Interview: Charles Halford Got His Brain Shot Out On 'True Detective'

It’s been a long time since I felt so much satisfaction from watching a good friend die. But that’s how I felt while watching Woody Harrelson pull out a gun and capriciously blow my buddy Charlie’s brains out all over the Louisiana bayou.

Sure, it was fucked up, but it was a glorious kind of fucked up.

Growing up with a bunch of punk rock thespians was weird, but watching them successfully come into their own is even weirder. Since the finale of True Detective is scheduled to blast its way to an ending this Sunday, I thought it might be worthwhile to interview Charlie, aka Reggie Ledoux, about the show [ed. spoilers aheads], acting with Oscar winners and what it’s like to be my friend.

Milk Made: Do you remember the first time we met?

Charles Halford: [sigh] Really?

MM: Yeah, we were in eighth grade. Your friend punched out our shop teacher, Mr. Daniels. Remember? You turned to me and said, “If you tell anybody about this, you’re dead,” and then stormed out of the room, which was completely terrifying for me at the time. You were a foot taller than everyone and had beads in your hair like you were super into 311 or something.

CH: I remember pieces of it…

MM: It happened, man. But hey, let’s get to work: Out of no fault of my own, I’ve yet to die once. What is it like to watch yourself die over and over again?

CH: It bothers my mother more than it bothers me. I guess it depends on the death. Sometimes it’s really funny, sometimes it’s really graphic. Death by giant spider? Funny. Death by awesome visual effects where my head explodes? Awesome.

MM: Do you consider this your most graphic death?

CH: I think it’s safe to say this is my coolest death. I once fell something like 10 stories onto a stairwell and busted my head open. That was a cool death, but this one was cooler for sure.

MM: What was it like to film the scene where you were shot? Did people laugh after the take?

CH: No, it was all business. The most important thing was making sure my head whipped just right, which is a trick in itself. You have to lead with the bullet and then your body goes limp, and I was just concerned with getting it right. Once they put the brains on, I just basically laid in the dirt and got chewed up by bugs while Matthew McConaughey fired an AK47 into the swamp. Rat-tat-tat-tat-tat! It was super loud, the ground was shaking, and I was getting eaten alive by bugs while trying not to breathe. We had fun though. Somewhere there’s a photo of Woody posing over me like a trophy hunter. At the end of the day, you don’t want to have too much fun because it’s a serious show, but you have to have some fun cause otherwise it’s a drag, you know?

MM: Does your mom believe you played a believable child rapist/LSD cook?

CH: [pause] My mother is under the explicit order not to watch True Detective. Apparently my sister showed her a clip up until the moment of my demise, and my mom was as complimentary as she could have been, given the giant pentagram on my back.

MM: I noticed they airbrushed out your real tattoos…

CH: Yeah, I guess a hippie-dippie Pisces tattoo wasn’t badass enough for Reggie Ledoux.

MM: How significant were the tattoos they drew on you in terms of unfolding the story?

CH: If I recall in the script, the only two that were specific were the pentagram and the spiral brand. Outside of that, we just kind of went for hateful shit. From my understanding, those two on my back were the only ones explicitly described in the script. But I think people might be reading too much into it. I think that’s a general statement about the whole show. I love it, but at the end of the day, it’s just a really cool story filled with nuances and things like that.

MM: A friend of mine was discussing the literary references splattered throughout the season, in particular the King in Yellow. In fact, your character is referenced in the same breath as the book, when Reggie’s cellmate mentions you and a yellow king. What can you say about that?

CH: When I first got the script, Reggie’s lines were kind of out there. Like most of the fans out there, I literally did a Google search that was like, black stars, Carcosa, and it led me to that pdf that everybody’s been reading. The King in Yellow is a cool little collection of weird stories that inspired a lot of cool writers. I can’t speak for Nic [Pizzolatto] and why he chose that specific piece, and I don’t know if there’s some big payoff for exploring the literature outside of reading some super cool short stories, but I think it might be a tip of the hat.

MM: Who is your favorite character in the show?

CH: I’d say Rust (Matthew McConaughey), which probably doesn’t say much about myself. He’s just on the level. I like his spins on religion and his nihilistic disposition. I feel a lot of the things he riffs on are things I’ve riffed on, and though maybe I’ve never put them so eloquently with such southernly charm, I identify with him.

MM: What was it like to work with Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey?

CH: They were both super cool. I spent a little more time with Woody because we were both in the house, and plus we’re both vegan, so we had some commonality. Matthew was very much business, and I think that shows with his Oscar. He was there to work. We talked more when the work was done, but for the most part he was all business—not that Woody wasn’t of course. We just had more in common.

MM: Tell me something about Reggie Ledoux that no one else knows.

CH: He has an outlaw scumfuck tattoo on his inner thigh.

MM: Badass.

CH: The whole hotel situation was kind of interesting too. The Hyatt doesn’t usually put up guys like Reggie Ledoux. You can imagine what I looked like: a neck-beard, a soul patch, a 666 tattooed on my neck and bleached hair like Rick Flair. I had to look bad. The only night I got to go out was the last night, when I went and tore up New Orleans by myself, and a hotdog vendor kept heckling me. “Hey Rick Flair! Woooooooooo! Why don’t you come get a hotdog?” Every time I walked by that guy, he had to Rick Flair me. It wasn’t fair.

MM: What do you think is going to happen in the season finale?

CH: I think it’s going to be awesome, really eerie. I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how they’re going to tie it all up. I’m actually watching the finale with Brad Carter, who played Charlie Lang, Reggie’s cellmate, and it should be interesting because neither one of us knows what’s going on. They’ve done a good job of spinning the web.

MM: I was reading something about you and Richard Simmons

CH: I met him on my flight to New Orleans. It’s hard for me to sleep on planes, but I dozed off and when I woke up, he was inches from my face. “Hi Charles… what were you dreaming about?”

We became friends and he invited me out to dinner with him after finding out I’d never been to New Orleans. It was really surreal; the first time walking down Bourbon Street and your entourage is Richard Simmons. People literally thought I was his bodyguard. I was kicking it with his manager as he was greeting people, taking pictures and dancing on things, being Richard Simmons. Trust me, he understands personal space and knows how to push buttons.

He called my mom during dinner. That gave her a thrill. He was like, “Let’s call your mother,” and I was like, OK. I called her and said, “Mom, you’re not going to believe who I’m hanging out with…” and he took my phone and was like, “Hi. This is Richard Simmons. I’m hanging out with your son. He’s a very handsome man. We’re having a very nice dinner.” [laughs] I talked to my mom later and she was thrilled. I think she was blushing when he talked to her, and she totally told all her friends about it and stuff. Richard Simmons definitely knows his demographic.

And then the next day, I’m Reggie Ledoux. I sent Richard a photo of my hair getting dyed and he left me a voicemail about how nice the blonde hair was and stuff. He still drops me text messages making sure everything is cool. The whole thing was hilarious.

MM: What’s next for the illustrious Charles Halford?

CH: Illustrious? I just booked an illustrious series regular for some major network. Google it. Do some true detective work.

MM: Whatever. OK, last question—what’s it like to be my friend?

CH: [pause] Hmm. That’s a loaded question. Nah, I wouldn’t trade you for the world man. Hey, can you add a link to that piece you once wrote about me? I really liked that.

MM: I’ll try. But hey, cool man, sounds like you’ve had your brains blown out but you’re doing just fine. By the way, I love you.

CH: I love you too.

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