Jodie Foster says complicated 'True Detective' cop embraces 'moral relativity '

Jodie Foster's "True Detective: Night Country" premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of HBO/Max
1 of 5 | Jodie Foster's "True Detective: Night Country" premieres Sunday. Photo courtesy of HBO/Max

NEW YORK, Jan. 12 (UPI) -- Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster says her True Detective: Night Country cop character is battling her inner demons and handling a difficult job and life as the single mom of a teen daughter, when viewers first see her.

Premiering Sunday and set in Ennis, Alaska, the contemporary drama follows detectives Liz Danvers (Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) as they investigate the disappearance of the eight men who operate the Tsalal Arctic Research Station.


The show co-stars Fiona Shaw, Finn Bennett, Isabella Star Lablanc, Aka Niviâna, Anna Lambe, Joel D. Montgrand, Christopher Eccleston and John Hawkes.

Issa López penned and directed all six episodes.

In a recent Zoom roundtable interview with reporters, Foster told UPI that Danvers keeps everyone at arm's length and isn't looking for a tough case to crack when the show begins.


"She has been very busy distracting herself, and some might see that as lazy because there are certain paths she doesn't want to go down," Foster said.

"She knows on those paths is suffering, and there is a part of her that is afraid of suffering, so she does a lot of things like Tinder and fantasy football -- anything but focus on the hard truths."

When she finally gets her head in the game, she is very good at her job.

"I think that's pretty true to how it works for people, right?" Foster asked rhetorically.

"You're afraid to open that box until you make the commitment to do it, and then you can't stop yourself. You know you have to go all the way to the end," she said.

Foster added that Danvers and Navarro bond, in part because both are in relationships, even though "they are messed up."

"This is very different in some ways to the male detective stereotype, who is alone, smoking his cigar, drinking his cognac at night by himself," Foster said. "Women learn through connection, and their relationships are very revealing for who they are as people individually."

Reis, a professional boxer who is new to acting, said Navarro's professional motives differ greatly from Danvers' because she is dedicated to improving the lives of her fellow Native Americans, who suffer a disproportionate amount of violence when compared to other communities.


"Navarro wants to help the people around her, but she's not immersed in the culture. She doesn't know how to help culturally, so she's going to be on the law enforcement side, which looks to those people like she is further from the truth and why would she even be picking that side?" Reis said.

"She puts on that uniform, but she still can't get away from the instinctual, spiritual intuitive side that really makes her a great detect and makes her a great fighter for justice."

The gap between what is right and what is legal often causes tension between the women, but they still find ways to help each other.

"When they face what they fear the most, that is when they feel the most free," Reis said.

Foster agreed.

"There are times when they are on totally parallel journeys and moments when they are on totally opposite journeys," Foster said.

"Navarro's fate and destiny is tangled up with the idea justice. justice is embedded in her and she doesn't even know where that comes from," Foster added.

"She is just obsessed with justice for wrongs that have been done and Danvers, on the other hand, has embraced the idea of moral relativity. 'I'm not going to look there because, if I do, other things are going to happen, so I'm just going to say OK.'"


For better or worse, the combination of their different approaches help them solve the mystery.

"It is Danvers' weird moral relativity that allows us to have a Justified ending, but I won't give away anything," Foster teased.

The much in-demand actress said she thought López's script was intriguing and reflected a unique vision, but Initially didn't think Danvers was a good fit for her.

She couldn't pass the role up, though, and started collaborating with Lopez to tailor it to her strengths.

Foster recalled saying, "'If it is me, then this is what i am hoping for,' and I think that helped inform how we moved forward," she said.

Lopez was a flexible and open-minded partner, Foster said, adding "She was like, 'What are we all doing? Let's create. Let's have fun!"

López even joked about her own scripts.

"This is [expletive]! Who wrote this?" Foster said with a laugh in quoting her as saying.

Reis said Navarro and the plot in which she is mired jumped off the page at her.

"You want to know what happens," she said. "You have to pay attention. You have to get to the next episode.

"It was a no-brainer this early in my career to [accept] this opportunity to tell this story. [Lopez] handed over these characters with this trust and passion. Hopefully, we did an OK job."


While this is Reis' first major acting role, Foster, 61, has been an acting legend for more than 50 years, starting with her memorable performance as a child in Martin Scorsese's 1976 classic, Taxi Driver.

Foster said she found her work over the years to be much easier to manage than being a public figure.

"That's a tough one to bear, especially as a young person," Foster said.

"But here I am and there were so many mothers and fathers and brothers along the way who kept me safe and lessons learned and a whole bunch of big bad mistakes and now I've got this wisdom thing."

She explained that she found her 50s "confusing," while she realized when she turned 60 that "This is all going to be over soon."

"The best part of being 60 is that you can give all that wisdom to other people. its not your time. It was your time, but its not anymore. You can give what you have to others and be a part of the team and being part of the team is so much more satisfying than anything else."


True Detective isn't Foster's only portrayal of a law enforcement investigator.

She famously played fresh-faced FBI agent Clarice Starling in 1991's Silence of the Lambs.

Foster, who also is a director, recalled how she knew when she first read Thomas Harris' book version of the serial killer saga that it was special and she wanted to be a part of the screen adaptation.

Unfortunately, the rights had already snapped up and Jonathan Demme had been tapped to helm it.

Foster went on to earn an Oscar for her performance, however.

"Wow, it was a long time ago, right? It was 30 years ago!" she said, praising the talent of all involved.

"We all did the best work of our lives. There was a magical component to that and that all came from the text."

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