Ever since the moment he first flashed across our screens at the end of the third episode of True Detective, Reggie Ledoux — the show’s sick, twisted, meth-cooking prime murder suspect — has haunted fans of the HBO drama, and he continues to haunt many of us after having seen Sunday night’s episode.
The actor who portrayed Ledoux, Utah native Charles Halford, was nice enough to spend a few minutes chatting with us yesterday. He talked about his overall experience playing Ledoux on the show, the “McConelsons,” drinking Woody Harrelson’s juice, and a crazy, random night out in New Orleans he had with Richard Simmons during filming, among other things. Enjoy.
UPROXX: Regarding the scene in the woods we saw on Sunday night. How much time was spent in the makeup chair getting all of those tattoos strategically placed all over your body?
CHARLES: Well there were the tattoos and the beard and they also bleached me out. It was probably like four, maybe five hours when they had to go from scratch the first day and then once we kind of knew where everything was placed it was easier. It was a long time and the day that they did the brains it was like seven hours in the chair, something like that.
UPROXX: Oh wow. That leads to another question I had — I was wondering how much of your head exploding was actually shot on scene versus, you know, special effects in post production.
CHARLES: It was a lot of makeup and I think they threw some good special effects on it to really sell it. Cause yeah they just had my head just explode. I mean the makeup was awesome. The makeup artist did an amazing job on everybody in the show. She deserves all the awards. Like, everybody on that show was just amazing, but she was especially. I remember her just staying up all night to get it right. That’s what’s so cool about HBO — you had super huge stars and a head of the class director and ground-breaking writing, but it felt so much like an indie film. Like she stayed up all night the night before making the blob that she put on my head.
UPROXX: Back to Reggie’s tattoos, there seems to be some debate online about whether or not Reggie had the spiral symbol on his back that Dora Lange’s ex-husband Charlie claimed he had while they bunking together in prison. I don’t know if you can talk about this or not. Was that symbol/tattoo there and some of us just missed it? Or not?
CHARLES: Yeah, no he’s got it, it’s branded on there, like right above the pentagram on his back, between his shoulder blades.
UPROXX: So you had to wear these tattoos for how many days?
CHARLES: Well they were good for a couple of days. It just saved everybody time if I could keep them clean, you know. But check it out — the Hyatt where I was staying ended up being like a prison because I had Swastikas on neck and stuff like that beard. I couldn’t even leave the Hyatt because I didn’t want to go out in the street as Reggie Ledoux.
UPROXX: Well here’s the question I think everyone wants to know: Did you at least get to smoke weed with Matthew McConaughey and/or Woody Harrelson?
CHARLES: No. They didn’t even allow me to drink while I was down there. Like, I’d never been to New Orleans before and I couldn’t drink. They didn’t want me drinking because when you sweat out the alcohol it effects the tattoos and it effects the beard. So I’m like, “Are you serious?” I’m concerned but I’m about to work with f*cking Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConaughey, right? I’m kind of thinking a glass of scotch is in line. But at least I got to drink some of Woody Harrelson’s juice.
UPROXX: What do you mean?
CHARLES: Woody Harrelson, he’s got a dude that makes juice for him on set. You know beet juice, kale juice. He’s vegan and I’m vegan actually. So we had that in common. But no we didn’t get to smoke weed together. I didn’t get to smoke any weed with the McConelsons.
UPROXX: Well is there a story from your True Detective experience that you’ll always remember and will probably be telling for the rest of your life?
CHARLES: On my flight down there Richard Simmons was — I’m not making this sh*t up, dude — Richard Simmons was on that flight, heckling me the whole time down there. He finds out I’m doing this show on HBO and he asks me to go out to dinner with him and his manager. We go to this, I don’t know some crazy place, it was surreal. It’s like I’d never been to New Orleans and then I’m out with Richard Simmons. The next day I’m in the chair getting my hair bleached. It was so ridiculous.
UPROXX: So you’re on the flight with Richard Simmons. He somehow finds out you’re on True Detective and invites you out. That is indeed ridiculous. I remember him being in New Orleans a few months back and word about it was all over the place because he was just running around doing all sorts of Richard Simmons things. I remember it very distinctly.
