Mackenzie of Easttown
By Ariella Lafayette
Picture this. You’re a young upcoming actress trying to make a name for yourself. You get a juicy supporting role in a TV limited series. Fast forward a bit and the show has become one of the hottest things on television – and your character plays a vital part in the murder mystery that is keeping people guessing.
Suddenly people all over the world are musing about your part in the case. Why did your character feel the need to beat up a girl who is found dead hours later? Are you the murderer? What do you know about the killing? What’s it like to be arrested in front of your family and friends? Why are you so hung up on a guy who kind of treats you like crap? Are you covering for him?
This is what has happened to Mackenzie Lansing.
Lansing plays Brianna on the HBO Max limited series Mare of Easttown. While Ms. Lansing’s character on the show is not the most likable, she was nothing but a pleasure to speak with when I was able to chat with her soon before the series finale.
We talked about her diverse background, the experiences and other actors that have inspired her acting today. Throughout the interview, her passion for her craft is impossible to ignore. Mackenzie fully immerses herself into her character and plays her role from the inside-out, fully understanding the intentions and feelings of her role as an individual.
Her attention to detail and understanding of others shines through her performance as Brianna in the series. During the interview, we discussed Mackenzie’s experiences working on the show – which is based in PopEntertainment’s home state of Pennsylvania. So obviously, we needed to know her Wawa order, too.
If you appreciate mystery, drama, and amazing acting, Mare of Easttown should definitely be your next watch.
Mackenzie, for those who are less familiar with the series, how would you describe the show to our viewers?
Mare of Easttown is about murder that happens in small town, Easttown, Pennsylvania. Mare Sheehan, who is played by Kate Winslet, is investigating this murder. Everybody in this community knows each other. It’s a small town, so that plays into a lot of what’s going on.
Yes, I would like to say that it is a very good show, I have started it and I’m hooked I have been binging, it’s insane. And you are an amazing actress as well, I would like to compliment you on your job on that show.
I did do a little research and I see that you had an interesting upbringing in the Congo and Paris. Do you feel having such a continental lifestyle growing up kind of opened you up to acting and the arts?
Yeah! Not so much because [of] my family. We’re not in the arts in any way, shape, or form. But I think that when you’re forced to move around a lot, you kind of become a chameleon. You have to adapt to different situations very quickly. Size-up where you are, who the people are. You get in the habit of watching people, so I think that’s probably part of where it comes from for sure.
Was French your first language or English?
I am actually one of those weird people who learned them exactly at the same time, because there was an equal amount of input. English and French. I speak them the same.
So, you had no problems learning American accents or slang when you’re acting?
I do think I have a little bit more of a facility with European accent because I’m used to hearing them more, so this was definitely a challenge for me. But I love dialects and accents, so I was very excited to do the Delco (Delaware County) accent because it’s so specific, and such a hard accent to do.
in an interview Kate Winslet said that out of all of the accents she has had to learn in her career, the Delco/Chester County accent was like one of the hardest she had done. How did you deal with that experience and what did you do to learn?
I really like phonetics, so I work a lot with that. Also, just listening to bits of recording and, even when we were in Pennsylvania, trying to overhear conversations. Take notes and things like that. It is such a specific accent where there are certain sounds that are, more or less, universal, and there are others that are specific even to the towns – like the Delaware County area. It becomes very meticulous work where you can actually pick what sound changes my character is going to make. Luckily, we also had someone on set to help us, our wonderful dialect coach.
Oh, you had a dialect coach? That’s very interesting!
Yeah, and she’s from that area! So, for her it was even more personal. Suzanne Shelby, shoutout to her, she’s amazing!
We are a company from the Philadelphia area just a little bit more up north. What was it like for you working in the area? Did you learn anything interesting about Pennsylvania?
I actually loved PA. I come from a town in France that still has the big city feel, like there’s lots of public transportation and stuff, but it’s got kind of a roughness to it. French people are very rough around the edges, but once you get to know them, they are super loyal. And that was my impression of people from PA.
Yeah, that’s PA for sure!
