Aden Young had just wrapped season three of SundanceTV’s “Rectify” when he learned he had been nominated for a Critics’ Choice TV Award for Best Drama Actor. “I was down in Griffin, Georgia, and I’d decided to stay on with my family on a little farm we’d rented for the duration of the shoot,” he says. “I just got an email about it and was running around in my socks with my kids. We just danced a little bit, and then we got on with doing something – I think we went fishing to celebrate.” (Watch our complete video chat below.)
Young plays Daniel Holden, who is released from prison after new evidence calls into question his conviction for the murder of his high school sweetheart. Having spent half of his life on death row, Daniel emerges a quiet, inward and “statue-like” man, and playing such a subdued character was “very hard for a ham like me. I’m double-glazed, double-smoked at times,” the actor admits. The role required him “to bring everything down to a minimalist quality.”
His portrayal of Daniel was partly inspired by a man he once met at a bar, who “came up and said hello and he’d just been released from prison after spending I think 15 years. His rhythm was so quiet and it was just not of our world.”
But every once in a while, Daniel is overcome with emotion, as in the second season finale, “Unhinged,” in which he tries to accept a plea deal but struggles while delivering his confession. “It was a very confused and broken place that I had to take Daniel to, or Daniel had to take me to, and at times was very challenging,” says Young. “We had to shoot it a number of times, and by the end of the day I really felt I needed either a drink or some therapy, so I opted for a little bit of both.”
The audience doesn’t know for sure whether or not Daniel committed the murder. For that matter, neither does Daniel, who was high on drugs at the time. Young “asked [series creator Ray McKinnon], ‘Are you going to tell me whether Daniel is guilty or innocent?’ And he said, ‘Would you like to know whether he’s guilty?’ That became a psychological debate all of a sudden. I thought, what happens if I don’t know?”
During the second season, which aired last summer, “I didn’t want to know a thing about the arc of the show or the story because to me season two represented Daniel’s adolescence, and like an adolescent, I didn’t want to look too far ahead. I didn’t want to recognize the consequences of his actions,” Young says. “At the beginning of season three, however, I made a different choice, but I can’t tell you about that.”
Season three premieres Thursday, July 9, and will pick up where season two left off, with Daniel’s plea deal still in question.
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