Can Mahershala Ali Bring Back Fans to ‘True Detective’ in Season 3?

HBO’s anthology series, True Detective, is only two season in, but has already come face to face with the fickle fallacy of fandom. Now, it’s looking for a way to redeem itself, and Mahershala Ali may be the answer.

The stars have always been a major hook when it comes to this series. Can Ali bring back the viewership lost in Season 2? Let’s find out.

1. The previous seasons

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson stand next to each other and look down at a piece of paper in True Detective Season 1 in an office wearing ties

Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson in True Detective Season 1 | HBO

True Detective Season 1 was an immediate hit. Creator Nic Pizzolatto, a relatively new name in TV, was soon the talk of the town, and the performances of stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson were rightfully praised. This set high expectations for Season 2.

Sadly, things didn’t go as planned for Pizzolatto, HBO, and A-list cast members like Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, and Colin Farrell. Rolling Stone’s Sean Collins wrote in his “postmortem” of the season that it made True Detective 2015’s “most passionately disliked show.”

2. Mahershala Ali

Mahershala Ali speaks into a microphone while on stage in a white tuxedo

Mahershala Ali | Christopher Polk/Getty Images

Until July 2017, we had heard nary a peep about Season 3. But then came the rumors that Ali had signed on to star, which was later confirmed by an Instagram post (as is tradition these days).

At the TCA 2017 presentation that month, HBO president of programming Casey Bloys said, “We have a deal with Mahershala Ali to play lead. So right now, we are talking to directors and when we find a director that we want to hire, we’ll be a go for that.”

And now it appears that HBO has found a director it wants to hire. Per Mashable, Bloys recently revealed that director Jeremy Saulnier (Green Room) has been tapped to direct multiple episodes, along with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto.

3. Ali’s early career

Mahershala Ali holds out his hands in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Mahershala Ali in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button | Paramount Pictures

If you don’t know Ali’s name by now, you haven’t been paying attention. But that hasn’t been the case for very long.

Ali got his start on Season 1 of NBC’s Crossing Jordan. From there, he starred in two back-to-back series, Threat Matrix and The 4400. He also appeared in a few films during this time, including The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

4. A household name

Mahershala Ali carrying a child in the ocean in Moonlight

Mahershala Ali in Moonlight | A24

Ali’s career took off in 2013 when he began a long-term role on House of Cards as Remy, a lobbyist who eventually goes to work for Frank Underwood in the White House. In 2014 and 2015, Ali had a role as Boggs, Katniss’ bodyguard and friend, in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 and Part 2.

But 2016 was undoubtedly Ali’s best year to date. He starred in Moonlight, for which he won the Best Actor Oscar. And that wasn’t even the only Academy-nominated film he was in last year — he also had a part in Hidden Figures.

Finally, Ali entered the Marvel TV universe as a villain, playing Cottonmouth in Season 1 of Netflix’s Luke Cage.

5. A new start

Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell stand next to each other outdoors in True Detective Season 2

Rachel McAdams and Colin Farrell in True Detective Season 2 | HBO

Beyond Ali’s casting and the addition of Jeremy Saulnier as director, little else is known about True Detective Season 3. One of the few details HBO shared is that Mahershala Ali will be playing a state police detective from northwest Arkansas named Wayne Hays, in “a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.” It appears as though HBO will be starting fresh after the disappointment of Season 2.

6. The creative team

Nic Pizzolatto and Matthew McConaughey at a presentation for HBO in 2014

Nic Pizzolatto and Matthew McConaughey | Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

What we do know about the production is that the product is quality. “Nic has written truly remarkable scripts,” said HBO president Casey Bloys. “With his ambitious vision and Mahershala Ali and Jeremy Saulnier aboard, we are excited to embark on the next installment of True Detective.”

So who else is behind these scripts? It seems as though Pizzolatto collaborated with David Milch, who has worked with HBO on series such as Deadwood and Luck.

7. A Matthew McConaughey reprisal?

Matthew McConaughey sitting at a table containing beer and cigarettes in True Detective

Matthew McConaughey in True Detective Season 1 | HBO

At one point, rumors of Matthew McConaughey reprising his role as Rust Cohle on the third season were swirling, but there has never been any confirmation. The actor showed an interest in potentially returning to the character, but only in “the right context.” However, we do know that he is supportive of Ali in his new role.

McConaughey told USA Today:

I worked with [Ali] on Free State [of Jones] and he’ll be a great fit, because I know whatever’s coming out of Nic’s writing mind, it’s heady and hardcore. It’s a very harsh reality. Mahershala’s got heavy feet. He’s grounded and rooted, and doesn’t have [an] attitude. There’s no room for attitude in Nic’s writing.

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