Honestly, I have not been to that many places in the US, because I moved here straight from France. PA was the place where I felt the most at home out of anywhere, I have been in the US so far.
Love that, love to hear that. We are home for everyone!
Yeah! The people there are great!
Did you move to the States for acting and arts?
Yeah. Originally, I was very purist. I was like “I’m going to go back to France, I’m not going to stay here.” New York did its thing and I ended up staying.
Yeah, New York will get you, New York will get you every time.
Yeah, it will! I mean I’d still love to go back to do some film, but I mean [The US is] my home now. Yeah, I moved here to go to acting school and got stuck, in a good way!
You are obviously much nicer than the character you have to play, but are there any ways in which you feel you can relate to Brianna?
Yeah. I mean I feel that’s sort of a delicate one but absolutely. When I was really young, I was bullied and catfished almost in a very similar situation to Erin, so I do relate to that. Then also when I got older – when I was like 16 or 17, so actually closer to Brianna’s age – I wasn’t a bully, but I did get into fights. I was very rambunctious. I was kind of a loud-mouth and stuff, as a reaction to myself being bullied as a kid. So yeah, I actually did relate to her and her anger. When you feel like you’re stuck somewhere, and you take it out on other people. Not to the extent that she does, but I do relate to some of that angst that she has.
What was it like to play such an unlikable character? Not to crap on your character or anything but….
No, oh my gosh, it’s fine, you can say it now I’m done. When you’re working on a character like that, to make them unlikable, to make them real, you have to find a way in. Where you, while you’re playing the character, completely justify why they’re doing what they’re doing. Where you’re like, “oh to me in my head at this moment, this makes perfect sense to beat up this girl to stick up for myself because I’m not going to embarrass myself in front of my crew.” There are all of these things you have to craft around, even why she hates Erin so much. What about Erin reminds her of her own weaker parts? I think that’s really what it is, Erin is her without this toughness that she has had forced upon her by her father. She hates seeing that vulnerability in other people.
I love hearing you talk about the show like this while I’m watching it too. This is like doing therapy on the characters. It’s very interesting!
You have to when you’re doing it!
What parts of her character would you say were the hardest for you to connect with?
I think as much as I can relate to being an angry teenager, I don’t relate to the popularity that Brianna has, and that ego. It comes from the same place, right? It’s still insecurity. It’s just manifesting itself in a different way. That was a bit trickier for me – just slipping into the shoes of someone who would also go that far as to beat someone up in front of a group of people. There was some work that had to be done there, really justifying what it is that I think that Erin could have possibly done to me to make me feel like I have the right to do this, in that moment anyways.
Well not to spoil anything for our viewers who haven’t yet watched, but speaking of the fight scene, which was insane, I have to know like what type of preparation went into that.
A lot. Cailee [Spaeny], who plays Erin, is an amazing actress. She’s so sweet, and we had really good conversations while we were on set about safety. We obviously had fight choreographers there. A lot of people who you can see in the background are actually stunt people.
Yeah, so when I push her around the circle and stuff, they’re kind of there to look like they’re beating her up but really catch her and make sure nothing happens to her. We had great fight choreography, but I think also with me and Cailee there was just an understanding. I’m in it when I’m doing it, but when we call cut, I was very careful to be like “Are you all right? Are you good? Okay, awesome.”
It definitely looked very real. You guys pulled that off amazingly! So again, not to spoil too much, but Brianna was arrested in front of her family at some point in time in the series. Was that a fun scene to play with it being such an awkward moment? Getting arrested in front of your parents doesn’t sound like a very comfortable situation, how did you tap into that?
I think that when you’re an actor, there’s this kind of sick thing where like the worst scenes are the most fun to play because you’re like, “Yeah, I want to go there.” Like “humiliate me in front of my family, let’s do this.” But no, it was a tricky scene because when you are shooting a TV show, scenes like that that have a lot of action and overlap take a little bit more rehearsal. But Kate is amazing, and she’s really good at relieving tension with jokes and stuff. Also improving, like when she escorts me out the last door and I kick it open with my foot, we curse at each other. That was completely improvised.
