For those fans of True Detective who are anxiously waiting to find out the fate of Colin Farrell's character Ray Velcoro on True Detective, I'm here to distract with another question. Is Ray Velcoro based on a real person? Yeah, yeah — we've all been obsessing over whether or not Ray died after being shot twice in the second episode of Season 2, but since I feel certain that we'll see Farrell's Ray again (whether or not it's in flashbacks or real time is yet to be seen), let's not give up on trying to figure out the mystery surrounding his troubled character.
Writer and creator Nic Pizzolatto has already used the real city of Vernon as inspiration for the Vinci, California setting of True Detective Season 2. So it wouldn't be a complete stretch if Pizzolatto had been inspired by a real person when he created Ray Velcoro. But fortunately for the real-life man who would have a significantly depressing life, there is no evidence of Pizzolatto basing Ray off of anyone real. In an interview with The Seattle Times, Farrell said:
The birthplace of a character is the writer's mind and heart. But there should come a point where, as an actor, you arrive at the doorstep of more knowledge than the writer. By episode three or four, I felt I understood Ray. But it wasn’t like I was ever going to get to tell Nic, 'He's mine now.' Ray, and all the characters, lived within Nic, too, while we were shooting the show.
For me, Farrell's statement confirms that the police detective is purely a product of Pizzolatto's imagination and Farrell's interpretation. And it also confirms that fans of True Detective haven't seen the last of Farrell. While I'm happy that Farrell's performance on the HBO show isn't over, it would have been a seriously badass move to kill off the movie star in the second episode. (A working theory: He was shot with something other than bullets, which will make his recovery easier. Like rock salt in Kill Bill: Volume 2.)
Just because Ray Velcoro isn't directly influenced by a real person doesn't mean his personal experiences are completely unique. Farrell discussed how Ray can be somewhat relatable to Variety after receiving an award in June at the Maui Film Festival. "He's somebody who like many of us in life is wrestling with events that took place in his past, and is trying to move forward from them, but trapped in this continual cycle of behavior he can’t get out of," he said about his True Detective character. "I think fundamentally he's a good man that made some very bad choices."
While Ray's ex-wife would beg to differ with Farrell's analysis of his character, he is definitely haunted by the past, which is something many people can relate to. And he soaks in alcohol and drugs to get through his days.
When the third episode, "Maybe Tomorrow," airs on Sunday, July 5, the show will hopefully answer the question right away about if (and how) Ray survived getting shot by the man in the bird mask. In the meantime, Farrell can't reveal a lot of plot details about True Detective, but the actor is open to discussing his complex, yet at times — familiar — character.
Though Ray may not be based off a true person, he's still a True Detective (oh, yeah – I went there). And hopefully an alive one with some allies once all is said and done in Season 2.