‘True Detective’ Season 3: Everything You Need to Know

Shooting has wrapped in Arkansas and the trailer is out, so here's everything we know about Nic Pizzolatto's third season of "True Detective." — Updated August 26
True Detective Season 3 Mahershala Ali - bicycle
True Detective Season 3: Everything to Know: Cast, Release Date—UPDATE
True Detective Season 3: Everything to Know: Cast, Release Date—UPDATE
True Detective Season 3: Everything to Know: Cast, Release Date—UPDATE
True Detective Season 3: Everything to Know: Cast, Release Date—UPDATE
18 Images

True Detective” Season 3 is starting to feel real. It’s been more than two years since Nic Pizzolatto’s HBO anthology series aired its last episode, and for the longest time it felt like the next one was a long way off, at best. Viewers may still have a bit of a wait in front of them, but it’s actually happening: HBO has given the official greenlight to a new season of “True Detective.”

Fans now know enough to get excited. Or anxious. Or to feel whatever it is they feel when a show as hotly discussed as “True Detective” is embarking on another case.

Below, IndieWire has gathered the relevant facts and information released about Season 3. This article will be updated regularly to keep things current, and readers can access specific breaking news articles at the bottom of the page.

So, without further ado, here’s everything we know about “True Detective” Season 3.

The Logline

The official plot summary for Season 3, courtesy of HBO, reads:

The next installment of “True Detective” tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.

The shifting time periods and decades-spanning mystery harkens back to Season 1, which bounced between two timelines and slowly pieced together what happened in between. The rural setting, while far from Louisiana, is also much closer to Season 1’s remote setting than the industrial jungle of Vinci, California (a fictional town not too far from Los Angeles).

As far as we know, “True Detective” will not be crossing over with the Netflix series, “Ozark” (though Jason Bateman in “True Detective” is an intriguing idea).

[Updated August 24] 

HBO has released the first trailer for Season 3, and it’s a moody, dark, time-jumping doozy. Watch it here, and check out images from the 60-second spot in the gallery above.

True Detective Season 3 Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali in “True Detective”Warrick Page / HBO

The Cast

Mahershala Ali may not be the true detective, but he is the first detective to sign on for Season 3. He’s also the only actor to officially come on board.

Ali will play the lead role of Wayne Hays, a state police detective from Northwest Arkansas. His primary investigation centers on a crime committed in the Ozarks.

After weeks of speculation following a report he’d been approached, HBO programming president Casey Bloys confirmed the casting during the network’s TCA press tour panel.

Ali won an Academy Award in 2017 for his supporting performance in “Moonlight.”

Late Friday, November 18, HBO announced Carmen Ejogo (“The Girlfriend Experience”) has signed on as the second member of the cast. The actress will play Amelia Reardon, an Arkansas schoolteacher with a connection to two missing children in 1980.

True Detective Season 3 Stephen Dorff Mahershala Ali
Stephen Dorff and Mahershala Ali in “True Detective”Warrick Page / HBO


To kick off the new year, HBO announced “Somewhere” and “Blade” star Stephen Dorff will join the cast of “True Detective” Season 3. Dorff will play Roland West, “an Arkansas State Investigator who, along with his partner, has his life and career influenced over three decades by a baffling crime.”

Dorff was last seen in a recurring role on Lee Daniels’ Fox drama “Star.” His role in Sofia Coppola’s 2010 drama, opposite Elle Fanning, earned him strong critical acclaim, but he’s yet to match that performance. Perhaps 2018 is his time.

Scoot McNairy (“Halt and Catch Fire”) and Mamie Gummer (“Ricki & The Flash”) have also joined the Season 3 cast. McNairy will play Tom, a father who suffers a terrible loss that ties his fate to that of two state police detectives over 10 years. Gummer will play Lucy Purcell, a young mother of two at the center of a tragic crime.

In February, HBO signed on a slew of recurring characters, including “Justice League’s” Ray Fisher, Rhys Wakefield (“Endless Love,” “The Purge”), Michael Greyeyes (“Fear the Walking Dead,” “The New World”), and Jon Tenney (“Scandal,” “Major Crimes”).

Fisher will play Freddy Burns, the son of Wayne Hays (played by Ali). Wakefield’s role is Henry Hays, while Greyeyes gets Brett Woodward and Tenney is Alan Jones. No other information was provided about these characters.

