TV & Movies

The Unique Designation 'True Detective' Actors Matthew McConaughey and Mahershala Ali Have in Common

The HBO anthology series True Detective is an excellent example of what happens when talented acting and great writing converge. Season 1 (led by Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson) proved to be a massive hit, but it looked to be a short-lived triumph when the show’s viewership petered out during Season 2. 

Then, Mahershala Ali became the lead for Season 3. And the series was once again beloved by both critics and fans alike. Interestingly, the Free State of Jones co-stars share a strange bit of entertainment happenstance in addition to having each led their respective seasons of True Detective to high praise.

‘True Detective’ tackled different themes in each season

One of the things that made True Detective unique was how it hung each season on a different theme. In Season 1, Rust Cohle (McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Harrelson) are Louisiana homicide detectives trying to unravel a decades-long conspiracy leaving several unsolved murders hanging in the balance. Along the way, we get to see the two partners face their personal demons and fall out of and back into touch with one another. 

After a brief dip into California for the second season, Season 3 returned to the American South and its cultural touchstones. This time, the plot jumped back and forth through three separate time periods, all set in the Ozarks. Mahershala Ali received rave reviews for his portrayal of Wayne Hays. When the season wrapped up with a twist ending that left viewers feeling reflective and deeply connected to the characters, the series shined. Many felt that Season 3 made up for any missteps the creators had made in the previous season.

Matthew McConaughey and Mahershala Ali share this experience

In addition to taking on the leading role in separate seasons of True Detective, McConaughey and Ali have another shared entertainment experience. Both men have won Oscars. But that alone isn’t enough to really be noteworthy. What’s interesting — as Insider reports — is when they accepted the coveted accolade. 

Both men received their Oscar win in the year that their True Detective season aired. In fact, in Ali’s case, the finale of Season 3 aired the very day he received his award. (McConaughey’s award also lined up with the show’s airing, though it was the second-to-last episode.) 

McConaughey received the Lead Actor Oscar for Dallas Buyer’s Club in 2014 (his first Oscar win). Ali won for Best Supporting Actor for Green Book in 2019 (his second — he also won for Moonlight in 2017). 

Did Matthew McConaughey or Mahershala Ali get an Emmy for ‘True Detective’?

Obviously, True Detective featured fine acting that showcased the talents of these Oscar-winning stars. What about awards granted for the series itself? Since the Oscars focus on film, turning to the Emmy Awards gives a better sense of True Detective‘s reception. 

McConaughey was nominated for an Emmy for his portrayal of Rust Cohle in 2014. However, he did not take home the prize. (It went to Bryan Cranston’s portrayal of Walter White in Breaking Bad). 

Likewise, Ali scored an Emmy nomination for the lead role in his True Detective season. He also failed to secure the win, losing to Jharrel Jerome for When They See Us

McConaughey has not earned an Oscar or Emmy nomination since his 2014 showing. But Ali’s We Are the Dream won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Program in 2020. 

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