Taylor Kitsch's 'True Detective' Character Is About to "Fall Apart"

The actor says upcoming episodes will reveal much more about why Paul "is the way he is."
HBO

Sunday's True Detective episode featured the deepest dive yet into Taylor Kitsch's character, Paul Woodrugh — not that that's saying much, considering how closed off Paul keeps himself.

Still, Kitsch revealed volumes about Paul and his deep discomfort with his sexuality via body language. In a scene set in a club, Paul nearly folds in on himself while talking to a pair of gay prostitutes about the murder case at the heart of this season.

"We were playing around with that even in rehearsals, just how much we want to reveal, even to them," Kitsch says. "We're all different people when we're by ourselves...or when there's someone where you can truly be yourself. I don't know if there's anyone in Paul's world where he can be himself, even with himself. That was fun to play with."

Kitsch also talked with The Hollywood Reporter about clicking with True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto, the coming crisis for his character and why he wanted this role so much. Highlights of the conversation are below.

How long did it take you to figure out where Paul was coming from, given that he's so guarded?

Good question. Nic and I kind of hit it off and were on the same page from real early, and I think that helped in the process of prepping and what direction we want to go with this guy. And to flatter myself, to be on the same page with him [was great] in the sense of just how slow of a burn we wanted and breaking down each episode of where he is and when we want those beats where he's gonna fall apart.

These couple [episodes] coming up, in four and five — even when I was reading one and two, these scenes in four and five were just so prevalent.... For me, with any character you want to know where he came from. You see in spades with Paul why he is the way he is, with his family and his upbringing. You'll see a bit more of that coming up, and to me that's just incredibly important.

Paul seems like he's had this idea of what it means to be a man drilled into him, but now he's really questioning that.

Going into the army and leaving home — he's always trying to do the "right" thing, and [discover] what it means to be a man. "Maybe this will work. Maybe this is just a phase, maybe I'll just click and snap out of it." Even visiting his mom [Lolita Davidovich] — he's doing the right thing. As this case unwinds, within himself and the actual case, you get to see how desperate he's getting to not face that.... I haven't seen it yet, but there's kind of a beautiful montage that leads up to a scene with [Colin] Farrell in [episode] four. You kind of see him just cracking. It's great.

What does he want to get out of the case? Is it just his old job back, or is there more to it?

Obviously it's a bit deeper, but again it goes back to doing the right thing. He is that kind of loner and used to working on his own. When he's on the [task] force and around Bezzerides [Rachel McAdams] and Velcoro [Farrell] and all those guys, he's obviously a different guy. He's just kind of clocked in and trying to be numb to it, more or less. But it's a good question — I think there's a bit of him, when he does have to go investigate, when he does have to go into these clubs, when he does have to expose himself to this world, I think there's a fascination within himself. That's the catch-22 — there is something pulling him in. It's not just Q&A's here. It's the "what if?"

Paul's military past and the Black Mountain operation have been alluded to some, but will we ever see that come to the forefront?

You will. And what happened there, I think — well, it's the same feeling that this is important. You got a bit of that with Miguel [Gabriel Luna] in episode three, and it will truly unwind — I don't want to tell you. Later on it will.

Are episodes four and five big ones just for Paul, or also for the progress of the case?

Selfishly speaking, I think it's more just Paul. He's unraveling. There are a couple scenes where you see him crack and not be able to hold on like he could before. Those are the scenes that just jumped out at me [to show] why he does what he does and acts how he acts.... [You'll see] where he's come from and how suppressed he's been in that house and that relationship with his mother kind of unfolds. Then with the case, it's a slow burn. With Paul, he has bigger beats with his home life and just the repercussions of acting on something within himself. The [weight] he puts on himself is enormous, the strain.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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