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Culture 1

True Detective Director, Star Discuss Filming in Arkansas


Filming has wrapped on the third season of HBO’s True Detective, the series directed by University of Arkansas MFA alum Nic Pizzolatto that has been filming in Fayetteville for the last six months or so. According to HBO, the upcoming season of the show “tells the story of a macabre crime in the heart of the Ozarks, and a mystery that deepens over decades and plays out in three separate time periods.”

The cast and crew began shooting locally back in February at various locations around Fayetteville and the surrounding region, and last week, celebrated completion at a wrap party held Aug. 7 at the Walton Arts Center.

This week, show runner Pizzolatto and star Mahershala Ali are raving about their experience filming the series in Fayetteville in a video released by local PBS affiliate, AETN.

Ali said the good vibes began right when he arrived in the city.

True Detective
Mahershala Ali will play Detective Wayne Hays in the third season of the HBO series “True Detective.”

“I remember getting out of my car after being dropped off from the airport,” Ali recalled. “I went for a quick walk to go get some food, and this woman was walking her dog a few houses down from mine a good distance from me, and she yelled out ‘Welcome to Arkansas, we’re glad you’re here.'”

The cast of the series includes Ali, along with veteran actors Stephen Dorff, Mamie Gummer (who happens to be the daughter of Meryl Streep), Carmen Ejogo, Scoot McNairy, Ray Fisher, Brandon Flynn, Michaell Graziadei, Jodi Balfour, Josh Hopkins and Lonnie Chavis.

The show also features quite a bit of Arkansas talent as well, both on the crew and in the cast as background actors and extras. According to Little Rock’s The Agency, Inc., who handled local casting for the series, a total of 2,844 background actors from Arkansas were cast in the show.

“(The locals) have been really excited to be here, and have really contributed to the story,” Ali said. “(They also displayed) a consciousness and an appreciation for art that I was really surprised to see and witness.”

Another central character in the upcoming season of the show, Pizzolatto explained, is the city of Fayetteville itself.

“Having lived for four years in Fayetteville, I always found this area extremely evocative and powerful,” he said. “I feel landscape is a character, definitely in what I do.”

Ali agreed.

“It would have been a disservice to the story to not shoot it in the Ozarks, in Fayetteville or in Arkansas,” Ali Said. “Because it is such a character in the story. It would have been such a shame if we had shot it any other place.”

True Detective

Filming at Herman’s back in April

The natural beauty of the Ozarks, along with the personality of the region really showed up on film. Filming took place all over Fayetteville, from Mount Sequoyah to homes and apartments around the city, to location shoots at local restaurants like Hugo’s, Herman’s, and Bear’s Place. We heard reports of filming in Fort Smith, Mountainburg, Huntsville, Devil’s Den, and several other places as well.

“The fog over the mountains, the rivers, the water, the sense of scale when you get out into some of this nature, what the buildings say about the lives behind those buildings,” Pizzolatto said. “Every place we look tells a story about the people that have been there, are there now, and are no longer there. And I feel like that kind of texture and the dimensionality enhances the character and the mystery that drive what we do.

“Everywhere you point the camera here is treasure,” he said. “That’s a real thing.”

The filmmakers were also pleased with other needed resources they were able to find while shooting in Fayetteville.

“Everything we’ve needed has been right at our fingertips, from period architecture to abandoned buildings that still evoke the 80s,” said executive producer Scott Stephens.

City officials in Fayetteville, and around the state, are betting the exposure from the upcoming series will be a boon for the area. The Fayetteville City council back in October approved a resolution of intent to spend $500,000 over the next two years as part of an incentive package to convince producers to film in Fayetteville.

Chamber of Commerce president Steve Clark at the time called the move “the most significant effort ever made by an Arkansas city to support this type of employment and the creative economy.”

Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane thinks the production will be big for the state.

“For us, it’s a nice feather in our cap,” Crane said. “Not only that (HBO) came here, but they had such a positive experience and have talked about, ‘My gosh, we want to vacation here, we want to do another film here, so the ramifications I think will be felt for a long time.”

After spending six months in the city, Ali said he also believes the exposure is going to pay off for Fayetteville.

“I feel that this area is going to maybe get busier than you want in the next five or ten years, so hold on to your homes,” he said.

No specific release date for the third season of the series has been determined, but the show is expected to air on HBO sometime in 2019.

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Dustin Bartholomew is the co-founder of Fayetteville Flyer, an online publication covering all things news, art and life in Fayetteville, Arkansas since 2007. A graduate of the Department of English at the University of Arkansas and a lifelong resident of the area, he still lives in east Fayetteville with his son Hudson, daughter Evelyn, his wife Brandy, and his two dogs Lily and Steve. On occasion, he tickles the ivories in a local band called The Good Fear.

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One response to “True Detective Director, Star Discuss Filming in Arkansas”

  1. […] industry is ramping up presence in the state. Actors, crewmembers and directors of the HBO series, “True Detective” spent their show’s third season shooting at locations around Northwest Arkansas and the River […]

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