True Detective Season 3 Mahershala Ali Carmen Ejogo
Carmen Ejogo and Mahershala Ali in “True Detective”Warrick Page / HBO

The Director(s)

“True Detective” made such a sterling first impression, in part, because of Cary Fukunaga’s direction in Season 1. He helmed every episode and served as a powerful collaborative force in defining the series itself.

Season 2 lacked a similar vision, as six directors helmed eight episodes, so there’s understandably quite a bit of interest in the two people set to get behind the camera for Season 3.

After director interviews began in July 2017, HBO confirmed two directors for an unknown number of episodes: Nic Pizzolatto and Jeremy Saulnier.

[Updated March 30]

At the end of March 2018, Saulnier exited Season 3 early. After shooting two of his three scheduled episodes, the director was replaced with TV veteran Daniel Sackheim. Sackheim has directed episodes of “The Leftovers” and “Game of Thrones” for HBO, as well as “The Americans,” “Ozark,” and “Better Call Saul” for other networks.

Per a statement from HBO, Saulnier left the production due to “scheduling issues.” Here’s the full statement:

Director and executive producer Jeremy Saulnier has completed the first two episodes of “True Detective” Season 3 and will be departing the production due to scheduling issues. Daniel Sackheim has come on board as an additional director and executive producer for the series alongside series creator and director Nic Pizzolatto.

Sources said the Arkansas production has been challenging, noting that Pizzolatto and Saulnier had a difference of opinions on early episodes.

Saulnier broke out with the 2013 Cannes entry, “Blue Ruin,” for which he won the Director’s Fortnight award. He also helmed the well-reviewed 2015 horror film “Green Room” and is in post-production on “Hold the Dark,” a thriller starring Riley Keough.

Season 3 will mark Pizzolatto’s first time behind the director’s chair, but, as showrunner, he worked closely with Fukunaga in Season 1 and a team of directors in Season 2.

True Detective Season 3 Mahershala Ali Carmen Ejogo
Mahershala Ali and Carmen Ejogo in “True Detective”Warrick Page / HBO

The Scripts

Just like Season 1, Nic Pizzolatto has written every script for Season 3 — sans for Episode 4, which he co-wrote with “Deadwood” creator David Milch.

Rumors of Milch’s involvement surfaced in March 2017, and it appears his help was even more limited than previously reported. He is not listed as a producer on the new season and is only credited for one episode.

That being said, HBO programming president Casey Bloys has been head over heels for Pizzolatto’s scripts all along. Before the season was greenlit, he said, “All I’ll tell you is I’m very, very impressed and excited about what I’ve read,” Bloys said during his presentation at the Television Critics Association press tour. “I don’t want to give away the storyline, but I think they’re terrific.”

In his official statement after the season was given the go ahead, he said, “Nic has written truly remarkable scripts. With his ambitious vision and Mahershala Ali and Jeremy Saulnier aboard, we are excited to embark on the next installment of ‘True Detective.'”

“I’m tremendously thrilled to be working with artists at the level of Mahershala and Jeremy,” Pizzolatto said in a statement. “I hope the material can do justice to their talents, and we’re all very excited to tell this story.”

True Detective Season 3 Mahershala Ali
Mahershala Ali in “True Detective”Warrick Page / HBO

The Release Date

“True Detective” Season 3 premieres Sunday, January 13 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

Production began in February 2018 and wrapped in early August, per the below post on Mahershala Ali’s Instagram account.


Executive Producer/Creator/Showrunner/Writer/Director: Nic Pizzolatto

Executive Producer/Director: Jeremy Saulnier

Executive Producer/Director: Daniel Sackheim

Executive Producer: Scott Stephens
– Stephens produced the first two seasons, as well.

Executive Producer: Matthew McConaughey
– McConaughey has been on board as a producer since starring in Season 1.

Executive Producer: Woody Harrelson
– Harrelson has been on board as a producer since starring in Season 1.

Executive Producer: Cary Joji Fukunaga
– Fukunaga has been on board as a producer since directing Season 1.

Executive Producers: Steve Golin, Bard Dorros, Richard Brown
– Golin and Brown produced the first two seasons. Dorros produced films including “Spotlight” and “Triple 9” and is executive producing the new Starz sci-fi thriller, “Counterpart.”

Additional Reporting

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