Oscar winner Mahershala Ali, currently in cinemas with “Green Book,” is returning to screens again in January with the lead role in the third season of HBO’s “True Detective”. Speaking with Variety this week, he reveals he wasn’t originally offered the lead role because of his race.
Ali tells the trade he was originally only offered a supporting role due to the main character being written as a white man, and it took some serious campaigning on Ali’s part to get creator-writer Nic Pizzolatto to change it:
“I could’ve played that second lead, that supporting career. But in my mind, I was like, ‘I’ve done this my entire career though. I’ve never done that. At that time, I’m 43 years old. If it don’t happen now, it really may not happen.”
Ali also texted pictures of his grandfather, a real-life state police officer, to Pizzolatto which helped him change his mind and in the process add another angle allowing them to explore racism in Arkansas in the period:
“I was like, ‘See, we existed in this space. In the 60s and the 70s. State police officers.’ I was like, ‘I think your story would be served, I think the story would be improved in this case, if this lead character was black’.
You’re asking someone questions, and [you’re] the lead detective. If [they’re] white, they might not look at me. When I ask them a question, they’re addressing [the white detective]. Racism is not experienced as the n-word, all the time. It’s more like, ‘Yo, you wouldn’t even look me in the eye.’ Or I said thank you and he just brushed me off. He was like, ‘Yo, let’s do this.'”
“True Detective” Season 3 debuts on HBO on January 13th 2019.