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Mahershala Ali Couldn’t Wait To Be Part of True Detective’s Comeback Energy

After a long hiatus, True Detective is about to finally return. When last we saw the HBO drama, it was August 2015, and we were all a little bit baffled. How did the first season—a philosophical and much-loved ride through the occult with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson—become the second season—a nonsensical death in the desert with Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, Rachel McAdams, and Taylor Kitsch? Three and a half years after season two’s mixed-to-bad reviews, season three is here with a whole new cast, concept, and energy that star Mahershala Ali says he was excited to be a part of. “If anything, I think it gave me more confidence about signing onto this show, because I was looking forward to being a part of the energy that was looking to not resurrect the show, because the show wasn’t dead, but just to put it back on the right track and make an attempt to take it further than maybe they did even in the first year,” he told E!’s Erin Lim at the show’s premiere. 

Creator Nic Pizzolatto, who wrote or co-wrote every episode of the season, said that while he doesn’t know how to assure audiences that the show is, as Lim says, “bigger, better, and jjust totally different,” he can say that he did his best. “I just try to get better at what I do and try to tell the best story possible, and just get better,” he says. Ali stars alongside Carmen Ejogo and Stephen Dorff in a story that spans three different time periods, all centered around the disappearance of a young boy and girl in Arkansas. Ali plays Detective Wayne Hays, Dorff plays his partner Roland West, and Ejogo plays schoolteacher Amelia Reardon.

Ejogo says Pizzolatto went “above and beyond” this season, especially when it came to the female characters.”I feel like women are something that he’s really worked hard on making three-dimensional in this season, and my character is certainly no exception,” she says, explaining in the video above that her character almost becomes a third detective. Pizzolatto says this season’s ambitions are different, telling a story across 35 years that involves Ali’s character at three different “very significant points in his life.” “It’s kind of his life story as well as a mystery, so I think those ambitions are a bit different,” he says. “But at the same time, it has some structural callbacks to some of the things we’ve done, and the sort of Southern Gothic setting might feel familiar but different, I hope.” 

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Hit play above to hear about Ali’s experience playing with decades, and how the show is moving away from the second season. True Detective premieres this Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO. 

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