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For 'True Detective's' third season, Carmen Ejogo steps in as much more than the wife

'True Detective's' Carmen Ejogo talks about how critical the chemistry was between her and costar  Mahershala Ali.

When Carmen Ejogo was approached about starring in Season 3 of HBO’s “True Detective” — as the wife of one-half of the detective duo that includes Mahershala Ali — she was conscious of the show’s reputation as a male-driven franchise. And frankly, the first few scripts she had didn’t do much to convince her otherwise.

But a talk with show creator Nic Pizzolatto gave her faith that her character, named Amelia and better described as a middle-school teacher-turned-true crime novelist, would develop into one of the show’s most intriguing characters prompted her to take the role.

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And now, during a recent visit to the L.A. Times video studio and with the full season behind her, she confidently declares: “There is no show without Amelia.”

The anthology drama returned in January after a nearly four-year gap since its sophomore slump of a season. Assuming the detective duties for this season’s time-jumping missing persons case were Ali and Stephen Dorff as detectives Wayne Hays and Roland West, respectively.

Wayne meets Amelia at the start of the case; she knew both the missing children who were students at her school. And she becomes just as passionate and steadfast about the case as her soon-to-be husband, eventually writing a book about it.

While much chatter about the franchise tends to revolve around the chemistry between the work-marriage each season, the dynamic between Wayne and Amelia proved to be far more crucial to this season’s thrust.

“In the end, the show’s all about the relationship, the marriage,” Ejogo said. “So it was critical that we found chemistry … [that] we found the authenticity that Nic intended, which isn’t actually always that we have obvious chemistry. Sometimes it’s very clear and then sometimes we’re completely disconnected … to figure out how to bring that to the screen was part of the thing that I realized was going to be exciting and fresh about playing this kind of couple.”

Ejogo also discussed how commuting in and out of Arkansas, where the series was shot, from New York contributed to the fictional couple’s discordant relationship and her thoughts on whether Amelia was an opportunist.

To watch the full conversation, click on the video below.

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