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Mahershala Ali Will Star in True Detective Season 3

There are few actors we could think of who could enliven HBO’s resurrected True Detective series better than Mahershala Ali. The Oscar-winning actor who was so instantly memorable in Moonlight, and so excellent on TV in Luke Cage and House of Cards, has been confirmed for season three of True Detective by HBO’s president of programming Casey Bloys. Scripts for the first five episodes have already been written, which Bloys called “terrific.”  

When True Detective premiered in 2014, it was a weird, immediate sensation. Leads Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, as detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart respectively, were perfectly cast as mismatched partners investigating a series of twisted murders in the south. Creator Nic Pizzolatto had taken the beloved detective genre and infused it with pathos, genuine creepiness and a touch of southern gothic terror, while his leads gave two of the best performances on TV that year. The second season, which suffered some pretty serious critical backlash, wasn’t nearly as bad as many people seemed to think (in fact, some of it was very good), but not even the solid performances of leads Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Vince Vaughn could elevate the show to the level of season one’s creativity or originality. After season two ended, most people, us included, thought HBO would move on from the series. 

Casting Ali in season three is one excellent way to earn a headwind of goodwill—he’s got the magnetism of McConaughey and then some. What he’ll need are co-stars that can hold the screen with him, which is what made season one so compelling. For all of McConaughey’s offbeat charisma and is-he-or-isn’t-he totally insane, Harrelson’s Marty Hart was both a perfect foil and the show’s real ticking timebomb. It was a joy to watch the two actors spar, and the scripts were so tightly written that their arcs were fairly surprising and very satisfying. Granted, McConaguhey’s Cohle remained more or less batty the whole season, but watching the arc of the relationship between Hart and Cohle, from mismatched partners, to enemies, to frenemies, to perfectly calibrated partners, was great TV. In the end they needed each other, and only together could they hope to solve the crime. 

With Deadwood mastermind David Milch joining the True Detective team, there is reason to believe Ali will be given every chance to reinvigorate the anthology series that only a few short years ago seemed to be HBO’s best bet in a post-Thrones world. 

Featured image: Mahershala Ali and Alex R. Hibbert in Moonlight. Courtesy A24. 

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The Credits is an online magazine that tells the story behind the story to celebrate our large and diverse creative community. Focusing on profiles of below-the-line filmmakers, The Credits celebrates the often uncelebrated individuals who are indispensable to the films and TV shows we love.

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