Yes, it was! In that moment as Brianna, I was completely humiliated and pissed off. But was it fun to play and to do? Absolutely.
Speaking of Kate Winslet, what was it like working with such reputable actors like Kate Winslet, Evan Peters, etc.?
It was amazing! I try to approach it as these are just people, I am meeting for the first time. Forget anything I know about them to have a real experience with someone, rather than like fangirling all over them. But Kate, especially, I was able to tell her that her part in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was what made me want to be an actor when we wrapped. We had a moment where I cried and told her like “Aww you are the reason I wanted to do this.” She was super sweet, and like hugged me and stuff, but it was amazing! It’s a masterclass in acting to be around someone like that and see what they’re like on set, you know?
It’s all coming full circle for you, I love that!
What was it like for you being part of such a complicated, complex mystery? Did you find yourself getting invested in the story as you were going along with it?
Oh yeah, very much so. At a certain point when they would give me the next episode of the script. Even if it wasn’t an episode I was heavily featured in, I was reading the whole thing. Just really wanted to know what happened to all the characters. I was very much invested. They didn’t give a lot of us the last episode until much later. Some people didn’t get it at all, so some of the people still don’t know who the murderer is who were actually on the show. A lot of people while we were on set were doing what we’re doing now and exchanging our theories and things.
That’s fun! This is a little off-topic from the show, a little more of a fun question, but if you could work with anyone in the world – dead or alive – who would it be?
That’s such a tough question. I’ve said this before but Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan, Leisha Hailey, Samira Wiley.
Mare of Easttown is actually the second HBO series you’ve appeared in. You were on a couple episodes of The Deuce. How was that role for you? How did that come about? What was it like being on the show?
It was amazing! My role was actually only supposed to be much smaller and then, based on what me and Maggie [Gyllenhaal] were doing, we improvised some lines and they ended up writing in a longer scene, and then they actually made my character recurring where I came back for a couple of episodes. That wasn’t actually how it was scripted originally. I think part of it was because it was such a powerful scene. For people who know The Deuce, the first scene that I am in playing Jamie is where you finally discover Kandy’s backstory. You follow Kandy, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, for the whole show but we don’t know much about where she comes from. That’s the scene where she opens up. Through telling this actress how to prepare for this role, she’s actually talking about herself and what happened to her. It was a very emotional scene. I was not introduced to Maggie before we started doing it, so to come into that and she was already prepped and ready to go. I just met Maggie Gyllenhaal and she’s grabbing my shoulders and crying in my face! I was like “Oh my god!” But it was really incredible.
It’s on HBO Max as well, right?
I believe so, yeah. It’s a good show but Maggie Gyllenhaal herself says that you can watch the episodes sporadically because each episode is like an hour and something long, so it’s almost like individual movies. I mean, it still follows a trail, but you can watch them as separate pieces as well, according to her.
Mare of Easttown has been released as a limited series but everyone’s dying for more! Do you think there’s a chance for a second season maybe?
I don’t know. If there was one, I would be game. I know that right now, we are a miniseries, but you never know.
Fingers crossed! Last little fun question for you: Working in Pennsylvania, I know you said you loved it. I’ve seen Wawa being featured in the series quite a few times. Did you find a love for Wawa?
Oh yeah, how can you not?!
What’s your go-to Wawa order?
I feel like I should say Philly Cheesesteak, but it was actually those make your own bowl situations. You can just punch it in on the machine, and it’s just like ready. I love Wawa!
Yes! Everyone loves Wawa! Well, is there anything else for the viewers that you’d like to say?
Thanks for following the show, if you’re not, you should check it out. If not, follow me on Twitter, I respond to mean and nice tweets @MackLansing, if not follow my Instagram @MackenzieLansing, so just my first and last name!
Okay! Well, fingers are crossed on this end for another season, we’re excited to talk to you again in the future. Thank you so much for your time today, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with you.
Everyone make sure you tune into to HBO Max and watch Mare of Easttown it’s a great series.
Thank you so much for having me!
Copyright ©2021 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 7, 2021.
Photos ©2021. Courtesy of Mark Doyle/Mark Doyle Photography. All rights reserved.