Get to know the South Philly pro boxer who starred in ‘True Detective’

Their hotel was only a few blocks away from the premiere, so they decided to walk down Sunset Boulevard to the Paramount Theater in Los Angeles. Holding hands on an early January Tuesday, the ice blue began to come into view. Once in full sight, Kali Reis and her husband, Brian Cohen, looked up and could not believe it.

They shared a visceral hug. Their eyes welled.

Her face was embossed on a 30-foot billboard as the costar in Season 4 of HBO’s crime-thriller series True Detective: Night Country with Academy Award-winning actress Jodie Foster.

It brought them back to the countless times Reis had to get up from where she was. The childhood trauma and the incidents that followed. Bouts with alcohol abuse.

Their neighbors tend to notice her a little more now. It comes with the territory of being on a hit show. As do a host of people who were once a part of her life and drifted away, who have tried to re-enter her scope.

“She had family who did not care for her, try to talk to her, and the ones who did care for her, they don’t talk to her,” Cohen said. “I’m very protective of her because I know what she has been through. She’s a badass. She can beat grown men. She has in the ring. She has the strongest heart I know. But she never got any real support. When I saw her face on that building, it caught me. I cried. We both cried. We both know what it took for her to get here.”

It has been a winding odyssey for Reis, 37, a former six-time world champion boxer in two weight classes, who has a career 19-7-1 record with five knockouts and once concurrently held the IBO/WBA/WBO super lightweight (140-pound) world titles.

She and her husband live modestly in South Philadelphia and are the same as they were before Reis was being lauded for her work in Night Country and Lincoln Town Cars were picking her up for appearances on the Today show and The View.

“Things have changed quite a bit as far as how I view life, how I work, and show up. My focus has gotten deeper; I’m grounding myself in my own reality,” Reis said. “I’m still me. What I don’t like are people around me acting differently.”

‘Make her proud’

She embraces her past, regardless of how traumatic it was. She likes to say she grew up in an East Providence, R.I., area where she was not Black enough for the Black kids or Native American enough for the Indigenous cultures. Her struggles were many, from her time as a “raging” alcoholic who once woke up by a fire pit holding an empty bottle of Jack Daniels like the Statue of Liberty holds the torch, to surviving a motorcycle accident, to allegedly being beaten up by a Providence police officer (a lawsuit later was settled), to being raped as a 12-year-old.

“The 12-year-old girl, you can say, is still there inside,” Reis said. “Part of the reason I am where I am now is promising that little girl that I would always protect her, no matter what, especially on the Night Country shoot, which wasn’t easy. For seven…

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