Matthew McConaughey has never not been a star, but his role as Detective Rust Cohle on season 1 of HBO’s True Detective was a rare turn that brought his quirky dramatic talent to the small screen. This week the actor appeared on Fox Sports Radio The Rich Eisen Show, where the host asked him about the character and whether he’d return to the show.
“I miss Rust Cohle,” the actor said. Though he also commented that he couldn’t imagine living on the character’s mental “island.” Both he and co-star Woody Harrelson stayed on with the series as executive producers so McConaughey said he has talked with the creator about appearing again.
“I miss watching him [Rust Cohle] on Sunday nights. I was a happy man while we made that […] ‘cause I was on my own island. But yeah I would. I talked to Nic about it. It would have to be the right context. That thing, when I read it, I knew in 20 minutes, I was like ‘If I can play this guy Rustin Cohle then I’m in.’” The actor first explained that he’d been approached to play Marty, the role eventually taken by Harrelson, but was captivated by the smart, convoluted mind of Rust Cohle.
Other highlights of the conversation include McConaughey’s analysis of how he memorized and rehearsed the complex monologues, and the patience he exercised during the early, more reticent appearances of his character.
True Detective is designed as an anthology series so the format doesn’t actually lend itself to McConaughey making a return in the same role. For Rust Cohle though audiences might bend the rules. The first season was a smash hit with critics and viewers and received numerous reviews as one of the strongest TV series ever. The partnership between McConaughey and Harrelson created massive interest, as audiences were kept guessing which one was really stable and which was coming slightly unhinged. McConaughey won a TCA award and he and Harrelson were both nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards.
McConaughey’s rambling observations and Harrelson’s rote, parroted morality created entertaining discourse at the time but now more than ever they reflect the divided discourse that surrounds this election year. Seeing philosophical divides portrayed so eloquently on screen, wrapped in an engrossing plotline to boot, meant the dud that was season 2 landed particularly hard.
While critics speculated on whether the letdown could have been the fault of cast chemistry, story issues, or using multiple directors, HBO’s president of programming Michael Lombardo shouldered some of the blame. He told a southern California radio talk show that he’d pushed creator Nic Pizzolatto to meet a deadline for shooting, rather than giving him the time to craft a story and scripts that felt complete. “[T]he first season of True Detective was something that Nic Pizzolatto had been thinking about, gestating, for a long period of time. He’s a soulful writer. And I take the blame. I became too much of a network executive at that point. I set him up. To deliver, in a very short time frame, something that became very challenging to deliver. That’s not what that show is. He had to reinvent the wheel, so to speak. Find his muse. And so I think that’s what I learned from it. Don’t do that anymore.”
We’ve all seen the power of social media, so maybe Detective fans can get a campaign going to prove that time really is a flat circle, bringing Rust and Marty back around again.