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'True Detective': Five Things to Know About HBO's New Cop Drama

Stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson dish on their bromance, while executive producer Nic Pizzolatto weighs in on the appeal of the anthology format.

True Detective Harrelson McConaughey Still - H 2013
HBO
"True Detective"

HBO kicked off its star-filled session at Thursday's Television Critics Association winter press tour Thursday with Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson, the stars of its upcoming drama True Detective.

The eight-episode anthology centers on detectives Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and how they become entangled while on a 17-year search for a serial killer in Louisiana. Nic Pizzolatto (The Killing) penned the project with Jane Eyre's Cary Fukunaga attached to direct all eight installments. Michelle Monaghan co-stars as Martin's wife, Maggie.

Here are five things to know about the new series.

1. Contained story: Showrunner Pizzolatto noted he's a fan of the anthology format and reaffirmed that the series will contain itself after eight episodes. "I like stories with endings; I like a good third act," he said. "Continuing serial dramas tend to have good beginnings and long middles and have to hustle to develop an ending. I like the idea of telling a self-contained story." True Detective arrives as FX has continued to find ratings and awards season cache for American Horror Story, which reboots itself as a completely new series with returning talent playing different characters every season. The writer/EP also revealed that if he were to do a second season, True Detective would look to contain elements of the first season in the way that season one takes place in a small Louisiana town that doesn't typically find Hollywood calling. "If we do it again, the setting would be a major character," he said. "We're concerned with places that don't get much press. In some form, the series would always retain an aspect of a story being told, both because it lends itself to the idea of an investigation and gives great actors chances to account for their characters." That said, Pizzolatto noted that future seasons could be about anything so long as the story centered on the idea of objective truth vs. spoken truth -- one of his "governing curiosities."

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2. Novel origins: Pizzolatto said True Detective was initially conceived as a book, but as he started working on the story and additional themes emerged, he felt it was most suited for TV. "When I was working on the actual story to contain these two men and the themes I wanted to touch on, I was thinking about breaking into TV. I thought it would work well as a TV show since there are so may signifiers that could identify where you are. To me, it was better suited than a novel."

3. Role play: McConaughey was initially offered the role of Martin Hart when producers approached him with True Detective. "I read the role of Hart and understood why they were coming to me with the role … it was closer to some of my past work. But Cohle was the one that I hadn't done before. I love this guy's mind. I went back and said, 'I'd love to [do it] but I'd really like to be Cohle.' "

4. Bromance: McConaughey and Harrelson -- longtime friends and frequent co-stars -- always try to one-up each other during production, but True Detective was different. "Part of why we're friends is we get on each other's frequency and one-up each other," McConaughey said. "It can go into the ether and then some. But this was something different. This is the first time we've worked together where there's real opposition. Our relationship isn't built on opposition; we work on how [our characters are often] affirmative and how they agree. This was not about us coming together."

5. Film to TV: McConaughey noted that he signed on to the project immediately after reading the first two scripts -- even before True Detective was set up at HBO. "We didn't know where it was going to be. … I was looking for quality," he said, adding that the transition between film and TV is much more seamless in reality and perception now more than ever. "Some of the best drama is in TV in comparison to some films. True Detective was like a 450-page film. He also acknowledged his hot streak -- the actor is generating buzz for Dallas Buyers Club, noting that he hasn't thought about if he's had a good year. "These things feel really relevant and are piquing people's interest. I haven't thought about if I've had a good year; I haven't been looking in the rearview mirror for a while."

True Detective premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit