Colin Farrell Talks ‘True Detective’ Season 2 at Maui Film Festival

"I dug deep into my not-so-distant past" quips star about playing a "burnout."

Colin Farrell Maui Film Festival
Andrew Goodman/Getty Images

In a wide-ranging interview Thursday night at the Maui Film Festival, Colin Farrell parted the veil of secrecy ever-so-slightly on the upcoming second season of HBO’s “True Detective.”

Conceding he’s still forbidden to reveal much, Farrell called his character in the series “a bit of burnout, really,” taking a pause to acknowledge that that might be a kind of typecasting. When the audience laughed, he quipped: “I dug deep into my not-so-distant past.”

More seriously, he added “He’s somebody who like many of us in life is wrestling with events that took place in his past, and is trying to move forward from them, but trapped in this continual cycle of behavior he can’t get out of. I think fundamentally he’s a good man that made some very bad choices.”

Farrell was interviewed by Variety editor David S. Cohen after being presented the fest’s Navigator Award, which “honors a film artist for carving a path of distinction through the turbulent waters of the entertainment industry without sacrificing their fundamental commitment to excellence.” Fest director Barry Rivers presented Farrell with the award.

Farrell said he’d loved the show’s first season, ” and when I heard they were doing a second season, I thought ‘Ooh, good luck to the actors that are doing that.'” But then he read the new season’s script. “Oh, God, it was such good writing. … it’s extraordinary stuff.

“Aesthetically, it’s very different,” he said. “There are four main characters, as opposed to the two-character structure that’s in the first piece. But it’s a lot of the same sensibilities, and a lot of the characters are struggling with the same kind of existential quandaries and questions that are related to meaning and purpose and the burying of the darkness that may be in your past.”

The show kicks off with a murder in episode 1, Farrell said, “but I think it’s more to do with what’s happening with the characters than the solving of a murder, which is what I kind of felt about the first year anyway. So hopefully people respond to it. You never know. But it was a blast to work on. It was such good material, and such a wonderful cast of characters.”

Farrell didn’t discuss his struggles with substance abuse directly, but in discussing career highlights said ruefully “I can’t remember so much (of that).” Asked about his “recent past” and how he’s doing with his recovery, Farrell said “I’m good, man.  I was at the party long enough. I was the party long enough. For me…. I’m very glad to be alive.”

Farrell described himself as “an actor with choice” at this stage of his career, acknowledging that such a thing “unheard of” because most actors are woefully unemployed. But does he really have the choice to do whatever he wants, asked Cohen. Farrell said, “I mean you always want more of everything, don’t you? It seems to be the human condition. You always want more, more; you’re never happy; more choice, bigger this, bigger that.

“And so I wouldn’t mind being able to do anything I wanted to do, and I can’t, and that’s okay. But I’m working, and I’ve been blessed over the 15 years with an incredible amount of opportunity I never really had planned for, and never really thought was going to come my way. So, yeah, I have a nice bit of choice, and yeah, I do okay.”

Regarding his choices over the years, Farrell said “I’ve done jobs for purely creative reasons and I’ve done jobs where the money was better than the script but I thought I could do something with the script. But it was really to bank a bit of money for the future. So you just mix it up.”

“Once every few years I seem to do something that hits or works a little bit, whether it’s critically or does a little bit of coin or whatever it is. And it’s kept me afloat.”

He talked about times when his films have flopped “and the phone stopped ringing.” When the audience laughed, he said “It wasn’t funny at the time.” But in sum, he was philosophical about the experience.

“Honestly, it’s everything for a reason,” he said.”For me, it’s been a lot of this through the years, and I’ve been just blessed to have the journey through it I’ve had to this point. There’s no anger or regrets or ‘I wish this was different or that was different.’ It’s all good.”