Woody Harrelson was really agitated with Matthew McConaughey in ‘True Detective’

Although Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey were friends, McConaughey’s performance couldn’t help get on Harrelson’s nerves every once in a while.

Matthew McConaughey collaborated alongside Woody Harrelson in the HBO critically praised show True Detective. The pair would portray two police officers with an antagonistic relationship in the series. But McConaughey asserted there were times Harrelson truly was put off by his co-star’s performance.

Matthew McConaughey described what it was like working with Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson posing next to Matthew McConaughey at the 66th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Harrelson and McConaughey grew as much of a bond as their characters did in the first season of True Detective. Viewers remember McConaughey playing Rust Cohle, a pessimistic detective with a habit of going on long soliloquies. Meanwhile, Harrelson would play McConaughey’s partner Martin Hart.

There were many instances during True Detective where Harrelson’s character would be visibly annoyed by McConaughey’s speeches. But not all of it was an act. Speaking with Smartless, Harrelson shared that McConaughey had a habit of staying in character on set. And this often rubbed him the wrong way.

“Yeah. I mean, you know, there were times I would get kinda angry with Matthew,” Harrelson said. “And he’s one of my best buddies, so it felt weird. But he was in character and that f***ing character just made me want to f***ing slap him. He’s so good. But he’d stay in character. You know, not after work, but while we were at work. It wasn’t like ‘Heyyy, buddy!’ None of that. So that was a little… But, anyway, it turned out good.”

Speaking with Drinkin’ Bros Studios, McConaughey also reflected on how his performance would annoy Harrelson from time to time. So much so that Harrleson would try talking his partner out of his character.

“He sees what I’m doing as Rustin Cohle, and he’s like, ‘What’s going on? I think we need a little levity in this thing.’ And I’m just straight-faced, I’m like Rustin Cohle. He’s like, ‘See, you’re doing it again, man. You’re doing it to me right now. We’re off set, we’re having a conversation,’” McConaughey recalled.

But McConaughey quipped that he still refused to break character even after Harrelson’s complaints.

Woody Harrelson felt Matthew McConaughey staying in character helped their ‘True Detective’ performance

Harrelson and McConaughey were already very familiar with each other before being cast in True Detective. The two stars worked in movies like Surfer, Dude and EDtv. So by the time they were on True Detective, they knew each other’s rhythms. Still, Harrelson asserted that McConaughey being in character, and the tension it created, actually helped their performances more.

“We have a shorthand, but interestingly, on this project, we didn’t use a lot of our normal kind of shorthand, the way we finish each other’s sentences and s***,” Harrelson once told Collider. “He was an island. He is one of the most gregarious, awesome guys I know, but in this, he was fully in character and he was very much an island. It was very different. And part of that complication helped.”

Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey hugging each other in black suits.

The Oscar-winner agreed with Harrelson.

“Part of why Woody and I are friends is that we get on each other’s frequency, and we affirm each other and one-up each other,” McConaughey said. “It can turn into an improvisation, but it can go into the ether, and then some. I have a really big mag full of films, but this is the first time we worked together where there’s real opposition. This was not about us coming together. Early on, I remember that we said, ‘Boy, we gotta put some kind of fun in this. This thing can be a lead weight.’ We found a new sort of comedy, but it was not the comedy of the two-hander, where I pass it to him, and he passes it back. We were not playing catch, back and forth.”

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