So I didn’t listen to it every day, just a few times a week.
Question: Why not ask Steve to make a new tape?
A: I probably should have. A little update on the family. “How was Thanksgiving?” “Where did you end up hosting him?” “
Question: So during the filming of “Mare” you also played a fake Pietro Maximoff in “WandaVision”?
A: It was crazy. I was filming in Philly, they would take me to Atlanta, then bring me back to Philly. To stay in the sitcom era for “WandaVision”, I would watch “Full House” and “Malcolm in the Middle”. Then I would go back to Philly, eat the food and watch “The First 48”. It was weird, but I had to compartmentalize.
Question: Talk about your now legendary visit, Kate Winslet’s, to the Wawa convenience store.
A: They have good coffee, hot food, fries, they have it all. More importantly, they have this (hoagie) around Thanksgiving called the Gobbler. It has all the Thanksgiving accessories. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy. You don’t even have to cook Thanksgiving dinner. You can just (eat) the Gobbler.
Question: Even though Mare is not very welcoming at first, Colin likes her. Why?
A: I think he liked her a lot. His strength and impressive character as a detective created this admiration and respect. It was that mixed with this very confident and strong woman. She didn’t have all of her s— together but kept going and getting by. There is something very appealing about resilience. Especially since she could not solve this case and that she is doing everything she can. It’s also Kate Winslet. She is beautiful. It doesn’t hurt.