CHARLES: Well he’s from here right? He’s like born and raised here?
UPROXX: Yeah, he’s from New Orleans.
CHARLES: He was super nice. But he can’t not be noticed. Like every third person that came on the plane, he would be like, “Oh and you’re just a magnificent little so-and-so” and “you’re just a big lumberjack who loves his mother.” And then I fell asleep during the flight and I woke up and he was like, “Were you dreaming? What kind of dreams were you having?” He was right in my ear. I’m like, I can’t believe this is happening to me. I’ve never flown first class. I’ve never been to New Orleans and now I got Richard Simmons in my ear, you know asking me about my dreams and trying to give me some psych read or something.
UPROXX: That’s so great. That’s amazing.
CHARLES: So you’re from New Orleans. What’s the big famous oyster place that’s in the Hilton or whatever?
CHARLES: Dragos. I have a napkin where he he wrote, “Meet me at Dragos, Richard.” It was Richard, his manager, like his whole team was there, and everybody was super nice when we went out. They’ve all worked for him for like 20 years. Like he’s a total good dude. But then we were walking down Bourbon Street and he stops for everybody to take photos, was totally gracious and then the next morning I was in the chair about to make True Detective telling everybody about how I like tore up the town with Richard Simmons the night before.
UPROXX: How did it feel to haunt the nation for a few weeks? That initial image of you walking around wearing a gas mask and holding a machete was everywhere. I mean I was seeing it Photoshopped into other photos, friends of mine were e-mailing and texting it me. It had to be sort of surreal for you.
CHARLES: It’s been kind of insane. You have to credit Nic (Pizzolatto) and Cary (Fukunaga) for just nailing it. But yeah, I’ve just been kind of letting it unfold. And trying to have some fun with it. Like the Twitter thing has been totally new to me. And it wasn’t until somebody turned me on to you guys’ article on me that I think it got like real for me, you know.
UPROXX: Is that when you realized that you were suddenly kind of famous and people like me were digging around looking at your social media accounts and stuff like that?
CHARLES: Yeah, but then again I guess that’s why social media is there. It’s been really strange. And I’m just really happy to be a part of it, you know? It’s cool. Like me and Brad, the guy who plays Charlie Lange, hooked up on Twitter. Now we’re going to go hang out.
UPROXX: Did you guys actually get to meet in person during filming?
CHARLES: No. We were never on set together. We met on Twitter after the fact. Like, he’s got a crazy story. He played guitar while undergoing brain surgery. Like, they opened his brain up and he played guitar while they poked around at it. I found that out on Twitter. F*cking insane.
UPROXX: Well that’s an interesting story, to say the least.
CHARLES: Oh man, you know it.
UPROXX: Back to that scene and the first brief glimpse the audience got of Reggie Ledoux — can you settle an argument for me that’s been going on with some of our commenters? In that scene was that a jock strap you were wearing or tighty-whities?
CHARLES: Oh yeah it was jock strap.
UPROXX: One last question. How did you come to be cast as Reggie? What was that process like?
CHARLES: I will say I owe a tip of the hat — a big, big tip of the hat — and I’m in a debt of gratitude to Cary Fukunaga. Like he did me a solid on this one. I had the pleasure of working with him back in 2006 when he was at the Sundance Institute. He was developing Sin Nombre, it got to be his debut feature. It was an interesting experience. I was a stock actor at the Sundance that year. I’m from Salt Lake City, Utah originally. So I had the good fortune of being involved with the Sundance Institute. They developed projects in the summertime at the directors labs. I’m sure you’ve heard of them. And so I had done that a couple of years and Cary was there one of the years and he actually had me playing a, I mean it’s strange but I was like playing one of the heavies in Sin Nombre, which is like, would eventually be cast by like, you know, really terrifying kind of Mexican gangsters. But we became friends. When (True Detective) came around and his name came across my desk I just reached out to him. The role I originally read for didn’t work out but then Reggie came along and it somehow worked.
UPROXX: I’m more than sure you’ll be back to New Orleans at some point and when you are look me up and I will make sure you drink properly next time you’re here.
CHARLES: I’ll look forward to it.
(This interview was condensed and edited for space.)