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True Detective’s Michelle Monaghan Explains Maggie [VIDEO + INTERVIEW] 

Photo Credit: HBO
Photo Credit: HBO

I don’t know about you, but I’m still reeling from Sunday’s “Haunted Houses.” Well, I guess it’s more than that. I have loved this show since it premiered. Matthew McConaughey impressed me the most in the beginning, because Rust Cohle is such a different kind of character. And then we got a lot of great nuance (and so much bad behavior) from Woody Harrelson‘s Marty Hart. I just think this show is working on every level. I’m completely on board with the Southern Gothic angle. The writing and directing are so good and the story is complex and multifaceted. Ok, enough praise (for now). If you’ve missed any episodes you need to catch up quickly. If you want more insight into “Haunted Houses” read on. talked to Michelle Monaghan about her character’s motivations in this episode as well as working on the series as a whole.

“Haunted Houses” (Episode 6) is our first real opportunity to get things from Maggie’s perspective. Why is she so wary of the detectives in 2012?

Michelle Monaghan: “Maggie is a former wife of a cop so she understands the cat and mouse game. And I think she is distrustful of cops. She was married to a man that betrayed her, so she has resentment for that job, that career, the force, and how it affected Marty throughout all those years. In the subtext, you can definitely sense her frustration.”

Maggie tells them she “spent time navigating crude men who thought they were clever.” Is this an attack on Marty?

Michelle: “I think it’s a direct attack against Marty as well as Rust. She’s had to navigate both of the relationships in the backdrop of this investigation.”

In her interrogation, Maggie says Marty never really knew himself, whereas Rust knew exactly who he was. How would you describe Maggie?

Michelle: “I really see Maggie as the most emotionally evolved character. And I think ultimately both men make the mistake of underestimating her. She’s observed their behavior: Marty has not grown emotionally over the years; he’s full of contradictions. He’s a very smart man, but a complete fool. Maggie calls him out on it, and yet he still he can’t be honest with himself and with her. Her relationship with Marty has been a full spiral into a non-relationship.

Rust is really the other extreme. He’s open, he communicates. He has every confidence in everything he says. That’s something that’s attractive — and not necessarily in a romantic sense — to Maggie. She really cares about his well-being especially after she becomes aware of his troubled past. Maggie even becomes a matchmaker for Rust. Intellectually, he intrigues her and she doesn’t have that with her husband as much as she would like it.”

Maggie discovers Marty is cheating again. What is she feeling when she finds his phone and the picture?

Michelle: “That she’s been played the fool. She’s angry at herself to have given him the benefit of the doubt. She’s thinking about the pain that she’ll have to share with her own daughters. She’s done everything that she possibly can to keep her family intact and she’s realizing there’s nothing she can do.”

As Marty is enjoying his dinner, he and Maggie exchange a look but she says nothing. What has she decided at that point?

Michelle: “She’s calculating at that point. I think she’s deciding what her next move is.”

Is she at the bar for revenge then?

Michelle: “It’s not as much about getting revenge as it is about having that be a catalyst for Marty to leave, knowing that he wouldn’t be able to stand her having stepped out on him. But Maggie realized in the midst of it, she’s disgusted by herself — it’s not who she is, so she extracts herself from situation. What she wants is for Marty to leave her and the girls alone, and to get that, she needs to betray him with the person he’s most threatened by – and that’s Rust. So when she turns up at Rust’s door, she’s on a mission. She knows exactly why she’s there.”

Is Maggie aware of any feelings Rust might have for her or is she just there to complete her mission?

Michelle: “I don’t think there are any romantic feelings for her. But she knows he’s vulnerable and that she can play into the connection they share. When she walks in the door and sees he’s been drinking, she realizes it’s going to be a lot easier than she thought.”

Can you talk about filming that scene?

Michelle: “It was a very intense scene — there’s no other way to put it. It was more intense than any other scene I’ve ever shot, to be honest. We choreographed how it was going to play out; there was some discussion as to where it was going to play out. Matthew [McConaughey] and I got into the scene and kept going. I don’t think we stopped, and they just let the camera roll. It played out much more naturally with the blocking — my character turning around to look him in the eye and tell him the truth. It was just incredibly powerful and devastating so we went with that.”

It’s interesting that Maggie makes this decision for the good of the family since Marty used a similar rationalization earlier on about his other affair.

Michelle: “That’s a great line he has in the interrogation scene… The problem is, he’s deluded and Maggie’s not.”

Beyond what was in the script, were you given any clues to Maggie?

Michelle: “All of us had a number of conversations with Nic [Pizzolatto, series creator] prior to shooting and in the midst of shooting. He had a biography of sorts for all these different characters. At any given moment, I could say to him, “What do you really mean by this line?” I always wanted to make sure I understood his intent. It’s so refreshing to have the creator and the director present for all eight episodes and it proved to be invaluable from week to week. I felt like our characters kept getting more depth.”

Was it tricky handling the time jumps?

Michelle: “We definitely had to stay very organized and focused. That’s a testament to Cary [Fukunaga] and his great direction. It was also what appealed to me. I had never done a period piece, never done anything that spanned 20 years. For me, it was exciting to not only physically age but emotionally age over an extended period of time.”

Reprinted from with permission.

True Detective airs Sundays at 9/8c on HBO.


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