With remarkable writing, acting, and directing (that tracking shot!), HBO’s “True Detective” has quickly become everyone’s new favorite series.
The first season of “True Detective” follows Louisiana homicide detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey), an existential nihilist, and the more average-minded Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson). The series unfolds over the course of 17 years as Rust and Marty track down a serial killer from a 1995 case, relaying their story to a new set of detectives in 2012.
In the latest episode, “Haunted Houses,” we finally find out what really went down in 2002 between Marty and Rust, and Marty's wife Maggie (Michelle Monaghan) shows up in the 2012 detectives' office to tell her side of the story.
(Warning: Spoiler alert if you have not seen Episode 6, “Haunted Houses,” of “True Detective.”)
HuffPost TV caught up with Monaghan, who told us about her moment with Rust in the latest episode, what Maggie would think about the recent Marty killer theory, and one of her favorite scenes.
Did you and the cast know the entire plot before filming? Or did you find out episode by episode?
We knew the entire plot before filming.
There are a lot of theories circulating about the show. Have you read any? Are any spot on?
No, I haven’t actually.
There are so many, I’ve fallen into the rabbit hole myself trying to follow all the clues. There’s a couple of interesting ones that point to Marty as the Yellow King or maybe the killer. Do you think that Maggie would expect something like that of Marty?
I don’t think that she would suspect that of Marty. I think she would suspect a lot of other things about Marty, but I definitely don’t think she would suspect him as a murderer or a perpetrator against women … maybe a predator in terms of the sexual way. Not in a victimized sort of ... I don’t think so.
In the most recent episode, before Maggie decides to leave Marty, she goes over to Rust’s house and has sex with him. Does she do this to get revenge on Marty, or is there an attraction between her and Rust?
No, I don’t think there’s an attraction between them. I think she’s certainly attracted to Rust’s mind. I think she goes over there with the sole purpose of, yes, getting the ultimate revenge, to betray him with the person Marty is most threatened by and who he’s closest to, and that would be Rust. And she does that ultimately to protect herself and her family from Marty’s behavior.
Later in the episode, Marty and Rust get into a fight when Marty finds out what happened. After this incident in 2002, Rust disappears and completely changes. What do you think triggered his change and disappearance?
I think it’s partly finding out that maybe he hasn’t found the true killer yet. Once he’s been given that information, I mean that’s pretty devastating for him.
Can you talk about Maggie and Marty’s daughters? The oldest one has shown some unusual behavior throughout the series so far. Is there a reason for this that will be revealed?
Yeah, she has. I think you can sort of say that that might be from the inattention, the lack of maybe Marty’s role in the family. I think that’s what we’re kind of alluding to, that he hasn’t really been a strong presence in the family. And that Maggie starts to -- this is something that she’s known for a long time and that the girls could be potentially subjected to, or be taken advantage of in a certain way, which is a common theme throughout the series. That’s very, very scary for any parent to see your child making bad decisions. But if you also don’t have someone at home supporting them and telling them the right thing to do, showing them the right thing to do, then they’re going to continue to go down that wrong path. I think that’s one of the reasons why Maggie ultimately makes the decision that she does.
Maggie says in the most recent episode, “Marty didn’t know who he was so he never knew what he wanted.” Do you think he ever figures out what he wants?
I think he does, I think he does in the end. And I think he does too late.
We never actually see the scene where Lisa tells Maggie about her affair with Marty. Was this scene filmed and left out on purpose, or was it not in the script?
You know what, it was never in the show. Then we shot it because we thought we might want to use it, and then I think they ultimately decided to stick to the original plan, which was to not use it. I think maybe one of the reasons is we’ve seen that scene before so many other times.
Did Lisa ever tell Maggie about Marty’s violence, or just about the affair? If so, could that in any way have influenced their separation?
That’s a good question. I don’t know if she would have told her how violent he was, I think that she would’ve just told her about the affair, just very plain and simple.
You play the only significant female character on the show, and it’s refreshing to see Maggie is such a strong female presence. What’s was that like playing that role on a show where women are so degraded by men?
That’s certainly one of the reasons why I was drawn to the character because she really is the grounding force within the series. I consider her to be kind of one of the most emotional of all the characters, and she’s very real. I like that this is a woman who could navigate two men, or try to have a relationship with her husband under the circumstances and yet be able to forge a relationship with somebody she finds truly engaging and interesting, that being Rust. I appreciate her devotion to her family. [In Episode 6] she really decides for herself that this is the only way to get ultimately what she wants, which is freedom from Marty.
Since Maggie and Marty split up in Episode 6, will we see Maggie again in the remaining two episodes?
There’s a scene early on in the series between Maggie and Marty, where Marty breaks down in the bedroom. It’s such a powerful and genuine scene. What was it like filming that?
Yeah, it was. It’s one my favorite scenes I’ve ever had the pleasure to shoot because it was just so beautifully written and so honest and so real. I think that’s a really confronting scene for people that have been in long relationships because it’s really, you’ve got a couple here that’s really struggling.
There’s a line that Maggie has that’s always so powerful to me: "I try to remember things because I feel like it’s my job or something.” I think that’s such a powerful line because you’re constantly trying to prolong yourself what it used to be when things have changed so remarkably, or unremarkably. And you’re trying to get that person to see the light, to evolve with you and change, and be able to communicate with that person and flow together. She sees a man -- a man that she’s loved all her life -- that is truly arrested development, that’s completely closed off. She also knows, she has that woman’s intuition that something else is going on. The subtext there is she’s giving him an out, she’s giving him the opportunity to come clean in a really quiet way. And he just can’t do it, and it’s just devastating. She let’s him off the hook, and I think that’s a very raw and real and honest scene.
A theme I noticed was the timing of the cult murder investigations and problems in Maggie and Marty’s marriage. In the beginning, the first murder investigation precedes their separation and in 2002, they break up following the resurfacing of the same murders. Are the murders and their relationship troubles related in any way, in a thematic sense?
I guess you could say that, I think that might be just the structure that Nic [Pizzolatto] decided to use. Also, I think that might be symbolic certainly, but also as the investigation unravels, so does their marriage. The closer they get to finding the murderer, the closer the marriage is to falling apart, and that can be due to Marty’s absence at home. I think I’ve said this before, but I see Marty as very brave at work, but very much a coward at home.
There’s are a lot of literary works that the show references. Were you familiar with these or did you read any of them when you started filming?
I was some yes and some not, that’s the cleverness of [writer] Nic Pizzolatto.
Do you have any insight as to where the series might be headed in next season?
I do, I have a little one, but I can’t say. [laughs] But it will be a whole new ball game.
"True Detective" airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. EST.