Watching the Detectives

Austin native Gabriel Luna spills (a little) on season 2 of HBO's True Detective

Gabriel Luna
Gabriel Luna (Photo by Ezra Patchett)

Before we get into the subject of True Detective season 2, we need to acknowledge something. There will never again be a True Detective season 1.

Never again will viewers be blown back by Matthew McConaughey's completely unexpected, dead-perfect performance as a monkish crime investigator gone to seed, Woody Harrelson's menacing and charismatic dick-swinging, the six-minute tracking shot, or a million Southern Gothic loose ends and cosmic shivers.

Our loss of viewing innocence aside, though, True Detective season 2 has more than a few things going for it. Series creator Nic Pizzolatto's decision at the outset that each season would feature new characters, story, and setting is a big one. He also uses different directors for season 2 episodes (though Fast & Furious franchise vet Justin Lin is already credited on two of them), while Cary Fukunaga was sole director for the first season.

Early reviews indicate that the season, a Southern California noir involving conspiracy, corruption, and kinky sex connected to a missing city manager and a rapid-rail development, could be an even more radical departure than expected. It's a scenario that, as has already been widely noted, brings to mind Roman Polanski's 1974 stunner Chinatown, and that aspect alone promises enough convoluted intrigue to keep viewers hooked in and buzzing.

As with season 1, Pizzolatto cast middle-aged A-listers with mixed critical histories and up-and-comers who, respectively, have a shot at redeeming themselves or cementing their promise. Colin Farrell is a police detective with an overstated mustache and a dark history. Vince Vaughn plays a mobster trying to turn legit developer. Taylor Kitsch is a semidisgraced highway cop, and Rachel McAdams fills out the primary cast as a county sheriff's detective.

Another up-and-comer in the mix is native Austinite Gabriel Luna. Luna was on an upward trajectory with El Rey series Matador and ABC's upcoming Wicked City, along with new films Freeheld and Balls Out, when he got the word of Matador's cancellation. He was "a bit down" about that, he said from his L.A. home via telephone, but he read for True Detective shortly afterward. While he didn't get the part he read for (the mayor's wild son), he was called back to play Miguel, a friend of Kitsch's character to whom he turns in "a moment of crisis," said Luna.

A hardcore fan of the series – he played its theme song on his guitar at frequent request on the Matador set – Luna said he never expected to be in a show that he is "really in love with, as a fan and as an audience member, with such acting luminaries."

Noting that "everything [Pizzolatto] writes has this very real feel to it – just varying shades of black," Luna said that season 2 offers a different take on that darkness. "We seem to catch all these people going down," he said. "The stark realism of it is what carries over."

Luna also noted that while "the first season was so beautiful, with the Spanish moss and everything," this season will also be "a great portal to a different, very specific place." Calling Los Angeles "a town that's been shot 5 million ways to Sunday," he said the crew nonetheless found "really good little nooks and tiny places" and "constructed an L.A. that looks and feels really different."

As for meeting what can seem like impossible expectations from True Detective's first season, Luna isn't worried. "Last year was so incredible," he said. "It's going be hard for us to meet that. But we're going to be just fine."

True Detective season 2 debuts on HBO Sunday, June 21. Balls Out opens in select theatres, including the Alamo Drafthouse, on June 19.

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Gabriel Luna, True Detective, HBO, Matador, Wicked City, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch

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