‘The Regime’s Kate Winslet Found Her Dictator Through Deep Daddy Issues

Mar 11, 2024

[Editor’s note: The following contains some spoilers for The Regime.]

The Big Picture

Kate Winslet’s role in ‘The Regime’ offers a layered and absurd character with deep emotional complexities.
Winslet explores Elena’s traumatic backstory to create a real, vulnerable, and unsettling character.
Elena’s distinctive voice was crafted to reflect the depth of emotional issues that Chancellor Elena Vernham is struggling with.

From creator/showrunner Will Tracy, the six-episode HBO series The Regime explores the palace life of Chancellor Elena Vernham (Kate Winslet) as she becomes increasingly paranoid about the state of her authoritarian rule. A hypochondriac that has regular conversations with the corpse of her father in her basement mausoleum, Elena’s iron fist exterior hides a very insecure interior. When Elena finds an unlikely confidant in Herbert Zubak (Matthias Schoenaerts), he encourages her to expand her power, which ultimately threatens to fracture the Eastern European country she promised to bring together.

After watching the season of The Regime, Collider got the opportunity to chat with Winslet, who’s also an executive producer on the series. The interview was far too brief because there are so many layers to her character to be explored, but it was fascinating to listen to the Academy Award winner break down her approach to the super complicated Chancellor Elena Vernham.

The Regime An authoritarian regime is about to unravel. Follows a story of one year within the walls of its palace.Release Date March 3, 2024 Creator Will Tracy Main Genre Drama Seasons 1 Streaming Service(s) HBO

“There were so many layers of absurdity to this character,” Winslet said when responding to what made her want to take this role on. “I had never read scripts like it. It was fully formed when it came to us actors. All six episodes were done, so we got a proper overview of this entire world that was created, and that this woman creates for herself, all her own doing. I’d never come across a character quite like this. I knew it was gonna be a departure for me, as an actor. I knew I was gonna get to do things and try things and challenge myself in ways that I never had before.
I knew I had to come up with something that no one had ever seen me do, hopefully, because I didn’t want there to be any residue or hangover of any character I’d ever played before.
That meant that I could lean right into the absurdity of the world and find those layers of the difference between the comedy and the tragedy, but also acknowledge that her emotional and mental state is heightened.”

Digging into this character, Winslet explained that building a backstory and understanding why this woman had become the way she was were really important for her. “She clearly has so many issues, and she is in an acute phase of experiencing how those issues manifest themselves in her, emotionally and physically . . . I needed to root her in something that was real, so that it didn’t feel like we were doing things that were gimmicky or funny or just a voice thing. I didn’t want to do a cut-and-paste version of a shouty boss. She had to feel real.”

The Twisted Love Story at the Core of ‘The Regime’ Anchors the Show
Image via HBO

While it’s delightful to watch an actor the caliber of Winslet getting to really sink her teeth into a layered, complex, complicated character that is begging you to hate her, the nuance and vulnerabilities that bleed through ensure that you can’t help but want to watch more. So, when the love story comes into play, no matter how twisted it is, you take the ride with these two people who never should have fallen in love.

“I actually think that the love story between Elena and Zubak is one of the most anchoring parts of the whole show because you really believe it,” added Winslet. “Strangely you feel for these two social misfits who clearly have massive abandonment issues and who meet and fall in love, but who should never have met and never fallen in love. It was honestly just a wild ride playing all of it.”

Over the course of the episodes, one thing that’s clear about this woman who is authoritarian in her rule is that, like many, she has some deep-seated daddy issues. Hers are just on a level that hasn’t quite been seen before, as she continues to seek approval from his corpse that she didn’t receive when he was still alive. “Honestly, those scenes for me were really interesting,” shared Winslet. “Thank you for bringing those scenes up because when I started putting the character together, those were actually the scenes I found myself automatically gravitating to for a road map. Those are the moments when we really do see the real unsettling fragility of this woman and that inside there’s just this little girl who’s terrified and stuck, still wanting to be loved and still wanting that approval.” I continued by asking about what those scenes were like to shoot back-to-back and how that helped her define the character.

Related When To Watch and Stream ‘The Regime’: Kate Winslet Returns to HBO in a New Miniseries Kate Winslet’s award-winning ways might be back on our horizons.

“It was actually quite hard shooting those scenes because I had to play them straight. I had to absolutely play them right down the line as being the quite difficult, unsettling things that hopefully they are to watch. It gave me so much access to her really distressing interior world and that backstory. It was all right there. It tells you that
this poor woman was exposed to really clearly significant trauma at a young age
. I worked with a neuroscientist and a psychologist, so that I could properly really understand medically how that can affect someone and their development. I wanted to be able to stand by the creative choices that we were making for her, and they had to come from something that was real. It was a fairly meandering process, I’m not gonna lie, because it was so scary. We did it all together – myself and Stephen Frears and Jessica Hobbs – and were all very much a part of this evolving shape as we tried to establish who she was going to become. It was a proper collaboration.”

Kate Winslet Knew Her ‘The Regime’ Character Needed a Distinct Voice

One of the most striking aspects of Winslet’s performance in The Regime is the very distinctive voice that Elena speaks with. Knowing that she didn’t want to use her own voice, but that she also didn’t want to do something gimmicky, she wanted to make sure that whatever she ended up doing made sense. “If I spoke like myself, we would be running the risk potentially of audiences assuming that they were watching perhaps a show about a monarchy,” explained Winslet. “Because we have had, in recent years, some really sharp shows that recreate proper historical events connected to royalty, particularly in my own country, if you put me on screen and I speak in quite a grounded voice that feels safe, that was the wrong messaging for the show, for the audience, and for all of it. So, I knew I had to find something that was nothing like anything I’ve done before, but also just nothing like myself.” She continued to discuss how the voice would be affected by her character’s own emotional issues.

“Understanding Elena’s backstory, that trauma and how that can impact on a person’s emotional and mental growth, and circumstances and physicality, it just worked its way in. We also wanted it to feel as though this is a woman who has really tried very hard to cope with these issues that she grapples to come to terms with and is clearly trying to hide, and is hiding quite well.
This mask that she creates for herself, in order to cover up her emotional issues, automatically had an impact on how she would speak
and the varying degrees of how she speaks. When she’s on good behavior and well-practiced, and she’s talking in front of her people or Senator Holt (
Martha Plimpton
), you don’t see it quite so much. But when she’s really harbored and it all comes up into her body, we had to integrate it in a physical way. It sounds really detailed, but quite honestly, it actually was really detailed because we didn’t want to make it seem like a gimmicky thing.”

Related The 10 Best Kate Winslet Movies, Ranked Kate Winslet is one of the most respected English actresses of her time, and these movies are her best.

The Regime airs on Sunday nights on HBO and is available to stream on Max. Check out the trailer:

Watch on Max

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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