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‘True Detective’ Season 3: Nic Pizzolatto Praises Ozark Setting, Mahershala Ali Says Role Was the ‘Exhausting’ One He Wanted

The third season of HBO's crime series is set to wrap production in Arkansas this month.

Mahershala Ali90th Annual Academy Awards, Arrivals, Los Angeles, USA - 04 Mar 2018

Mahershala Ali

ACE Pictures/REX/Shutterstock

True Detective” creator Nic Pizzolatto and actor Mahershala Ali are wrapping production on the third season of HBO’s crime series this month. The new season has been filming in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas since February, and Pizzolatto stressed to press during a recent media day how important the season’s setting is to the plot and characters (via Arkansas Online).

Similar to season one, which starred Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson and was set in Louisiana, the third season’s Ozark Mountain setting “embodies emotional journeys” the show’s characters take, Pizzolatto said. The new batch of episodes is also utilizing the original run’s nonlinear storytelling approach. The official synopsis explains season three tells the story of a “macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.”

Pizzolatto had nothing but praise to share about filming on location in Arkansas. “The mystery of the deep woods. The fog over the mountains. The rivers. The water,” he said. “The sense of scale when you get out to some of this nature. Also, what the buildings say about the lives behind them. I feel like people will see it as an extension of character, something that embodies characters’ emotional journeys while influencing those journeys.”

The creator continued by saying “everywhere you point the camera here” in Arkansas is “a treasure.”

“Sometimes we found things that seem to come straight out of the imagination, like this particular house that I don’t want to go into it too much because of spoilers, but once we found it we couldn’t believe it existed,” Pizzolatto said. “It was almost exactly what I had written, and it needed to be very specific.”

Ali, whose character is an Arkansas State Police detective, echoed his creator’s thoughts. “It would have been a disservice to the story not to shoot in the Ozarks, in Fayetteville, in Arkansas, because it’s such a character in the story,” he said.

Ali told press Fayetteville locals were welcoming to him and the cast, which includes Carmen Ejogo and Stephen Dorff. The setting also informed how he created his character from the inside out.

“My character would not move or operate the same way if he was in New York,” Ali said. “I’ve given myself permission to go slower even if they want me to speed up a bit. You end up essentially aligning yourself with the frequency of the pace. And that’s how something will resonate as being truthful or not.”

For Ali, whose performance in “Moonlight” won him the Oscar for best supporting actor in 2017, the “True Detective” season three role met the criteria of a challenging character he was looking for at this point in his career.

“I’ve had the honor and good fortune of contributing to a lot of shows in theater and in television,” Ali said. “But I would go home at night wanting to experience more, a more fulfilling experience. I was very grateful for my opportunity, but I remember thinking, ‘I really want to be exhausted. I want to be tired from a good day’s work, you know. I want to get my hands dirty.’ That has happened [here]. I’ve been exhausted. I’ve got that. Check that box.”

“True Detective” is set to return to HBO in 2019. Ali can next be seen in Robert Rodriguez’s big-budget tentpole “Alita: Battle Angel,” in theaters nationwide December 21.

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