Kate Winslet leaned into absurdist side for 'The Regime'

Kate Winslet's "The Regime," premieres Sunday on Max. Photo courtesy of HBO
1 of 5 | Kate Winslet's "The Regime," premieres Sunday on Max. Photo courtesy of HBO

NEW YORK, March 1 (UPI) -- Kate Winslet said her role in The Regime, premiering Sunday on Max, required a new level of bravery.

Winslet, 48, plays Elena, the chancellor of a fictional European nation.


"What I needed to do was to just get really [expletive] brave actually," Winslet said at a press conference in New York. "It was important that we leaned into the absurdist side."

Will Tracy created the political satire. Because Tracy set it in a fictional country, Winslet said she had the freedom to create her own accent for Elena.

"I was very hesitant to sound anything like myself," Winslet said. "We worked with the idea of her physically being certain ways with other people, dressing in occasionally quite grotesque, overtly sexual ways and speaking differently."


The notion that Elena is a real-world politician will be dispensed, Winslet said, when audiences see her visit her dead father. Elena keeps her father's body preserved in a room in her palace.

"For a person to have kept the corpse of their deceased parent and go and have chats with them downstairs, I knew that was not a safe emotional place in which that person existed," Winslet said. "So that then gave me the space to explore their backstory."

Elena has an aide, Agnes (Andrea Riseborough), who helps enable Elena's demands and shuts out any critical feedback. As such, Riseborough said, Agnes feels trapped.

"She's very, very loyal to Elena," Riseborough, 42, said. "That's been weaponized against her."

The Regime introduces the viewers to Elena's palace via the arrival of Cpl. Zubak (Matthias Schoenarts). Winslet revealed that Elena and Zubak share a love scene in the fifth episode that was as absurd to film as the scenes that will air.

"Matthias had all these tattoos," Winslet said. "He was getting sweatier and sweatier and they just kept on rubbing off on parts of my body. This is like I've got the newspaper printed on me."

One scene in the first episode did not immediately appear to Winslet to require bravery. Elena gets up and sings at a gala dinner.


However, after practicing the song and going to Abbey Road to record it, Winslet realized she'd been approaching it incorrectly. Director Stephen Frears advised her to perform the song badly and Winslet agreed.

"In that moment, as an audience, you know you are allowed to laugh," Winslet said. "It sets the tone for the entire show."

The Regime also shows how Elena's demands impact her country and her immediate staff and family. Riseborough said she could feel the weight of Elena suppressing Agnes in her performance.

"It felt very suffocating," Riseborough said. She added, jokingly, "Playing Agnes was miserable."

Set in the present day, The Regime gave Elena a modern wardrobe. Winslet said costume designer Consolata Boyle used wardrobe to highlight Elena's absurdity.

In her career, Winslet has worn a lot of historically accurate costumes, from Jane Austen era Sense and Sensibility to the American '50s in Revolutionary Road. Winslet said she usually attempts to make her costumes appear natural, but not in The Regime.

"I love to make that disappear so they become clothes," Winslet said. "These were costumes."

Winslet said creating a style for the fictional country involved using unusual fabrics and colors that were new to the star. Winslet said Elena incorporates synthetics to appear more powerful.


"But, actually the fabrics themselves were cheap," Winslet said "You can feel it."

Boyle also dressed Agnes in conversely minimal ways, Riseborough said. Riseborough said she and Boyle discussed Agnes as "a living ghost" who just wanted to disappear, and therefore wears bland clothing.

"She hasn't thought about or looked in a reflective surface for many, many years," Riseborough said. "She just knows what she has to do next and she's been putting one foot in front of the other like that for years and years and years now."

For all of Elena's ego and outlandish behavior, she is an intelligent woman. Winslet said it was helpful to her performance to remember Elena did have legitimate qualifications, including a medical degree and license.

"I was always prevented from going too far down the road of the absurd," Winslet said. "There were these really terrific anchor points along the way for everything that she is."

New episodes of The Regime premiere Sundays on Max.

Kate Winslet attends HBO's 'The Regime' premiere

Kate Winslet arrives on the red carpet at HBO's "The Regime" New York premiere at American Museum of Natural History on February 26, 2024 in New York City. Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

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