'Rectify' Cast on Sundance Channel's New Drama: 'This Show Just Really Breathes'
Usually when people call a TV show slow, they don't mean it as a compliment. But for three actors, that languid quality is partially what drew them to "Rectify," the Sundance Channel's first wholly owned scripted series, in the first place.
"Even compared to a show like 'Mad Men,' which is a slow show, this show just really breathes, and that's just not something you get to do anymore in film or television," enthused Clayne Crawford at a press lunch promoting the six-part season. It painstakingly details the first week of Daniel Holden's reintroduction to society after new DNA evidence found by an Innocence Project-like lawyer springs him from his nearly 20-year stay on death row for the rape and murder of his high school girlfriend. "Cable now is a lot like film was in the '70s -- about the material, about telling a story, able to take chances."
Aden Young (Daniel) feels the protracted pace of "Rectify," which was created by "Deadwood" actor Ray McKinnon and produced by the team behind "Breaking Bad," suits the story of this man, who is suddenly returned his family and his small Georgia hometown, which was torn apart by the vicious crime. "I met a man at a pub in Sydney once who was an hour out of prison, and you could not find any speed coming out of him. Talking to him was like talking to a snail. The rhythms were so different," said Young ("The Starter Wife"), adding that he remembered that encounter when perfecting his character. "With Daniel, I had to take the character and put a box around him for 20 years. He spent 23 hours a day [asking] did I turn left when I should have turned right? When you strip those walls away, there is a man paralyzed by opportunity and options, and physically that had to manifest in the performance. Like the man who fell to Earth."
Abigail Spencer, who plays Daniel's loyal sister Amantha, feels the "meditative" project explores "the time between seconds, the space between the moments. Our show puts a camera in front of those private lives," the "Mad Men" and "Burning Love" alum explained. "Daniel comes back to reality. What is this life outside the box, and was it better in the box? He should hate death row, yet he doesn't know anything else. When you get used to something, it's very safe. But shouldn't this be safer because he's out?"
Spencer recalled her own experience with an ex-con at last month's Atlanta Film Festival where "Rectify" was screened as further proof this was the way to go with this subject matter. "A guy in the audience who had been in jail for eight years stood up and was like, 'Man, I don't have a question, but I got a comment. You guys nailed it. That is what it is like when you get out of prison.' I got really emotional hearing him say that because that's what you long for. You want the artistic interpretation to be real and strike a chord."
Having two weeks of rehearsal before shooting, using locals as extras and regional actors as periphery characters, and filming on location in Griffin, Georgia, added authenticity (yes, that's the local Walmart) and aided the actors in keeping it real. "The town, the pace, and the people were very beneficial. We ate with them, drank with them," agreed Crawford ("Justified," "The Glades"), who portrays Ted Jr., the stepbrother Daniel has never met and who fears that his return will cost him his inheritance of the Holden family tire business and possibly even his wife. "The town is a character in the script."
Spencer was motivated by the extras. "They are so real that it made us work even harder. In Episode 2, there's a scene between Amantha and Jon [the new lawyer and her secret lover] in the diner. Amantha has this great line at the end. 'God, I hate this f------ town.' The room was filled with extras who live in this town. I felt bad. I didn't want to offend the town I'm working in. But the woman who owns the diner came up and said, 'We say that all the time,' and erupted in laughter. There's a love-hate relationship because you feel like there is no way out, yet you don't know anything else. I think that's a metaphor for Daniel."