Detective Wayne Hays on season three of True Detective, played by Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali, is a retired, 70-year-old Arkansas state police detective. In the year 2015, Hays is struggling with symptoms of dementia but remains plagued by doubt involving a case about two murdered children that the detective worked 30 years ago.
Hays’ story, which plays out over three separate time periods covering the 1980s, 90s and 2000s, involves Hays attempting to uncover the unsettling story of missing children in the Ozarks, in an investigation that forces him to revisit his past while he continues to be haunted by his memories.
WARNING: SOME LIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD. Here’s what we know about Detective Wayne Hays character on True Detective:
Detective Hays is consumed with the November, 1980 kidnapping-murder case of two siblings from the small, working-class town of West Finger, where 12-year-old Will Purcell and his 10-year-old sister Julie were last seen riding their bikes in the late afternoon. Hays is assigned to the case with his partner, Roland West (played by actor Stephen Dorff), who helps Hays delve deeper and deeper into the case, while exploring the professional and person relationship between the two men and how they work together in an effort to solve the case. Together, they deal with emotional, grieving parents, state politicians trying to wrap up the case quickly, and suspects who are easy scapegoats in which to pin the murder on.
The case is inevitably closed and reopened in the 90s, when new evidence surfaces that casts doubt on the original case. He returns again in 2015 as an aging man struggling with memory loss who reconsiders the investigation and its effect on his life as a documentary filmmaker digs into the decades-old crime.
“Things I’ve seen, things I know, wouldn’t do anything but cause harm,” Mahershala Ali’s Wayne Hays says in True Detective’s Season 3 trailer.
According to USA Today, Ali sees Hays, a Vietnam veteran who became an expert tracker in Southeast Asian jungles, as essentially three different characters. “Where he’s at mentally is so different when he’s in his 70s than in his 30s and 40s,” says the actor. “As he ages and his mind begins to deteriorate, his heart opens and he becomes more affectionate, more emotional, more loving,” Ali says.
Hays eventually meets his wife – schoolteacher and aspiring writer Amelia Reardon (played by actress Carmen Ejogo). She goes on to write a non-fiction book about the grisly crime, the investigation and its effect on their family, much to Hays’ displeasure.
Ultimately, Season 3 becomes as much an investigation of Hays as it is of the puzzling crime, director Nic Pizzolatto says. “This one was the desire to tell a man’s life story in the form of a detective story, and the idea that if he’s losing (his memories) near the end of his life, then who he is becomes the mystery to himself.”
In an interesting interview with Variety, Ali mentioned that the part of Wayne Hays was originally written as a white character. Ali said:
“The lead was white, and the other cop was black. And once you see the show, you’ll see that is different from the other seasons, in that the lead character, he’s at the point of the arrowhead. I read the scripts. I was blown away. I got to read the first four, and I could have played that second lead, the supporting character….And so I came back to (Nic) and I was like, ‘I want to play that part.’ And he thought about it a couple of days, got back to me, and he was like, ‘Yo, let’s do this. I’m down.’”
Pizzolatto is the sole writer of the third season with the exception of Episode 4, which he co-wrote with David Milch. According to Deadline, Daniel Sackheim directs alongside Pizzolatto, who will make his directorial debut. Jeremy Saulnier directed the first two episodes.
“There’s a light about this season, especially in later episodes,” says Ali, 44, who plays investigator Hays. “There’s a hope in this one that’s very different from the previous seasons.”
Tune in on Sunday, January 13 at 9/8c on HBO to catch the season premiere of True Detective. If you miss the season premiere, fear not – the first two episodes will air back-to-back on January 13 followed by another showing on Monday, the 14. Single episodes will proceed Sunday at the same time on HBO, HBO NOW, and HBO GO.