5 Things You Didn't Know About HBO's 'True Detective'

Somehow, True Detective’s fifth episode managed to be even better than the explosive fourth, building upon that miraculous 6-minute tracking shot crescendo and supplementing the action – so skilfully predicated by three episodes of character planning – with a heavy dose of intricate plot.

True DetectiveRustin Cohle and Martin Hart investigate the eerie murder in Episode 1

As HBO’s latest ‘have you watched this’ drama rumbles on impressively – brooding performances from Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson as Rust Cohle and Martin Hart respectively only add credence to a wonderfully crafted, suspenseful story – here are 5 facts you didn’t know about True Detective. And if you did know them, shut up.

1 - Nic Pizzolatto risked everything to make it happen

Three years ago, Nic Pizzolatto was dreaming of a job in television while working as an assistant professor of literature at DePauw University in Indiana. His 2010 novel Galveston has some good reviews, but nothing was really flying. One day, he got asked if he’d written for TV, as his book was being talked about being optioned for an on-screen adaption.

Pizzolatto took a risk; he upped sticked, moved his entire family to Los Angeles, which meant quitting his comfortable job at DePauw of course, and started churning out scripts like you wouldn’t believe, often embarking on 48-hour stints. One of these scripts was True Detective. Need we say more?

2 - HBO, FX and Showtime All Fought for the show

Someone must have pitched this show perfectly, because it wasn’t just the boxset giants HBO in the frame; plucky outsiders Showtime and FX – the home of American Horror Story, which inspired the anthology format for TD – were also in line. FX chief John Landgraf says his network and Showtime were “bidding very aggressively” for 'True Detective,' at the time.

It ended up with HBO, who used their considerable cache to land the 8-episode thriller. And it doesn’t look like anyone – apart from perhaps FX and Showtime – have looked back.

3 - Matthew McConaughey was offered Martin - he wanted Cohle

Rust Cohle’s existential, metaphysical rants range from downright funny to bone-marrow-freezingly scary – so much so we just made up a word to describe them. Anytime he says something over the top, which is basically all the time, the brilliant dynamic between him and Marty comes into play. In other words, Rust is a brilliantly written character, and one any actor would love to play.

So when McConaughey was offered the role of Marin Hart – a traditional family man with problems no different to the next detective, something was amiss. “I read the role of Hart and understood why they were coming to me with the role … it was closer to some of my past work. But Cohle was the one that I hadn't done before. I love this guy's mind. I went back and said, 'I'd love to [do it] but I'd really like to be Cohle,” explained McConaughey. Now it’s impossible to imagine things the other way around…

True Detective stillThe true detectives ponder things in the show's second episode

4 - McConaughy was on board, even before HBO were

Such is the depth and power of Pizzolatto’s brilliant script, McConaughy – arguably the show’s biggest draw in terms of star power at the moment – was signed up and ready to go even before HBO had their hands on it. The Dallas Buyers Club actor recognized the ability of TV to portray story in ways film can’t, and wanted to be a part of it. "Some of the best drama is in TV in comparison to some films. True Detective was like a 450-page film,” he said of the show. "We didn't know where it was going to be. … I was looking for quality."

5 - Just one of the show’s rich references is Robert W. Chambers' The King in Yellow (very minor spoilers)

If you’re up to date with True Detective – and I’ll keep this spoiler free as much as I can – you’ll know that Rust is confronted with a man who claims to know who the Yellow King is. This is a reference to The King in Yellow – a fictional play within a collection of short stories.

“There is a play... a play that some say does not exists, a play that brings madness and dispair to all who read it, the play of the King in Yellow...” That’s probably enough from us; the show is so good, we don’t want to risk ruining it for anyone - but basically: that sounds f*cking terrifying. 

Be sure to catch True Detective when episode 6 out of 8 airs on Sunday night on HBO.


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Tags: Matthew Mcconaughey - Woody Harrelson - HBO


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