Janus Metz Talks True Detective

Q&A. Janus Metz shares his experience directing an episode in HBO's hit drama series "True Detective."

You might find the new "True Detective," "Sopranos" or "Mad Men" at the Berlinale Co-Production Market, the European Film Market's Drama Series Day, or in the Berlinale's official programme, which is giving TV drama extra attention this year – including screenings of two Danish series, "Heartless" and "Follow the Money."

"I think it's one of the strongest character-driven dramas created for television in a very long time" – Janus Metz

Another Dane, Janus Metz, can be found in the credits of the actual "True Detective." The director, best known for his Cannes-winning documentary "Armadillo," makes his international TV debut directing the third episode of "True Detective," season two. We talked to Metz about the experience.

How did you get the job of directing "True Detective"?

"I was attached to direct the film 'Galveston' written by Nic Pizzolatto who is the creator and show runner of 'True Detective.' I met Nic as a result of that collaboration and 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.

"I received the screenplay for 'Galveston' through my American agent. I fell in love with it immediately and got a meeting with the film's producers who decided to go with me. At that point, I didn't know Nic – it was before the premiere of the first season of 'True Detective.' It was really the story of 'Galveston' and the tone of the screenplay that interested me, not the hype around Nic Pizzolatto."

What was it like to direct the episode?

"It was a really exciting assignment and a great honour to be part of a series that I admire and find truly inspiring. The cast and crew were amazing and it was a true pleasure to work with all the extremely talented people on the show. Not least the lead actors, Colin Farrell, Vince Vaughn, Rachel McAdams, Taylor Kitsch and Kelly Reilly."

Vince Vaughn is primarily known for comedies. Was it a challenge to direct him in a drama – also in terms of people's expectations?

"Well, I think he possesses a duality. When I heard Vince Vaughn was cast for the role of gangster boss in 'True Detective,' I thought the choice was incredibly perceptive. It was very exciting to see him unfold new facets of his acting."

How fixed was your role as director? It must have been very different than the way you're used to working in Denmark?

"Coming on as a director at episode three, you enter an existing concept. Nic's screenplay rules but there are also visual guidelines. You operate within that framework in creating an expression that fits the project and direct it in a way that makes it as strong as possible. And, of course, in a way that doesn't break the style of the other episodes – there needs to be a common thread. In that sense, you're facilitating a process, but you still need to dive in and you become deeply involved developing and working on each individual scene.

"Besides, 'True Detective' is a series that I'm really fascinated by and a big fan of, so it wasn't a problem for me to subject myself to the existing concept. I was already blown away by it."

What do you think are the qualities of 'True Detective'?

"I think it's one of the strongest character-driven dramas created for television in a very long time. Nic writes unique dialogue with a very powerful understanding of place and a great sense of the visual. There is an in-depth study of something deeply human in the show, the dark sides of the mind that we're all, to a greater or lesser degree, able to recognise in ourselves. It's transcendental and universal and becomes a profound story about what it means to be human."

The second season of "True Detective" premieres on HBO in the summer.

Janus Metz was writer and executive producer on Daniel Dencik’s documentary “Expedition to the End of the World” (2013). “Armadillo," his portrayal of young Danish soldiers at war in Afghanistan, won the Grand Prix de la Semaine de la Critique at Cannes 2010.