Aden Young of “Rectify”

Speaking in Definitives

Jul 09, 2015 Web Exclusive
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Execution. Murder. Rape. Revenge. Infidelity. There seems to be no end to the transgressions that tempt and haunt the characters on SundanceTV's acclaimed drama Rectify (which begins its third season tonight). At the center of that small-town Southern Gothic mystery is Daniel Holden, a former death row inmate whose overturned sentencing leaves his community in an uproar as it continues to mourn his murdered high school sweetheart, and as most of those neighbors question Daniel's innocence of the charge.

The character requires not only a sympathetic tone but also an ambiguous undercurrent, because only series creator Ray McKinnon knows if Daniel is truly guilty. Aside from those conflicting nuances, the role also demands a deep degree of trust. Star Aden Young relies heavily on McKinnon to keep his character's scenes from becoming melodramatic, morose, or falling short of anything less than the deeply moving, melancholy-yet-wry tone that has garnered the series so much praise. But Young and McKinnon's faith in each other stems from a special source, one that couldn't be further from the domineering producer or director and the entitled stars that typify so many soundstages. Instead, the pair sympathize which each other's viewpoints. Before becoming Rectify's showrunner, McKinnon made a name for himself as a character actor on hit series like Deadwood. Young, meanwhile, also drew praise in his homeland of Australia for directing the Hugo Weaving narrated acclaimed short film The Rose of Ba Ziz.

The Rose of Ba Ziz from Aden Young on Vimeo.

"Ray, being an actor, recognizes the technicalities of what his cast does on set, and he recognizes that I've been a director and I realize the technique of what's being played out in front of me," Young says, during a recent phone interview with Under the Radar, about the unique dynamic that he and McKinnon share. He then recalls, "Early on, we were probably a week and a half into shooting season one, I called Ray and said: 'I want to talk to you about episode three, there's a few things that are bothering me'... We have a certain trust because we both share regard for each other's work. That's allowed us to explore together without using definitives. Because a lot of the time you find people who speak in definitives in this business, and that's when the work can be stagnant, because people are afraid to go to another level."

That trust allowed Young to attain a uniquely raw vulnerability in Rectify's first two seasons, as McKinnon wrote scene after scene about the abuse Daniel sufferedbe it in flashbacks at the hands of guards and fellow inmates, or the hostility he endures from his newfound stepbrother, Teddy Jr. (played by Clayne Crawford) upon his release.

Young says that clash between his character and Crawford's was one of the most engaging of his career. He explains: "Daniel is a man who was on death row and learned the ropes of that neighborhood of hell, and unfortunately that becomes the luggage he carries into his freedom. And when he meets this territorial alpha male, Teddy Jr., who is really living his life ignorant of so much of what's outside of his own sphere, the relationship becomes extremely intense." Young goes on to talk about that escalating contentionfrom Teddy Jr.'s snide jokes about conjugal visits and prison rape, to Daniel's ensuing physical assault on his stepbrother, and then the peculiar bond that Daniel forges with Tawny, Teddy Jr.'s wife. He adds: "That really begins to boil inside Teddy. Seeing the journey of these two characters, and how things really come to a head for them, is one of the most exciting aspects of this season coming up."

But Young says that his truly favorite part of Rectify's third season is the growth of the characters with whom he rarely shares scenes. Sheriff Carl Daggett (played by J.D. Evermore), for instance, becomes much more prominent as he investigates Daniel's involvement in the cold case. Young adds that the audience will certainly begin to "engage more with Daggett. His total belief in Daniel's guilt begins to really crumble, and he has to really look back, and go: 'Did we do the right thing? Is this the man we should have put in prison?' In the same way Teddy flowered in season two, and we saw this man get crushed by the assault Daniel inflicted on him, we'll also see Daggett's character begin to be conflicted by the possibility of Daniel's innocence."

Meanwhile Daniel's sister, Amantha, (played by Abigail Spencer) contends with the crooked officials who pressure her former death row inmate brother to confess to the murder, and his mother and stepfather (respectively played by J. Smith-Cameron and Bruce McKinnon, who has no relation to show runner Ray McKinnon) come to terms with Daniel's assault on Teddy Jr.

While Young revels in the complex layers of his starring role, he says he takes much greater joy in the ensemble element of Rectify, and the intensity of the relationships between Daniel and the other characters. He adds that those benefits stem from the deep talents of his castmates, who have not only given stirring performances but have also forged lasting bonds with Young off set. He explains: "We all get along so well, we're lucky in that regard. Ya know it's nobody's fault, but when you bring together a lot of people like this sometimes there's a lot of agendas and egos that can clash. We're just lucky in a sense that we never had that on this show. That in itself is a joy."

In a way, Young has often worked to find such overlaps between work and loved ones for years, not only with the extended family that he has found on Rectify, but also with his actual relatives since he was a boy. His lauded short film, The Rose of Ba Ziz, was based on a children's story written by his father Chip Young, who was not only an author but also a journalist at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's outlet in Toronto. When Young was nine years old in 1981 the family moved to his mother's hometown in Newcastle, Australia. She was a nurse, and they spent much of the next decade moving from one town to the next in New South Wales because Chip had been afflicted with a peculiar lupus-esque disease and needed treatment. By the time Aden's acting career began gaining momentum in the late '90s Chip had died. The Rose of Ba Ziz became Aden's tribute to his Dad, but he says he still draws inspiration from him in many ways on Rectify to this dayfrom vocal tics and certain inflections in Daniel's accent, to his overall approach to furthering the plot with his performance.

"He was a broadcaster, and one of the things he loved doing was telling tall tales," Aden says of Chip, adding: "But I also remember him having particular rhythms. My dad really made me realize, when it comes to stories, to not dwell on the dynamic quality of it, but rather just tell the story. Because of him I try to look at the story, the entire show, and not just my character."

www.sundance.tv/series/rectify



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Dave E Trousers
July 16th 2015
7:55pm

“Daniel"s voice just sucks you into this show, something about it.  And the whole cast is great.  And even though it moves pretty slowly, there’s that giant elephant constantly in the room of what exactly happened that night 20 years ago.  And i really hope they’re already shooting season 4 because these 6 are gonna be gone in a flash.