February 29, 2024
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Even in the age of on-demand television one can make the case that appointment viewing is back at HBO – and they’ve got the latest installment of the True Detective series to thank for it.

True Detective: Night Country premiered on January 14th on HBO and Max and features Academy Award winner Jodie Foster as Liz Danvers and Kali Reis as Evangeline Navarro, detectives investigating the disappearance of eight men who were operating the Tsalal Arctic Research Station in Ennis, Alaska. When the men go missing, questions about a years-earlier disappearance of another woman arise and force these detectives, and many other characters, to take a closer look at what they thought was a cold case.  All of this is set against the backdrop of the eerie AF polar night that perpetuates winter in Northwest Alaska.

The critical and fan reception has been nothing short of superb. Words like “corpsicle” are spreading across the interwebs’ lexicon; the show nabbed a 93% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes with accolades like “frighteningly atmospheric anchored by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis’ superb performances, Night Country is a fresh and frosty variation on True Detective‘s existential themes”.

At the helm of it all is Issa López  who serves as show runner, writer, director and executive producer of True Detective: Night Country.

Already a well-established and accomplished filmmaker in Mexico best known for her film Tigers are Not Afraid, we had a chance to chat with Ms. López as part of a roundtable where she shared her inspiration for this installment, her unrelenting desire to represent the people it portrays in an authentic manner, and her favorite & not-so-favorite things about bringing this season to life.

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This setting of this season is such a departure from the deep south and urban locations of seasons past. What the inspiration for Northwestern Alaska?

Issa López: “[I] had an appetite for the tone of a Western and I’ve always loved whodunnits.” [I] thought that the most interesting way would be to put it in a context that was unexpected, which is where the idea of creating the fictional town of Ennis (“a Western in the ice!”) was born.”

Danvers is a lifelong Alaskan and career cop, while Navarro is an Indigenous and Dominican ex-military officer who only recently moved to Ennis. The two could not be more different. How and why the combo?

IL: “In my mind what is interesting about creating a story around two characters is when one has what the other lacks. If you have one that is going to follow the model of deduction and piecing together, then the other one can be the instinctual one — the one that is able to connect to people and get a deeper level of the story,” López says. “One has a lot of what the other needs to become a whole great detective together.”

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You’ve made emphasis on indigenous representation – what was the process like and why was it important?

IL: “It was vital; there was no Night Country without them. When I made up my mind to set show in Alaska, I knew immediately that in those towns the ethnic make-up is at least 70 percent Iñupiaq you cannot in good conscious set up a story in this universe if you don’t understand that 70 percent of what you’re saying has to deal with this and be about it. It’s not about background or decoration or [this would be] interesting to look at. If you’re going to set up story here you have to embrace it, understand it and respect it.”

Fellow executive producer Mark Ceryak added that, “alongside Issa and Mari Jo, Barry, Adele and I met with Illuminative, which is a social justice organization led by Native women who are doing incredible work to increase the visibility of Indigenous stories. They connected us with Princess Daazhraii Johnson and Cathy Tagnak Rexford who both hail from Alaska and joined us to produce the series. Princess and Tagnak assembled an Advisory Council made up of Iñupiaq women who they could convene with at certain points in the process to get questions answered and solicit advice on how best to approach specific aspects of the production and story.”

You are a quadruple threat on this production – directing, writing, executive producing and show running.  Of these roles which was the most challenging and the most rewarding?

IL: “The most challenging is writing – it’s always writing. Writing is horrible. I would never write another word if I could. But I am the only crazy person that writes the stuff I write. I’m doomed (laughs).

It’s lonely, it’s scary because you make one mistake in the path you take there is no one to say, “Hey, don’t go in that direction”. You’re on your own. There will be other voices but big decisions are done on the loneliness of your keyboard and it’s hard.

The part that I love the most is being on set. Just coming every day with people who like to have fun and recreate and now together. I went into this career because as a child I loved coming together with my friends to pretend and dream, and that’s taken from us as adults. And the closest thing you can do as an adult is come together to make a film or a show.”

Well, here’s to Issa for holding fast to her dreams and in making one hell of a show!

True Detective: Night Country airs Sunday’s at at 9:00-10:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.

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About The Author

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Victor rounds out the core team of ‘LLERO, he is a co-founder and Editor-in-Chief. Working with journalists and content creators to find the most interesting and newsworthy stories. A freelance sports and film writer at heart. In his spare time Victor follows all things boxing, basketball, movies and television. When not tapping the keys of his laptop he can be found checking out all kinds of mainstream and indie cinema alike. Or as his friends aptly describe "Vic, you like all that weird indie sh*!t"." Guilty as charged.

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