“True Detective” was expected to haul in plenty of Emmy nominations after the tidal wave of critical praise for its eight-episode run. But expecting to land a bunch of noms is different from getting the official word that your creation has commanded 12 bids, including tickets to the top horse races for the series and stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.
This kind of nuance matters to the man who penned such memorable lines as “time is a flat circle” and “we are things that labor under the illusion of having a self.” So the hard facts of Thursday’s Emmy nominations announcement were meaningful to Nic Pizzolatto, the “True Detective” creator who has seen his career skyrocket on the backs of two sweaty, ornery detectives hunting a serial killer in Louisiana bayou country.
Yes, there is an aspect of pinching himself on a day like today. Pizzolatto (pictured left with McConaughey) had been a college professor and novelist before he decided to break into TV and landed a staff writing job on “The Killing.” His spec script for “True Detective” took on a life of its own after landing Matthew McConaughey, Harrelson and HBO — in that order.
“I’m humbled and grateful,” Pizzolatto said, taking a break from writing scripts for season two of “True Detective.” Pizzolatto, who wrote all eight hours of the series, is also nommed in drama writing for episode 5, “The Secret Fate of All Life.” “It’s an honor just to be on the same list” as the other nominees in the series and drama writing categories, he said.
The Emmy windfall comes as Pizzolatto is holed up in a dimly lit room staring at his laptop. Is he feeling the pressure to top himself in season two?
“I just focus on the work,” he said. “You just do the best you can and when you’re able to connect with people and when you do it’s just incredibly gratifying. It really encourages me with season two. It puts the wind at my back.”
For the second go around, which will feature an entirely new cast, Pizzolatto said he’s considering bringing in a friend or two to help him break the “back half” of the second season’s 10 episodes.
“I haven’t decided yet,” he says. “It all comes from a personal place for me and in that way before I bring anybody else in I’d like to get a good number of scripts under me so that the world and the characters are very clear to me.”
One change that is afoot is the use of multiple directors for season two, in contrast to season one that was helmed entirely by Cary Joji Fukunaga (who is nommed for the action-packed “Who Goes There” fourth episode).
“I think that’s going to be good. I’m very excited about the talent we’ve been talking to and the possibility of working with them,” he said.
As season two takes shape, Pizzolatto emphasizes how happy he is to see Harrelson nominated for his work even if it puts him in direct competition with McConaughey in the same lead drama actor category.
McConaughey had the showier role, but Rust Cohle wouldn’t have been as enigmatic without being able to bounce off the solid foundation provided by Harrelson’s Martin Hart.
“I’m thrilled that Woody’s performance was acknowledged by Emmy voters. Both did such amazing work,” he said. “The character of Cohle is so electric. A lot of Woody’s really grounded, nuanced acting anchored that show in a recognizable reality for people. I was afraid that was maybe being passed over a little bit. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for a tie.”