Meet Mary Winetoss, the ‘Office Christmas Party’ Head of HR

By Andrew Peeling Dec 8, 2016
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SNL star ​Kate McKinnon plays the head of human resources in the R-rated "Office Christmas Party."

Meet Mary Winetoss, a rules-obsessed head of human resources and the latest example of Hollywood's unflattering portrayal of HR professionals.

Winetoss, played by Emmy-winner Kate McKinnon, is the stick-in-the-mud HR representative bent on curtailing the hijinks of office workers planning to throw a wild holiday bash in the R-rated film "Office Christmas Party."

"When we first meet Mary, she's pretty buttoned-up," McKinnon said. "As the night rolls on, she gets some encouragement from her co-workers and goes to some interesting places."

Directors Will Speck and Josh Gordon explained that they were drawn to the concept of "a magical night where professional and social barriers were less defined" when developing the holiday film.

Kate McKinnon

"The office Christmas party really breaks down the caste system," Gordon said. "Suddenly, everyone from the top of the food chain to the bottom is equalized, and that makes for a great comedic jumping-off point."

Speck and Gordon said they were fans of McKinnon's work on "Saturday Night Live" (you might recognize her regular appearances as Hillary Clinton and Kellyanne Conway) before she was cast in the film. The directing duo said they thought she would be perfect at portraying an uptight workplace rule enforcer.

"The first time we see Mary, she's wearing a nondenominational holiday sweater," Speck said. "Since it doesn't exist in the real world, it took months to design and days to knit by hand, but it tells you about all you need to know about Mary as a character."

What might stand out to the audience at the outset of the film is Mary's obsession with staff members complying with office rules and regulations.

"We discussed Mary's backstory and came to the conclusion that she was probably German, given her love of rules," Speck said. "We found this German folk song for her to sing, and without really translating it, she just decided it was about little ducklings. She embraced it."

Gordon noted that McKinnon's take on the character helped design Mary's unusual personality.

"Kate came up with the idea that Mary has parrots, and keeping those birds alive is what's motivating her professionally," he said.

McKinnon's portrayal as a rules-obsessed HR professional is hardly the first jab popular TV and film has taken at human resources in the workplace. TV shows and movies often depict HR professionals as heartless, weak and inept, with prominent examples including an apathetic Toby Flenderson on NBC's "The Office" and a stoic George Clooney in the 2009 movie "Up in the Air."

McKinnon said her role in the movie reflects a character whose dedication to workplace regulations puts her at a disadvantage.

"Mary takes her job very seriously and wants everyone to be safe and comfortable," she said. "The irony is a lot of her rules make people uncomfortable."

"Office Christmas Party" opens in theaters Dec. 9, 2016.

· Read More: 'Office Christmas Party' is HR's Worst Nightmare

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