The blockbuster first season of "True Detective" wasn't just a score for HBO and internet fodder for obsessive TV fans — it proved to be a genuine vehicle for its acting talent seeking comebacks, sustainability or a breakout.
The series played a key role in the excessively covered 2014 overhaul of Matthew McConaughey's career — aka The McConaissance — and his subsequent reentry onto Hollywood's A-list. It also thrust Woody Harrelson back into the spotlight as a Golden Globe nominee.
Michelle Monaghan got to try on a leading lady hat while maintaining indie grit thanks to show creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga's dark vision, and Alexandra Daddario, who set the web on fire with a nude scene, was cast as the heroine of Dawyne Johnson's "San Andreas" as soon as "True Detective" went off the air.
There may be no measuring up to the magic captured in season one, but the four actors are still widely considered to have hit the jackpot in landing their prime roles. For some, Vaughn fits the redemption mold cast by McConaughey.
"This really boils down to an opportunity for Vince Vaughn," one top Hollywood PR executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told TheWrap. "He's either ready for another moment or to go away entirely."
Experts would agree the "Wedding Crashers" actor is one of the more intriguing casting decisions this time around.
"What's cool about the casting of Vince Vaughn is we're used to seeing him in comedies but he does have a very dark side," said casting director Marci Liroff. "I really applaud the creators of the show that they see that and they're going to use that. We're going to see a whole new side of him, which is very interesting, and he's probably really going to jumpstart his career from this."
While Vaughn seemingly has the most to gain from a successful season, Liroff sees the show as a positive for the whole cast.
"I see this as a win-win, I don't see how it could be not successful," she said. "It's an established series that had huge critical success. I don't see how it could be a bad thing for anyone. I haven't seen [the new season] yet so I don't know where it's going, but what we saw in the prior season was a really well done show. These actors can only benefit from it, I don't think there's a downside."
Liroff has particular history with McAdams, who she cast in "Mean Girls" back in 2004, which – along with "The Notebook" – put the then-unknown Canadian actress on the map. The actress has been prolific on the big screen for the past 10 years, and "True Detective" marks her first return to television since her pre-breakout role on Canadian series "Slings and Arrows" in 2003.
Of course, the landscape has shifted dramatically in recent years, and the divide between film and TV actors has become all but non-existent, thanks in part to McConaughey and Harrelson's first season.
"It's an interesting area to explore, these TV shows that are getting amazing film actors," Liroff mused. "I never would have thought [McAdams] would do a TV series, but this is so well written and so well produced that it's attracting actors of this caliber."
For the actors, there could be more than award nominations and critical acclaim at stake. After McConaughey's winning season, he landed a high profile endorsement deal with The Lincoln Motor Company — this sharp turn for McAdams could open her up to a whole new market as a personality.
"It's very aggressive of her, and good for her getting out there and taking a risk," said Caressa Douglas-Lupold, Senior Vice President of Branded Integration at Corbis Entertainment. "When you can see that come to life, it instantly makes a new connection with audiences."
Douglas-Lupold said McAdams in a darker role could showcase her to consumers in a different light, bringing edgier brands to her doorstep for endorsement.
"Something darker or edgier like Alexander McQueen would become possible," she said of the fashion house. "When it comes to transportation and wardrobe, it can cue an audience in one frame what we're supposed to be looking for. "
Farrell may be searching himself — to maximize a string of good performances. Should he emerge as one of the most compelling actors in the bunch, it won't be the only we see this year.
"Colin's movie in Cannes ("The Lobster") did really well. This could push him over the top like it did for McConaughey," the PR executive said, referring to McConaughey's "Dallas Buyers Club" and the domination it gave him over the big screen while "True Detective" reigned over the small.
For an actor like Kitsch, the exec said it's a matter of course correction.
"He didn't make good decisions with 'John Carter,' obviously, and 'Battleship' just didn't work," said the executive. "He should've been courting the top indie directors to make material just like this. It's only a good thing he's on this show."
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