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Behind the Scenes of the Hatfields & McCoys History Channel Mini-Series with Mare Winningham

May 29, 2012
Bill Paxton and Mare Winningham promote Hatfields & McCoys History Channel Mini-Series.

With Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton leading a star-filled cast, History Channel's "Hatfields & McCoys" mini-series is big and bloody.

The three-night epic's first episode was last night (May 28, 2012).

Behind the scenes, it's been "a once-in-a-career kind of bonding thing, a familial thing with the actors," according to Mare Winningham.

She tells us her "Hatfields & McCoys" journey began with Costner, who is also a producer on the mini-series, phoning her to tell her the script was on its way, and that "he wanted me to play the matriarch of the McCoys. He said, 'You'll see. Sally is a great, tragic figure.' I have to say, I was pretty darn excited when I read it. There's not a bad role in this thing."

Shooting on location an hour outside Bucharest, Romania, was "isolating in the best kind of way," she says, noting that the landscape resembles Civil War era Appalachia.

"There were only five of us women among all these beautiful actor boys who were growing epic beards, being in a shoot 'em up Western. I have to say if I take one thing away from this experience, it will be friendships. We were in a beautiful hotel, and also secondarily in the mountains. Many of us had guitars, and we'd play together. There were hootenannies. We had great books to read, and a need to be together."

The actors portraying the warring families "blended, but there was no lack of digs and humor. The McCoys definitely knew we were the better family and had the better actors," Winningham reports with a laugh.

Promotion people have taken up that good-natured rivalry where the actors left off, according to her. "The publicity department has been amazing for History. The producer sent us an email movie of these massive posters in the (New York City) subway. I kept looking for myself, to be honest. I saw Costner and, the closer I looked, the more I realized, these were all Hatfields! I called and said, 'How dare you send me a corridor of Hatfields? Where the devil are the McCoys?'" It turned out that she'd been sent the wrong email. Hatfields are on the East side, McCoys on the West.

For all the fun surrounding "Hatfields & McCoys," the mini-series itself is unsparing in its grinding violence. Winningham is mesmerizing as the mother descending into madness when she loses a daughter and four sons. "Given all that happened, I think it was a very reasonable response when she lost her mind," Winningham observes.

At one point, the actress was required to run out of a burning cabin in a flowing nightgown, guns blazing. "I remember laughing super hard when I saw the fire trucks and firemen standing by, and they said, 'Now you're going to go in there and wait until we say 'Action.' I said, 'Okay, I still have half the movie to shoot.'"


What a grand time for the "Blue Bloods" troupe this week. Ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and being feted at CBS's Upfront presentation for advertisers, Tom Selleck and the rest of the cast must be feeling duly appreciated by now.

Amy Carlson, who plays Donnie Wahlberg's wife Linda on the show, tells us she and her family will be heading off to Fire Island for a vacation after the promotional fest. And after that, "I would love to do a movie, but if it doesn't work out, that's fine. I have two children who are still quite little -- 2 1/2 and 5 1/2 -- and I love having time to spend with them."

In fact, her schedule is one of the reasons the actress considers "Blue Bloods" her "best job in the world...My scenes are pretty specific, and they're all in one place, so I end up not having too crazy a schedule, which is great. They tend to give me more to do every third episode."

She could be moving around a lot more next season, if talk of having Linda return to work as a nurse comes to fruition. Opening up a medical aspect of the cop show would certainly add possibilities, and Carlson is ready. "On 'Third Watch,' I was a paramedic, so I have a TV medical background," she says with a laugh. Hey, but no kidding -- the experience won't hurt. "It's true," she responds. "You do end up with a lot of knowledge you can bring with you."


They're filling out the cast for an MTV pilot presentation called "High Heels Low Standards," a half-hour dark comedy to star Eric Roberts. According to casting sources, still to be filled is the role of a suburban dad who "loves to bake. Must be okay with fake vomit and small dogs." Wonder where they could be going with that.

Another MTV prospect is "Cassandra French's Finishing School for Boys" -- in which a trio of gals who are sick and tired of being treated badly by their boyfriends decide to teach them to be worthy of great gals such as themselves. Thus, they put the title educational entity into play. The catch: they capture and hold captive the miscreant men they wish to reform. Tough girls! The pilot is being described as a dark comedy in the tone of "Heathers."



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