True Detective’s Red Herring: Actress Erin Moriarty, Who Plays Marty’s Daughter, Tells All
During Sunday night’s season finale of HBO’s True Detective, partners Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) stormed Carcosa—the creepy confines of the scar-faced lawnmower man/spaghetti monster/killer/Cary Grant enthusiast, Errol Childress—and closed the books on the 17-year Dora Lange case.
And, while the finale to creator Nic Pizzolatto and director Cary Fukunaga’s eight episode anthology series tied up several loose ends, many questions remain unanswered. And many of them have to do with Marty’s eldest daughter, Audrey (Erin Moriarty).
How did the troubled young girl go about drawing sex acts in her notebook that mirrored the ritualistic killings? Why were the toys in her room arranged in the same configuration as the gang rape scenario depicted in the gruesome video? Why did Audrey sport a ceremonial crown with tassles similar to a young Marie Fontenot in said vieo? And why was she acting out?
The Daily Beast spoke to the actress who played Audrey, 19-year-old Erin Moriarty, immediately following the finale about all these questions and more.
What did you think of tonight’s season finale?
I just finished watching it. I feel like my initial reaction to the finale is to be depressed that it’s over. With other shows, you watch the finale and are upset that it’s going to be nine months until the next season airs, but with this one, we know the story is over. I’m sad to not be able to see it continue because I enjoyed it so much.
How were you cast in True Detective?
I auditioned for the part in New York but originally auditioned for the role of Beth, the prostitute that Marty investigated when she was younger and ends up sleeping with her later on. I guess Cary liked me and decided to put me in the part of Audrey instead because he wanted to put me on the show. I agreed, of course, because I wanted to work with all the amazing people involved, and it was fun to play a Goth because it’s the opposite of how I present myself, and is the opposite of any role I’d been considered for.
Have you been paying attention to all the wacky online theories regarding your character’s fate up until the finale? A lot of people thought Audrey was doomed and linked to the cult.
No, I hadn’t! I can see how people would have thought that since the cult targets young girls. That would have been a very fun turn for her character.
The finale left some questions unanswered as far as Audrey is concerned. There were red flags throughout the series when it came to Audrey, including the toys in her room lined up in a gang rape scenario similar to the one on the dreaded tape.
I know what you mean. That was foreshadowing for later in the investigation. Audrey is someone who’s very affected by her father, as most daughters are, but Marty isn’t present throughout a lot of her childhood because he’s really invested in his job, and he’s not the most faithful husband and has a lot of distractions—like the young girls that come into his life. When you see Audrey early on and she’s playing with her toys in an inappropriate way, it foreshadows how the situation between her parents really impacts her, so when you see her later on, she’s become very dark and has resorted to rebelling against her father and becoming Goth. It’s just a plea for attention because he’s not present in their lives at that point.
Since Audrey wasn’t a victim of the cult, do you think she served as a symbol for Marty that this could happen to his daughter, too?
Definitely. When Marty’s watching the video of the young girl getting mutilated, when you’re a father you automatically think about that. When you have a child in your life, your number one priority is to protect them, so when you see something so disturbing happen to a young girl you can’t help but compare it to your own daughter. You can see the investigation taking a bit more of an emotional toll on Marty than you can on Rust because Rust’s already lost his daughter and become cold.
What was your take on the sexual drawings in young Audrey’s book? They are very graphic and seem to incorporate the case since the people engaging in the scribbled sex acts are wearing masks.
The investigation becomes Marty and Rust’s life, and somehow, when Audrey is younger, she must have gained access to something involving the case. You don’t know about that kind of thing unless you’ve been exposed to it, which most young kids haven’t at that age, and she and her younger sister have been forced to grow up very quickly due to the circumstances at home, so I think it’s clear that somehow she’s become aware of—or gained access to—the circumstances of her father’s investigation. So she’s exposed to something like that when she’s far too young, and is seeking attention from her parents and draws those inappropriate drawings.
The irony later on, when Marty slaps Audrey and calls her a “slut,” is that he’s a slut himself, really, and preys on young women.
He doesn’t value fidelity and lies to his wife. You get a sense that Marty’s a really good guy, but he obviously has his weaknesses and can be a really dishonest person. By the time he slaps her, she knows what’s going on between her parents and that’s probably why she’s so horrified of him talking to her that way, or being so critical of her being with other guys, because she knows that he isn’t the most honest guy.
In that slapping sequence we also see that Audrey is wearing a single crucifix earring yet is being branded a “slut.” It’s interesting to juxtapose that image with the way other crucifixes are used on the show—in Rust’s Spartan apartment, on the wall of Billy Lee Tuttle’s office.
Religion plays a big role on the show, and whether it was consciously done or subconsciously done, Audrey’s had access to some of her father’s work, since the case involves lots of scattered files. Audrey’s motivation is to grab her father’s attention by dressing dark and wearing an earring with a cross in it, which is a creepy aspect of his case.
There are other red flags when it comes to Audrey—when we see her dressed in a crown as a young child, before throwing it into a tree. The image really serves as a foil to the victim on the tape.
When Nic Pizzolatto wrote the script, he filled it with so much symbolism. If you got ahold of all the scripts and broke them down, there’s even more symbolism than I think a lot of readers are aware of. When I was reading the scripts, I had to look certain things up to fully understand what was going on in this show. I think the crown just served as early foreshadowing and a motif, and his writing is poetic, so he puts a lot of motifs into the episodes. I think he wanted to draw parallels between the different time periods through motifs.
Lots of people were also speculating about Marty’s father-in-law as a potential suspect, since his reaction to Audrey’s behavior—“everything is sex” with kids these days—was very bizarre.
That was never explicitly written in the show or spoken of while we were filming, but Audrey is very hurt and deeply damaged. What Cary relayed to me is that Audrey is a reflection of how her parent’s marriage is on the rocks and about to dissolve, and she’s also a reflection of Marty’s lack of presence in his home. He becomes so wrapped up in the case and other girls that when he hits Audrey, it becomes a reflection of how he’s totally lost himself.
In the finale, there’s the scene where we as a family visit Marty in the hospital and he breaks down crying and you can see how much he feels he’s failed his family. When we shot the finale, we also shot a scene of us going to the hospital to check up on him and Marty asks her about her art and her life, so you can tell he hasn’t been present in her life and regrets the way he’s acted.
Do you think Marty’s breaking down hints that there’s hope for the Hart family?
At this point, Maggie is remarried but it does resolve things in the sense that the family visits him to check if he’s okay, and they’re ready to be back in his life and he’s ready to be back in theirs. I would assume that afterwards, he’d become a bigger part of their lives.