Issa López in True Detective: Night Country

INTERVIEW: Issa López Talks NHMC Impact Award & Doing Things ‘The Mexican Way’

Credit: Chino Lemus/HBO

For Issa López, this year’s recipient of the NHMC Showrunner Impact Award for her work on HBO’s True Detective: Night Country, getting recognized by her community is a particular honor. Remezcla had a chance to talk to both López and NHMC (National Hispanic Media Coalition) President and CEO Brenda Castillo about López’s award and about the NHMC’s Impact Awards Gala, which takes place on June 14th, and honors individuals “making an impact, shifting societal narratives, and setting an example for Latine communities.” 

Castillo made it clear that the gala was about “celebrating the incredible contributions that Latine individuals give to our society,” but also made a point to set a before and an after. “Back in the day, our work was not recognized, not that today we’re recognized as we should be, but we were definitely not being recognized before.”

“And when we’re not recognized, we have to show that it can be done. And our young people need to see us as role models. We deserve a night of recognition and celebration.”

Kali Reis and Jodie Foster in True Detective: Night Country
Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO
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One of the people at the center of that night of recognition and celebration is Issa López, the mind behind season 4 of True Detective: Night Country, starring Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. For López, who grew up in Mexico, there’s particular importance to the fact that the NHMC is a Latine organization recognizing Latine creatives, because growing up, she didn’t have a role model.

“I grew up in Tlatelolco in Mexico City, which is next to Tepito and it’s a very historical part of Mexico City. And I loved cinema and I loved good TV and some bad TV too, I will say, but you just wanna tell the stories. There was no role model of, you know …what were the chances of a girl growing up in there to end up telling, well, in its moment, the most important show on TV when it was playing?”

And López hopes that her presence, this award, is an inspiration for the next generation too. “It makes it easier, if only for the fact that it has happened, that there is precedent and that amongst us, we say to each other, look at her, look at him, look at them.”

Issa López in True Detective: Night Country
Photograph by Chino Lemus/HBO
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It’s not just about being there, though. Issa López carries her identity in everything she does. “Everybody that has worked with me will tell you that. And sometimes I think this must be tiresome because, at every corner, I go like, I’m just a Mexican, you know, and this Mexican here, why don’t you tell this Mexican? And I go like, listen, we’re going to do this the Mexican way. And the number of times in a day of work at the writer’s room, at the studio, on the set in post-production that I say, Mexico, Mexican, Mexicana, Mexican way. The number of times that comes out of my mouth every day is kind of silly, but it’s not. It’s important.”

Castillo agreed. She looked at López and she remembered how, when she was little, she gravitated toward movies with “María Félix, because she was one of the rare strong women we saw.”

Now we see them behind the scenes as well. Now we have role models. And we can celebrate them.

Issa López will act as showrunner for season 5 of True Detective and has a multiyear overall deal with HBO where she will create content exclusive to HBO and Max. And the NHMC gala takes place tonight (June 14.)