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Kate Winslet's The Regime: Premiere Date, Trailer, Cast & More

Winslet plays an insecure and power-hungry autocrat in the miniseries created by Succession's Will Tracy.

by | March 1, 2024 | Comments


For those who have read stories of global politics and thought that this absurdity would be funny if it weren’t so tragic, then HBO has a show for you.

Premiering Mar. 3 on the premium cable channel (as well as streaming on its digital counterpart, Max), The Regime stars Kate Winslet as Elena Vernham, a pompous, paranoid and (debatably) powerful chancellor of a deliberately unnamed European autocracy. A Marie Antoinette for the modern age, Elena keeps herself, and her estate, fanatically groomed while her military keeps her subjects in line and her opposition (led by a character played by Hugh Grant) imprisoned.

“To me, the comedy and absurdity of the piece kind of built into the world because she’s so extreme and because she has basically unlimited material access [and] unlimited power and so she can create her own reality,” series creator Will Tracy told journalists at a press event on Tuesday before the series premiere.

Tracy, who wrote for HBO’s dramedy Succession and also wrote the screenplay for the scathing class satire The Menu, knows how to play in this world.

“When someone creates a reality that was that powerful and that dangerous, everyone around her has pretend that her reality is reality and the sky is green and two plus two equals elephant,” he said.

The Regime Kate Winslet stars as Elena Vernham

Kate Winslet stars as Elena Vernham in The Regime on HBO. (Photo by HBO)

Things get dicey when Elena brings in Matthias Schoenaerts’s Corporal Herbert Zubak to be her bodyguard. Known as The Butcher for his “enforcement tactics,” Herbert quickly wins over Elena even if her husband (Guillaume Gallienne‘s Nicholas) and confidant (Andrea Riseborough’s Agnes) are dubious of his methods. Oh, and then there’s the pesky matter of the visiting U.S. Secretary of State (Martha Plimpton)…

Here’s what else you need to know about the show.

Elena Could Use a Good Therapist

Winslet is famously a stickler for research. She learned how to butcher chickens for her first Emmy-wining HBO miniseries, the Depression-era Mildred Pierce. For the second one, the small-town crime drama Mare of Easttown, she did ride alongs with undercover cops.

For this role, she considered her character’s very much one-sided relationship with her father. Upon reading the scripts, Winslet told journalists that she “leant right into the scenes with her father. Because 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.”

kate winslet Matthias Schoenaerts the regime

Kate Winslet as Chancellor Elena Vernham and Matthias Schoenaerts as Corporal Herbert Zubak in HBO’s The Regime. (Photo by HBO)

So Winslet took her character to therapy.

“I worked with a neuroscientist and a psychologist to come to understand what sorts of things can happen to a child when they’re exposed to certain traumas in their very early years,” she said at the press conference. “And it is alluded to that the relationship with her father was questionable, to say the least. And so that gave me permission to explore exactly what it was that maybe had happened to her by way of responses to certain environments, situations and people [to make her] physically how she is and, subsequently, how she speaks.”

The Setting is Deliberately Vague

Andrea Riseborough the regime

Andrea Riseborough as Elena’s assistant Agnes in HBO’s The Regime. (Photo by HBO)

It seems like The Regime’s location is a play on a lot of countries, be it Russia, North Korea, or maybe even the United States. But creator Tracy said the real impetus was a desire to create an “Upstairs,Downstairs or a Downton Abbey. But, instead of an English manor house, it’s an autocrat’s palace.”

“And then, [there was] more thinking about where this country would be and where it will be located,” he continued. “Also where it will be fixed geopolitically, kind of between East and West. They look behind them and they can see China and Russia and they look ahead and they can see NATO and the Western powers. And they feel somehow [stuck] between the two. They’re not really at the big kids’ table of hegemonic superpower politics. And that seemed like an interesting place to begin.”

Riseborough said that her character, Agness, “represents the working people outside of the palace whose lives are being so torturously controlled by these decisions inside of this political bubble.”

But, at the same time, the actress said “she’s now trapped, but was always complicit, as they all are. They’re all enablers of this madness.”

It’s a Love Story, of Sorts

Kate Winslet as Elena Vernham and Guillaume Gallienne as her husband, Nicholas, in HBO’s The Regime. (Photo by HBO)

Winslet’s Elena is married to Gallienne’s Nicholas. Both were doctors before their political rise and Nicky had a family he was forced to give up when Elena set her sights on him.

“It was great to do because he’s such a wally [or fool] and, at the same time, you can’t underestimate him because he’s the only one who’s not scared of her,” Gallienne said. “He can speak the truth. And she knows that and he knows that she knows. But at the same time, he is still walking on eggs.”

But with the introduction of Schoenaerts’ military man, the dynamics in the palace shift.

“It’s this unexpected, twisted, extraordinarily, weirdly beautiful love story between these two social misfits who come crashing together and become obsessed with one another,” Winslet said. “There’s something phenomenally touching about Elena and Zubak together.”

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Matthias Schoenaerts as Corporal Herbert Zubak in HBO’s The Regime. (Photo by HBO)

This is evident early on when Elena attempts to woo support from the Americans by singing Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” during a state dinner. She starts out OK, but things quickly go south. However, Herbert is entranced.

“If you look at Zubak’s face when we hang on him, it’s actually during the period where she’s sort of singing the worst, he’s quite entranced by it,” Tracy said. “I don’t think he hears a bum note in there. I think he thinks she’s an angel.”

Costume Choices are Important

kate-winslet the regime

Kate Winslet’s Elena is seeing green in this image from HBO’s The Regime. (Photo by HBO)

Costume designer Consolata Boyle‘s wardrobe choices for Elena weren’t always subtle hints to the character’s mood or actions. They were often blatant tells for the other characters.

“We were looking at huge numbers of different references, but we very specifically wanted it to be things that suited Kate [and] that you could move them, but that every time she put a costume on, she was sending a message,” said Jessica Hobbs, who directed the limited series with Stephen Frears. “At one stage, she she goes from being with the people and wearing a kind of denim smock to changing into what she would call ‘good military gear,’ which is like a very tight jacket with the embroidery and stuff on it. So she has very clear ways of what she’s thinking is reflected in what she’s wearing that day.”

Hobbs noted that, in the first episode, Elena’s staff is nervous because they see she’s wearing green. Creator Tracy said this was the only time he noted a wardrobe choice in his dialogue and that he wanted to show that “they all know what that means. So everything means something down, to the color down, to the hairstyle, everything.”

What Is The Regime’s Tomatometer Score?

After initially starting strong, The Regime has cooled off a bit and currently sports a 58% Tomatometer score. The Hollywood Reporter’s Dan Fienberg wrote that “I wasn’t always sure what The Regime was doing, or why, but Winslet’s work, a complex blending of physical and psychological choices, kept the series somewhere between watchable and fascinating.” Paste magazine’s Elijah Gonzalez was less complimentary, writing that “while The Regime isn’t an outright disaster, for the vast majority of its runtime it’s unable to deliver scathing political commentary or sharp comedy, instead settling into a humdrum, repetitive cadence.”

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