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TCA Press Tour 2011: From Kate Winslet to Pee-wee Herman [Updated]

January 7, 2011 | 10:43 pm

Mildredpierce01 HBO kicked off its winter press tour activities with two panel discussions that involved two very different satellite appearances.

First was Academy Award-winning actress Kate Winslet, the star of the network's five-part miniseries "Mildred Pierce," which premieres March 27. That panel also included costars Guy Pearce and Evan Rachel Wood, who appeared in person, along with director-writer Todd Haynes.

The miniseries is based on the novel of the same title written by James M. Cain in 1941 and centers on a single mother who struggles to raise and win her daughter's love in the Great Depression in Los Angeles. Wood plays Winslet's daughter.

Winslet, who said TV "is so much harder" than filmmaking, said she only watched the first five minutes of the original Oscar-winning movie, which starred Joan Crawford in Winslet's role. The miniseries takes a different approach than did the book or movie.

"When you're playing Mildred Pierce and you know that someone utterly extraordinary has played that role before, it's a fine line. What do you do?" Winslet said. "I knew that I wouldn't be able to un-see it, and I also knew that I had to honor the book. I had to be very true to the Mildred Pierce that is in that brilliant novel. She meant something to me within the context of the way that Todd had scripted this. And so what I was working for with Todd was just something different. Not cleverer or better, just simply a different character. And I knew that I had to hang on to my instincts about who she meant to us."

Peewee02 For his part, Pee-wee Herman hung on to Pee-wee Herman. Appearing via satellite from New York in character, Pee-wee Herman was promoting his HBO special, "The Pee-wee Herman Show on Broadway." Shot over two days without an audience, the presentation of the hit Broadway show will premiere in March.

During the panel session, Pee-Wee mugged and winked, and made funny faces.

"The new show is really inspired 100% by the old show," Pee-wee said. "What happened in between is I did the stage show originally at the Roxy Theater, which is where we filmed it originally for HBO ... and from there I had a CBS television series that was greatly inspired by that stage production. So when I went to re-write the show, I added all the characters from the CBS show.

"But the plot is the same," he continued. "The 'New York Times' said it was thin on plot and they were right. But plot is not everything it's cracked up to be."

[Updated at 6:40 p.m.: An earlier version of this post contained a video of Pee-wee Herman during the session. The Times has removed the video because recording the session is in violation of the rules set by the TCA.]

-- Maria Elena Fernandez

Photo: (top) Kate Winslet as "Mildred Pierce." Credit: Andrew D. Schwartz / HBO

Photo: (bottom) Pee-wee Herman. Credit: Chris McPherson / HBO