Early life and initial stage and television roles
Kate Winslet was born on 5 October 1975 in Reading, Berkshire, England, to Sally Anne (née Bridges) and Roger John Winslet. Aside from English, she has more distant Irish and Swedish roots. Her mother worked as a nanny and waitress, and her father, a struggling actor, took labouring jobs to support the family. Her maternal grandparents were both actors and ran the Reading Repertory Theatre Company. Winslet has two sisters, Anna and Beth, both of whom are actresses, and a younger brother, Joss. The family had limited financial means; they lived on free meal benefits and were supported by a charity named the Actor's Charitable Trust. When Winslet was 10, her father severely injured his foot in a boating accident and found it harder to work, leading to more financial hardships for the family. Winslet has said her parents always made them feel cared for and that they were a supportive family.
Winslet attended St Mary and All Saints' Church of England primary school. Living in a family of actors inspired her to pursue acting from a young age. She and her sisters participated in amateur stage shows at school and at a local youth theatre, named Foundations. When she was five, Winslet made her first stage appearance as Mary in her school's production of the Nativity. She has described herself as an overweight child; she was nicknamed "blubber" by her schoolmates and was bullied for the way she looked. She said she did not let this defeat her. At 11, Winslet was accepted into the Redroofs Theatre School in Maidenhead. The school also functioned as an agency and took students to London to audition for acting jobs. She appeared in a Sugar Puffs commercial and dubbed for foreign films. At school, she was made head girl, took part in productions of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and played the lead role of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan. She worked simultaneously with the Starmaker Theatre Company in Reading. She participated in over 20 of their stage productions, but was rarely selected as the lead due to her weight. Nonetheless, she played key roles as Miss Agatha Hannigan in Annie, the Mother Wolf in The Jungle Book, and Lena Marelli in Bugsy Malone.
In 1991, within two weeks of finishing her GCSE examinations, Winslet made her screen debut as one of the main cast members of the BBC science fiction television series Dark Season. Her part was that of Reet, a schoolgirl who helps her classmates fight against a sinister man distributing free computers to her school. She did not earn much from the job, and at 16, a lack of funds forced Winslet to leave Redroofs. To support herself, she worked at a delicatessen. In 1992, she had a small part in the television film Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, an adaptation of Angus Wilson's satirical novel. Winslet, who weighed 13 stone 3 pounds (84 kg; 185 lb) at the time, played the daughter of an obese woman in it. While filming, an off-hand comment from the director Diarmuid Lawrence about the likeness between her and the actress who played her mother prompted Winslet to lose weight. She next took on the role of the young daughter of a bankrupt middle-aged man (played by Ray Winstone) in the television sitcom Get Back (1992–93). She also had a guest role in a 1993 episode of the medical drama series Casualty.