Sunday Times

COLD, BUT ‘FROZEN’ IT AIN’T

Set in the hostile climes of endless night, ‘True Detective: Night Country’ brings Jodie Foster back to the small screen, writes Margaret Gardiner

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True Detective: Night Country is a six-episode HBO Original drama series starring Academy Award winner Jodie Foster and Kali Reis, former world boxing champion in both female middle weight and light welterweig­ht divisions.

The gravitas of both actresses is served by one of the best seasons in the HBO series, True Detective, which launched initially with Matthew McConaughe­y and Woody Harrelson in 2014. In this iteration of the show, eight men from the Tsalal Arctic Research Station vanish during a “long winter” night — a time when darkness dominates both day and night.

They are found naked, frozen together on the ice. Police chief Liz Danvers (Foster) and detective Evangeline Navarro (Reis), who share a complicate­d personal history related to a different series of crimes in the isolated town of Ennis, Alaska, 240km from the Arctic Circle, are on the case, trying to parse folklore from fact.

A hostile indigenous community riles up emotions while Danvers is still dealing with the death of her child, an awkward affair, and mentoring the child of a possibly corrupt cop. All of this plays out in hostile climes of endless night, forever icy horizons, genuine moments of horror and, possibly, something even more sinister. Navarro is on her own journey, wrestling with her indigenous heritage, abusive childhood and a sister who might be prey to supernatur­al forces.

If this sounds intense it’s exactly how Foster wanted it. She gives a characteri­stic smirk while seated at the London Hotel in Beverly Hills. “I said some scary things when I first met with showrunner/director Issa Lopez, like, ‘I don’t like that. What about this? Grrr.’ Then I left town.”

She appears delighted by her forthright­ness. “I just like strong women. We started speaking about who this woman could be. It was amazing to see a brandnew character emerge that was more than I could have hoped for or anticipate­d. Navarro is the central character, using Danver’s peccadillo­s to support her journey.” Lopez picks up the story of how she convinced Foster, 61, veteran of classics such as Taxi Driver and The Accused, to return to television. “I believed in the two characters that I wanted to bring to life on the screen. But Jodi spoke of a character full of flaws. When I finished listening, I looked at her and said, ‘So you want her to be an asshole?’ Jodi laughed and said, ‘Yeah.’ I liked that; understood it. I made her an asshole — a beautiful asshole — with a lot of hope in her heart. In turn, Navarro had to change and had to become deeper and more soulful.”

Once Foster was on board, Lopez had to deal with the Oscar winner’s commentary on her directing choices. “There were moments where I was drinking my cappuccino, thinking, ‘That’s never gonna work,’” says Foster, whose directing credits include The Beaver (2011), Money Monster (2016) and House of Cards (2014).

While others may not have shared their thoughts, Foster, who’s been married to photograph­er Alexandra Hedison since 2014, showed no such reluctance. “I’d say, ‘This is just my experience’,” says Foster, whose attitude and attire are direct and nofrills. “Maybe you’ve got some new way of doing it, but let me tell you the last 35 times that I’ve seen this tried, this is what happened.”

Who can take umbrage with that? “She wasn’t always right,” Lopez interjects, “but she usually was.”

Asked if there are parallels with 1991’s Silence of the Lambs, another cat-andmouse story where Foster is a detective on the trail of a serial killer, which clocked seven Oscar awards, Foster demurs.

“I don’t think the two are comparable. But there’s something underneath the comparison that’s welcome

— and that is that this show exists in a genre, whether it’s horror, supernatur­al or thriller.

“But so much of how that horror is explored is through psychologi­cal drama, the intimate drama of these people. That’s something I loved. It’s so well written. I think that’s the no 1 reason I came on board with this project. It was how the characters’ brokenness, their issues, how their tapestry together help them heal each other, against this backdrop of psychologi­cal and spiritual horror.”

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 ?? ?? Top: Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in ‘True Detective’. Above: Foster plays flawed police chief Liz Danvers.
Top: Jodie Foster and Kali Reis in ‘True Detective’. Above: Foster plays flawed police chief Liz Danvers.
 ?? Pictures: SUPPLIED ?? Finn Bennett and Jodie Foster in the latest season of ‘True Detective’.
Pictures: SUPPLIED Finn Bennett and Jodie Foster in the latest season of ‘True Detective’.

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