When Mahershala Ali approached Nic Pizzolatto about headlining the third season of his HBO crime anthology series True Detective, it was seemingly a no-brainer. “I thought right away that I’d be really really lucky to have an artist of his caliber driving this thing,” said Pizzolatto during his stop at Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys.
The only thing was, the lead role wasn’t written as an African American character. “My only insecurity was if the story would be fundamentally changed by changing the race of the lead character,” Pizzolatto said.
Pizzolatto, joined onstage by Ali at a packed Paramount Theater for the panel discussion, talked about how the two-time Oscar winner quelled his insecurity by making it clear he didn’t want the character’s story to be about race, but “something of a broader, more dimensional leading man than just someone whose defining characteristic would be race.”
Season 3 of the HBO series took a different turn from its predecessors, taking place within three different timelines and showcasing different versions of Ali’s protagonist Wayne Hays.
“You have to understand what’s underneath something — you can’t just play covering something that isn’t there. So you have to locate what it is that makes you vulnerable, and then cover it,” said Ali, offering insight on how he ultimately approached his character. “For me, it was about, in some way, shape, or form, trying to inform myself about his history, his past. … You have to give yourself some real things, some real memories to protect.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.
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