Several weeks ago, in the third episode of True Detective, a character by the name of Stan is murdered, and a big deal is made out of it by Stan’s boss, Frank (played by Vince Vaughn). If you were following Twitter after the character died, however, you may have seen tweets similar to these:
There was a lot of confusion among viewers about who the hell Stan is, and for good reason: He’d only had two split-second moments onscreen in the first two episodes before his corpse showed up.
In fact, I watch True Detective fanatically. I usually watch each episode two to three times, and even I had no clue who Stan was. I quickly looked up who was playing Stan and recognized the name: Ronnie Gene Blevins. He’s a prolific character actor, who you’d probably recognize from a dozen different movies and television shows, though I knew him best from a David Gordon Green movie I saw a few years back at SXSW called Joe.
I was perplexed by the fact that such a prolific — and to many of us, recognizable — character actor had only had two very brief scenes and no real lines of dialogue. I wrote up a post answering the question of who Stan was, which — to our delight — thousands of people found on Google.
Over the weekend, in the most recent episode of True Detective, Stan’s name came up again when Frank decided to pay a visit to his widow and son. At that point, thousands of people asked once again, “Who the hell is Stan?” On Twitter, in fact, it became something of a meme. This very minor character had gained a life of his own by virtue of being absent: No one knew who the hell he was, which has been a problem some have had with the complicated storyline on this season of True Detective all along.
At any rate, today we had the very good fortune of interviewing the man himself, Ronnie Gene Blevins, the actor who played Stan, who provided us with some insights into the character, a few behind-the-scenes observations, and his own predictions about the character who may have become one of the driving forces of the storyline, merely by his absence.
You’re a veteran character actor. You’ve had dozens of TV and movie appearances dating back over a decade, and even if yours is not a name that everyone knows, we’ve all seen you in something we love (Justified, Southland, Sons of Anarchy, etc.) I don’t want to overstate this or anything, but why would you take on a character with only a couple of split-second scenes? Was it just to be able to work on True Detective? Or were you led to believe that there was more to the character?
I believed there was more to the character. I was offered (and paid) to be a re-occurring character. I was told I would play Vince Vaughn’s right hand man and that I’d be in at least three episodes. Coming off the heels of what many consider to be some of the best television ever … It was a no-brainer. I caught word of my own demise probably days before I shot the scene. Was I a little surprised? Sure! However, Nobody was out to mislead me. These casting directors are some of the best in the industry. I love them and they’ve always had my back. I honestly think information was at a premium. When communicating about parts, information was left murky to avoid leaking plot details. First, I auditioned for Teague. Then, I auditioned for Blake. Then, I auditioned for Stan. Although all [of] Vince’s goons auditioned from the same set of sides. From what I hear, my involvement in the show stemmed from a few people on the True Detective team saying “We love Ronnie. Let’s just put him somewhere.” It’s hard to begrudge anybody who offers you that kind of support regardless of the outcome.
HBO has always been the mecca of superior content. True Blood was my favorite show then a year later I got the opportunity to be on it. True Detective was my favorite show then a year later I got an opportunity to be in it. If I can continue the trend of being on the kinda cool shit that I love to watch, then I’m stoked. Sometimes you get to be the QB. Sometimes you have to be a utility player. That’s kinda the blessing/curse of being a character actor. Then you have the collective outpouring of viewers with there “RIP Stan.” So funny, man! Makes me laugh out loud reading that shit. It’s like I don’t have to have an opinion. These viewers have a collective opinion that’s far more interesting (and funny) than anything I could offer up.
The widow and son of your character have had as much screen time as you. It almost seems like there might have been more to your character. Did you have any scenes that were cut?
No scenes were cut.
It’s hard to tell onscreen, but is that actually you as the corpse of your character?
It’s a cast made from my face.
I don’t know how much you’ve seen or read from the final two episodes, but do you know if Stan’s death is central to how the storyline plays out? Will we find out who killed your character?
I’m finding out along with everybody else. I would think that last weeks “family visit” would more than serve as an exclamation point. But who knows?
Do you think it was Blake who killed your character? And what motivation could he possibly have had? Was someone trying to send a message to Frank? Are you playing along at home like the rest of us?
I literally have no idea. I would hate to venture a guess and be right then be accused of having really known all along. Yours seems a reasonable guess. They’re certainly indicating that it’s going that direction.
Did you get to spend any time with Nic Pizzolatto? If so, how was it working with him? Is he as intense as he seems?
I spent very little time with Nic. He was very kind to me during what little time we spent together.
Do you have any opinions on this season of ‘True Detective’ and how it compares to last season?
Season 1 of True Detective was some of the best television ever. The expectations that followed were always going to be difficult to meet. Quality problem to have if you ask me. My perspective is a little blown. I think expectations brought out by last season’s success may have disqualified this season from getting a fair shake. I dig it, though. Colin is killing it. Vince is just relaxing into his brilliance. I have high hopes its resolution. I think by the end of episode 8 were gonna be pleasantly surprised.
“Who is Stan?” has become something of a meme online. Twitter went berserk on Sunday night when Frank met with your characters widow. The character is getting a lot of attention, mostly because no one knows who Stan is and yet he seems to play an important role in the series. Have you personally received any extra attention because of it?
The only special attention I’ve gotten so far is from my friends who text me, “I thought you were gonna be in True Detective this season!”
Do you think that was intentional on Pizzolatto’s part, to confuse us? Or do you think he trusted that the audience would remember a character who had barely been seen onscreen?
Nic is a smart, smart dude. Whatever reason he has for making what’s seemingly an underdeveloped character so integral to the whole season is probably pretty clever. Maybe he’s commenting on how little we really know those we hold important to us. Shit. Who knows? Maybe he’s simply an unfleshed-out character. Knowing what we know of Nic, I imagine he has some pretty smart logic behind everything he did with Stan.
It looks like you’re continuing to get steady character work, with several projects lined up for the next couple of years already. Do you have any you are most looking forward to? Or most excited about?
I hate to sound vomitously hokey, but I wouldn’t say if it wasn’t true: I look forward to everything I have coming up. Working on a set is a great privilege at any and all levels. I try and renew gratitude every time I begin a gig
You’ve been fortunate enough to work on a lot of great TV series and in several memorable movies, with a lot of great actors. Do you have any particular favorites?
Favorite thing I’ve ever worked on was Joe. Both David Green and Nic Cage exceeded my expectations as far as both artists and people. My favorite memory is when Joe was in Venice for the Venice Film Festival. David, Nic and I drinking bottles of wine at a restaurant on the Lido. It cannot be overstated how cool a person Cage is. That’s goes double for DGG.
Image courtesy of Rough House Pictures.