Last night Magic Mike costar (and, if you ask me, serious Best Supporting Actor contender) Matthew McConaughey sat for a q & a at North Hollywood’s TV Academy theatre with Pete Hammond. The chat followed a screening of Magic Mike, and before an audience that was largely female. McConaughey, who struck me as earnest, articulate, no dummy, charming and down to earth, made quite the impression.

Magic Mike costar and Dallas Buyer’s Club star Matthew McConaughey — Thursday, 11.8, 9:10 pm.

McConaughey is a genuine award-season contender, I feel, for two reasons. One, he “hits a solid triple as Dallas, the owner-manager of the strip club Xquisite, nailing every line and delivering the requisite hoots and cock-of-the-walk sleaze,” as I said in my 6.26 review. And two, because he turned his career around a couple of years ago by dropping the shallow romcom vein he’d been mining for years, and he deserves applause for that.

The odd thing was that McConaughey looked so thin that he seemed unhealthy, and he had dark hair and a dark moustache that made him look like John Wilkes Booth. But the unhealthy look is intentional, it turns out, for a film called The Dallas Buyer’s Club.

McConaughey has lost 38 pounds, he said, in order to play the late Ron Woodruff. Club is “loosely based” on the life of Woodruff, “a drug taking, women loving, homophobic man who, in 1986 was diagnosed with full blown HIV/AIDS and given thirty days to live,” a synopsis says. “Other AIDS patients sought out his medications, and with the help of his doctor and a fellow patient, Ron unintentionally created the Dallas Buyers Club, the first of dozens which would form around the country, providing its paying members with alternative treatments.”

On 7.18.12 I wrote that I’d been noticing the fruits of McConaughey’s career-change strategy for a year or so. “Sometime in 2009 or ’10 he must have told his agent, ‘I know I went along with these shitty romcoms before but it has to stop…you’re fucking killing me, man…will you get me out of this?…enough of the quarter-inch-deep, pretty-boy Kate Hudson flicks…that way lies death.’

“My first acknowledgement that McConaughey had changed course was in a 5.3.11 review of The Lincoln Lawyer, to wit: ‘For nearly 20 years McConaughey has under-achieved. The few good films he’s been in have been mostly ensembles (Dazed and Confused, U-571, We Are Marshall, Tropic Thunder) while many of his top-billed or costarring vehicles have been romantic dogshit, especially over the last decade. Now comes The Lincoln Lawyer, the first completely decent, above-average film McConaughey has carried all on his own. By his standards that’s close to a triumph.”

“I should now state that I no longer regard McConaughey as a Beelzebub-like figure, which is how I described him in a 4.21.09 piece called ‘The Devil Probably.’ And that I no longer think of him as ‘King of the Empties,’ which is how I put it on 7.16.06. He’s wised up, done the work, redeemed himself…no more condemnation.”

McConaughey has been exceptionally good in Bernie, Killer Joe and Mud. His upcoming projects include True Detectives, Thunder Run and The Wolf of Wall Street.