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Michael Potts finds his groove with ‘True Detective’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Michael Potts and HBO have developed a good working relationship.

The actor has had roles on “Oz,” “Flight of the Conchords,” and “The Wire.” In the latter, Potts played the assassin “Brother Mouzone.”

But it’s his latest role as Detective Maynard Gilbough in the new series “True Detective,” that has Potts excited and proud to be a part of another HBO series.

“Being in another great series is amazing,” he says. “The writing and acting is superb and it’s been embraced by a good audience.”


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The drama series, “True Detective,” stars Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.

(FYI, a side note, New Mexico’s The Handsome Family’s 2003 song “Far From Any Road” was handpicked as the theme song for the TV series.)

From left, Woody Harrelson, who plays Martin Hart and Matthew McConaughey, who plays Rustin Cohle in a scene from the TV series, "True Detective. (Courtesy of HBO/Jim Bridges)

From left, Woody Harrelson, who plays Martin Hart and Matthew McConaughey, who plays Rustin Cohle in a scene from the TV series, “True Detective. (Courtesy of HBO/Jim Bridges)

It follows Gilbough (Potts) who is investigating a bizarre, ritualistic and brutal 1995 murder which was supposedly solved by dectectives Martin “Marty Hart (Harrelson) and Rust Cohle (McConaughey).

Each man is pulled back into the world they believed they had left behind as the case is re-evaluated and ethics are questioned in a world where darkness obviously lives on both sides of the law.

Potts says Gilbough is a great character.

He’s a veteran state detective in Louisiana and is considered one fo the top in the field,” he says.

“He’s incredibly cerebral and an expert in the box,” he says. “He plays everything close to the vest and is ambitious.”


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Potts says Gilbough also enjoys the cat and mouse game, which makes him a great detective.

“With that comes a lot of ego,” he says. “That’s pretty much what leads to his relationship troubles.”

For eight episodes, Potts has had the opportunity to delve into the psyche of Gilbough and has come to determine that he shares some qualities with the fictional character.

“We both share the cerebral aspect. I’m a thinker just like he is,” he says. “I’m a big reader and enjoy soaking up new information. I’m always examining things and being very intuitive. This probably is also the thing that puts roadblocks in my interpersonal and romantic relationships. Like Gilbough, I play everything close to the vest.”

When it came to getting cast for the part, Potts didn’t read the script until he had an audition.

He says the process included getting matched up with other actors, to see what the chemistry would be like if they were cast as work partners.

“I had only read a few of the interview scenes and I was cast,” he says. “Then the waiting came and I started shooting my scenes about two months after production had started. I had to play catch up. Meeting with Woody and Matt was intimidating because we’re dealing with movie stars. The first week of shooting definitely took a moment to sink in.”

When “True Detective” premiered on Jan. 12, it was met with a viewership of 2.3 million. The numbers have been steadily growing by word-of-mouth recommendations.

Potts says the entire cast is happy with the success.

“You always want to be in something special,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to be involved with some great projects.”

Aside from his TV roles, Potts is nearing the end of his Broadway run in “The Book of Mormon,” where he plays Mafala Hatimibi,” a role he originated.

Potts is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and has an extensive theater background. He’s appeared in “Rent,” “The Tempest,” “Twelfth Night” and “Richard III.”

Yet when it comes to choosing which medium he prefers, Potts doesn’t take a side.

“With theater the reaction is immediate,” he says. “You have a crowd of people sitting with their arms crossed and you have to win them over. They are judging every move you make and it’s your job to win them over.

“With TV and film, the immediacy isn’t there. You do have to work hard to win an audience over. But this time it’s one that won’t see the movie or TV show for months or even years. There are different stresses and anxieties that come with each medium. It’s a different muscle that gets used and I have to make sure to always keep that up.”

As for Potts’ next move, he’s looking at some more auditions during pilot season in Los Angeles.

Then, he’ll have a couple of quick theater engagements and a possible Broadway run in March.

“After that I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he says. “This business is fun because there is no certainty in it. You just have to go where it takes you.”