Matthew & Woody: It helps if you’re buddies

Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) - January 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Last Sunday, Jan. 19, HBO premiered a new drama series starring two acting giants in Hollywood. True Detective is an eight-episode series starring Woody Harrelson and current Oscar front-runner Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club). The series, written by novelist Nic Pizzolato and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga (Sin Nombre, Jane Eyre), is a brooding crime drama about two detectives that spans 17 years and is book-ended by two crimes that appear similar but may or may not be related. The drama has received incredible reviews from US critics upon its premiere two Sundays ago and may yet earn more nominations (and Emmy wins!) for both its lead stars.

The universal acclaim the series received did not come as a surprise to this writer. A couple of weeks before Christmas, The Philippine STAR received an invitation from HBO to an exclusive preview of this series. I liked it! Unlike your regular police procedural dramas all over TV these days, True Detective is more assured, deliberate and almost meditative in its storytelling with carefully laid-out moments of comedy and a good amount of suspense that will keep the ordinary viewers engaged and the more sophisticated and ardent fans of the genre quite satisfied. A friend described it best for me after I described to her the series. It’s what dedicated fans of the revitalized crime genre call the “slow-burn” type. Whatever it’s called, it’s a brilliant piece of television.

Matthew and Woody sat for a free-wheeling, half-serious roundtable interview with this writer and about 10 other journalists from Europe and South America to talk about the series, the states of their respective careers, Matthew’s award-winning season — and his successful career “reinvention,” their return to TV acting and, because it was a roundtable, about golf (because one journalist was covering the event for a golf magazine!).

Here are excerpts:

Congratulations, Matthew! Did you manage to gain back the weight you lost for Dallas Buyers Club? (Note: Matthew portrays Ron Woodruff, an HIV-infected man in the movie set during the early years of the AIDS epidemic. For this role, he has won the Screen Actors Guild award and some minor awards like the Critics Choice and the Golden Globes.)

Matthew: I’ve gained 40 lbs. since.

Woody: Does he look like he’s in the same shape?

He looks very skinny in True Detective.

Matthew: Yeah. I was 165 then. So I gained 30 lbs.

Talk about what attracted you to the series and your respective roles.

Matthew: Writing had everything to do with it for me. At first they wanted me to look at Martin Hart (the character portrayed by Woody in the series.)

Woody: I was this close to the best role!

(Everyone laughed at Woody’s fake regret.)

Matthew: I felt like that was more of an obvious way to go. Then I fell in love with the words that came out of Rust Cohle’s mouth and I said, “I like it, but I like this guy.” And then it went to Woody and, thankfully, he said yes. And we’re off!

Woody: I said, I like this other part, then they said, ‘No, Matthew’s playing that.’

This is not the first time that you two are working together, is that correct?

Woody: Yeah. EdTV and Surfer Dude.

Talk about your history with each other.

Matthew: We’ve been friends all along between working together. We probably spend more time and have a lot more stories from real life goings-on than we do just making the films together. We’ve circled different projects that we didn’t do together and we’ve always looked for a way to work together. And so it’s a bonus for me if Woody is going to be a part of it.

Do you guys play golf together? (Yes, this is the golf segment of our almost aimless 30-minute interview.)

Woody: No.

(The Argentine journalist was rather insistent.) I’m sorry, I need to continue a little bit. You don’t play at all?

Woody: No. I get the clubs considerably farther and more accurate than the balls. I can’t play golf.

Matthew: You don’t really have the disposition for a golfer.

Woody: Was it Mark Twain who said that “golf is a good way to interrupt a good walk” — or something?

Your characters go to some dark territories. Was it easy to just drop your characters and just go back to being Woody and Matthew after each scene or do you carry your characters with you because you are filming such intense scenes?

Woody: I think both of us are really good at dropping — he’s a little more method than I am, you know. While we were shooting, it’s weird sometimes because he stays in character quite a bit throughout the day. Me, I can drop it, without thinking about it.

Matthew, describe your character Rust Cohle.

Matthew: I wouldn’t wish anyone to have to be in his head. He talks about existence being futile. I find that incredibly interesting. He’s the kind of guy who you want to give a drink to — to just relax for a second. He’s a real island unto himself and in that solitude is where I found a way to really be… I love staying in his mind… his opinions, his personal politics and his constitution.

 Matthew, in your recent choice of roles, you seemed to be touched by the gods.

Matthew: Touched by the gods? (Matthew let out an embarrassed laughter with the compliment.)

Woody: I will put it like this. He’s finally getting the respect he’s always deserved. I think he’s a phenomenal actor and he’s proven how much he can commit to a role and obviously with Ron Woodruff, I think there’s no actor alive who could have played that better. Maybe some could play it almost as good but that is as good as it gets. That’s hitting it out of the park. Well-deserved. (With Woody’s glowing compliments, only a fool would bet against Matthew not winning the Best Actor Oscar.)

Matthew, have you prepared your Oscar acceptance speech already?

Matthew: What’s that?

Woody: Hey, let’s hear you say it!

You make sure you mention Woody!

Woody: You don’t have to but if you do…

Matthew: This man is a friend of mine! And I am telling you he’s “touched by the gods.”

Woody, describe how it feels doing TV again.

Woody: This is a much different thing, a one-hour drama. When we were doing Cheers we start on Wednesday, come in, read the script, go home. Go in the next day, work a few hours, go home.

Has it changed?

Woody: Yeah. This is a totally different thing. It’s not like doing a sitcom. I can’t relate it. It’s like a different genre. Not just in terms of being in a drama but it is almost like it’s not TV… it is HBO!

Who got paid more?

Woody: I am a little concerned about that. (Woody jokingly hinted at Matthew.)

Matthew: $20 million? (Matthew joked back.)

Woody: No, I got $200,000!

Matthew: They gave me double zeroes off his.

Are you committed to doing another season of the series?

Matthew: We made a finite thing. To come back or to play another character, I think, would debase the work that we already created. If it’s something original and different, I would consider it but I wouldn’t want to play off of that because it takes the import out of the old. It would feel like an amendment or an appendage.

True Detective airs every Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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