Janus Metz on True Detective

TV VENTURE. The filmmaker shares his experience directing an episode in the second season of HBO's hit series, to premiere on 21 June.


Vince Vaughn in "True Detective Season Two" Photo: HBO

Janus Metz's Cannes-winning documentary Armadillo created a stir back in 2010 with its unblinking account of festering cynicism among young Danish soldiers in Afghanistan. Now Metz is making his international TV debut directing the third episode of True Detective Season Two. We asked Metz about that experience.

"One of the things that makes the show so powerful is Nic's ability to write complex characters. His skills in that respect are reflected in the casting."

Metz on joining True Detective
I know that Nic Pizzolatto, the creator of True Detective, was very enthusiastic about Armadillo and we had some good talks about his script for Galveston, which I’m set to direct. He asked me if I wanted to come over and direct an episode of True Detective. Of course, I couldn't say no to that.

On preparing
I made sure to study the scripts down to the smallest detail and talk a lot with Nic along the way, so the psychology and the character work would be in place. Also, I chose to come to Los Angeles a week earlier than I had to. I’ve been there quite a lot, but I wanted to get the city under my skin a bit more, since it's the frame for the story. That also allowed me to spend time on set with Justin Lin who directed the first two episodes. My task to a great extent was to facilitate an existing concept, so I spent some time looking at Justin's dailies and generally getting to know how he set everything up.

On directing episode 3 
Episode 3 has some amazing scenes. It's when a lot of the elements that have been built up in the first two episodes really start picking up speed. We had some big sequences with stuntmen and lots of extras, which I'd never tried before on that scale. It was great fun. 

janus_metz01Director Janus Metz Photo: Robin Skjoldborg

On Vince Vaughn
One of the things that makes the show so powerful is Nic's ability to write complex characters. His skills in that respect are reflected in the casting. Vince, in my eyes, was perfect for the part of a gangster boss. It was a huge pleasure to watch him stretch out in a genre that's so different from anything he's done before. You always sense that there's a lot at stake in his performance. He masters the ability to give his characters a depth that always shows through. He's an extremely creative person. Generally, he was best when he had fairly free rein.

On the rest of the cast 
Collin Farrel, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Kelly Reilly, the other leads, are all extremely skilled actors. When you put them together with Nic's scripts, magic happens. I found that the whole cast functioned as a very, very finely balanced ensemble.

On the series' qualities
I think it's one of the strongest character-driven dramas created for television in a long time. Nic writes unique dialogue with a powerful understanding of place and a great sense of the visual. There's an in-depth study of something deeply human in the show, the dark sides of the mind that we're all, more or less, able to recognise in ourselves.




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