TCA Dispatch: Evan Rachel Wood and Kate Winslet on their relationship in “Mildred Pierce,” Carrie Brownstein talks “Portlandia”

Lesley Goldberg is at TCA today, covering the latest in TV scoop. Keep it here for updates throughout the afternoon, including details on Portlandia, Spartacus: Gods of the Arena and Mildred Pierce, among others. Keep up with Lesley on Twitter, too!

3:30 p.m. HBO’s Mildred Pierce

Kate Winslet is coming to TV — and the Oscar-winning actress couldn’t be more thrilled for her first small-screen gig in HBO’s five-hour miniseries Mildred Pierce, in which she plays an overbearing mother to Evan Rachel Wood in 1930s California.

“It never occurred to me – beyond receiving five scripts — that wow, this is television,” the actress said via satellite from Paris. “Sure we have more to shoot and have to work faster, but the determination and level of focus we all had to have was so much more intense than any film I’ve ever been a part of. Film, schmilm. Television is so much harder. It didn’t affect the work ethic in any obvious ways other than we had more story to tell, which is a luxury, and less time to work toward that goal. We were hyper focused every single day.”

Winslet noted that she was fascinated by the intense relationship between Mildred and her daughter, Veda (Wood) when she read the scripts.

“The intense relationship between Mildred and Veda is based on pure love and her adoration for this child does teeter on the brink of obsession,” said Winslet, who intentionally only watched the first five minutes of the 1945 film starring Joan Crawford. “Every mother-daughter relationship is complicated for its own set of reasons but this one was something else. Mildred was in this position where she didn’t know whether to love her or kill her. And the amount that she did love her was suffocating.

“Mildred’s need for approval is something every mother does feel for their child, whether it’s a daughter or a son. With Veda being this determined, defiant creature that was so out of Mildred’s grasp and the adoration she has for her and the desire that Mildred has this [feeling] that she maybe could have been this person,” Winslet added. “In Veda, Mildred saw her own disappointments — little pieces of her kept dying every time she saw how brilliant, wonderful and rich Veda was and how much more extraordinary her life could have become. Al she could do was love it, encourage it and support it and want to be a part of it so, so desperately. It’s just crushing. On many levels, they’re extremely normal paternal responses to any child, but they do get very twisted and disturbing as the story goes along. It was utterly compelling to me because I can see how that can happen to any parent.”

Wood, who trained for two months to portray Veda — learning classical opera in three different languages as well as mastering the 1930s dialect of the Great Depression — said the character “almost killed me.”

“She’s warped at such an early age,” Wood noted from the panel. “It would have been easy to play her as a bratty daughter but she’s so complex. She’s too smart for her own good and she sees things about her mother — flaws and weaknesses — and she knows how to prey on them. If [Mildred] loves her too much … that’s when [Veda] turns and decides she’s going to have her own way. She’s in love with what she actually is.”

Writer-director-exec producer Todd Haynes noted that in his adaptation of the 1941 novel by James M. Cain, Wood’s Veda is turned into a tawdry singer and that the frankness with which he deals with Mildred’s sexuality was much more nuanced. “This felt modern and contemporary,” he said.

Co-star Guy Pearce, who plays Mildred’s love interest Monty, says his character’s influence over Veda was pivotal to the friction between mother and daughter.

“The strange twist in [Monty’s relationship with Mildred] is that she has this daughter who is far more like somebody from Monty’s world,” he said. “So it’s easy for Monty to relate to Veda from very early on, even when she’s very young — she’s 11 when Monty comes into Mildred’s life. We see the charmed life of quality that Monty brought to the surface very quickly because he’s a bit of a kid himself that this kid wishes that she was from. On some level, it’s like she’s from another world and she was born into the wrong family. It’s a very strange, twisted little trio that’s going on.”

Mildred Pierce premieres its first two hours on Sunday, March 27 on HBO.