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Ask Showrunner Nic Pizzolatto About True Detective

Nic Pizzolatto

Nic Pizzolatto is the creator and showrunner of True Detective.

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  • How much backstory do you plan out for your characters? Is there more that viewers might not see on-screen?

    • 6 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    A lot of backstory. Pages and pages of biography go into every character, even minor ones. Most of these things never appear in the show, but still inform a character's identity and choices, and give the actors more to pull from, even if onscreen we only see the tip of those icebergs. Backstory is still being laid out, even in the show’s final movements, but there is definitely much more than ever sees the screen.

  • Is 'We get the world we deserve' TD2's thesis statement? Frank's paper mache remark, the eye motif & Paul's self fulfilling prophecy seem to speak to constructing our own realities

    • 1 vote
    Nic Pizzolatto

    I’m not sure that it’s a thesis statement, but I do think that line and the themes you noticed amplify and echo one another. Everybody’s external world is reflective of their inner life. Velcoro’s outlook sort of casually asserts that the world and the systems that govern it are products of our choices and desires. It's a statement of culpability, more than anything, the idea that the condition of our world is the manifestation of human character.

  • Why does the song in the opening credits change in every episode?

    • 4 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    Mainly because of our admiration for how evocative Leonard Cohen's lyrics are, and how much they spoke to the overriding character and themes of the show. The 'theme song version' leaves out about 85% of Mr. Cohen’s words, so it was a nice way to let the song and its sentiments expand and change and offer another layer to the total vision. T-Bone [Burnett] was able to mix multiple versions of the song, and we try to take advantage of his talents at every turn.

  • What was your inspiration for the town of Vinci?

    • 0 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    Historically, the City of Vernon in LA County most of all, but also other similar 'cities' within the County that operate on sweatshop economics and autonomy from larger oversight bodies. It came from research into what these places are and how they operate.

  • What is the best advice you can give to someone who wants to write for Hollywood?

    • 0 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    The most encouraging thing I can say is that Hollywood does not want to keep out talent, whoever you are; it wants to bring talent in, wherever it comes from. So the good news is that you don't need contacts or nepotism or years of being yelled at by some producer. My advice is to keep a low overhead and spend years learning the craft. Then write five scripts that all reach a consistent quality. Bring that stack of scripts to an agent. You might have to try a few, but if the work is there, someone will recognize it and get you meetings.

  • Your characters have very distinctive names -- Velcoro, Bezzerides, Semyon, Kaspere. How do you come up with them?

    • 1 vote
    Nic Pizzolatto

    Some of it’s as simple as paging through an old phone book and finding surnames that fit, which is an old habit. The way people you know all seem to fit their names, right? I think about the characters, their ancestries and natures. Their identities suggest something phonetically, at a rhythmic level (like, the name ‘Bezzerides’ rises up and down and sounds jagged, like a buzzsaw). That stuff’s probably married to my affection for the pulp tradition of indelible names.

  • How did you decide which pockets of Los Angeles the detectives would travel to? Your LA seems so different than what we’re used to in movies.

    • 0 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    I think it’s research and just knowing what’s out there and where the investigation can take us, what sorts of things fit the fictional landscape we're painting. Seeing a different side to these places is often just a matter of turning the camera to those things that usually don’t get filmed. It’s not VFX or anything; it's all just there to be captured.

  • Hi Nic. What was the thinking and process behind this season in terms of plotting and characters? How did you go about your research? On a side note, I love your novel Galveston.

    • 0 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    Thank you so much for that side note! It started with a desire to know my new home better, with a lot of research into southern California, reading journalism and sociology and newspaper articles, along with not wanting to repeat the buddy-cop formula. As far as process, when I get a sense of the world I want to look at, I think about the characters that might inhabit these landscapes. Then the characters become the focus: figuring out who they are, how they fit into the world, where they are at the time we enter the story, what makes them compelling or not. Once the characters are clear, character and plot become symbiotic, each feeding the other. The plot depends on the choices characters make, which depends on their personalities, and the choices they make depend on the options open to them, the plot-- so for me, very early on, plot and character become indivisible.

  • I heard you already had an ending in mind when you wrote season 1. Was this true of Season 2? How different was writing this season compared to the last?

    • 0 votes
    Nic Pizzolatto

    It's true, yep. I don't have enough confidence to take this kind of journey without some destination in mind, even though it can change. I’ll usually have an end that makes a kind of emotional sense to me, but there's always a big question mark next to it, because you need to be willing to throw your preconceived ending out the window if the characters and story go in a direction you didn’t foresee. The ending was in mind as I wrote the first two episodes, and I don't think its final beats changed much, although I questioned it constantly... The actual process of writing differed from last season mainly because there were so many people paying attention, even people that didn’t like the show. We had to work harder to not be influenced, whereas before nobody cared what we were doing.

  • Hi Nic! What scenes are you most proud of?

    • 1 vote
    Nic Pizzolatto

    I'm just so proud of everybody's work this year, as a fan of their talents it's hard to pick a moment or scene. I love all these actors, and I loved watching them play these characters. I love Alex [DiGerlando]'s production design and Nigel [Bluck]'s cinematography and the filmmaking, just geeking on everybody’s work. Honestly, the finale is really loaded with a lot of my personally favorite stuff from either season, for whatever my totally biased opinion is worth. I hope it pays off for the fans who’ve supported us by engaging the story so passionately.