At the Emmys this year, Woody Harrelson will compete against co-star Matthew McConaughey for outstanding lead actor in a drama series for their shared job leading HBO’s True Detective, a new anthology series from an unknown writer, Nick Pizzolatto, and director, Cary Fukunaga, that became the most critically acclaimed television show of the year. The series follows two Louisiana police detectives as they attempt to catch a serial killer who has run rampant in rural Louisiana for years committing heinous, ritualistic murders of women and children. Bouncing back and forth between 1995 and the present day, the show looks at what has happened to the characters in those intervening years as they separated and the case went unsolved.
Harrelson gave a wonderful performance as the straight-laced, by-the-books Det. Marty Hart, but part of the beauty of the role was his ability let Matthew McConaughey’s Rust Cohle take center stage. Rust was always going to be the most interesting character: that was how Pizzolatto had envisioned it. Hart is there to (attempt to) ground Cohle in reality, give Cohle someone to believe in his weird theories, and later provide Cohle with companionship to stop him from spinning off into nothing on his own crazy energy. Without Marty, Cohle couldn’t have accomplished what he did, but without Cohle, there would have been no TV show.
Pizzolatto told HitFlix that the idea for the series came from a monologue he’d written in Cohle’s voice: “And I was writing longhand in a moleskin, and Cohle’s voice started coming out right away. … And he described some things, and was instantly describing these existential and metaphysical concerns that completely captivated me. I found that notebook a couple of months ago, and I was looking through it, and some of those very first things I wrote down, almost three years later made their way into Matthew’s mouth.”