On SundanceTV’s Peabody Award-winning show “Rectify,” Aden Young plays Daniel Holden, a convicted murderer on Death Row for nearly 20 years who is suddenly released from prison on a technicality. Finding it difficult to reintegrate into society and not even sure if he really killed the girl he was accused of murdering, Daniel is not exactly welcomed back to Georgia by many of his former friends and neighbors. In the show’s final season, beginning Oct. 26, Daniel is living in a halfway house in Nashville, where he has a warehouse job, but is still shellshocked and friendless from all those years in the slammer, and still trying to find his place in society. We spoke to the 35-year old Young, born in Canada and raised in Australia, by phone from his home in Los Angeles.
Daniel Holden is a pretty tough part to play. What interested you in the first place?
I read it and I felt this is a very different pilot script, and it got its talons into me very quickly. The writer was willing to take the time with character development, which you don’t often see in film and TV. And this character going on this incredible journey — he’s now condemned to life. He was sentenced to death, and now is condemned to life.
What’s it like playing someone so internalized and depressed? Do you want to go home at night and drink heavily?
It was difficult to have him in my head, and it wasn’t until season two I could describe what my relationship was. During the break I had to put him in the guesthouse, so to speak. After season one I almost did suffer. I allowed it to take over a part of me.
The series also pays a lot of attention to the religiosity and spirituality of its characters, particularly Daniel’s relationship with his sister-in-law Tawney.
Religion plays a major role in that part of the world, and what it means to people. And you have spirituality, which might not be faith-based, it’s what you hold dear. It can be divisive in entertainment, and encourage people’s cynicism and doubt. I thought it was a brave story to tell about this character looking for a sense of belongingness, and then meets this girl who is clearly part of the church, and Daniel is very taken with that. It’s really intriguing. There was never any feeling that “Oh, my God, we’re pushing something here.”
Do you see Daniel as a good person?
He is, very much so. He’s a very dear person who has the ability to see people’s agendas, and what their motivation is.
Did you learn anything particular about the American South while shooting the series?
It was interesting to hear Ray [McKinnon, creator and executive producer] talk about why he wanted to tell this story, why it was set in Georgia. Part of his answer was so many TV shows, when they vacation in the South, it’s the dumb farmer, and there’s an electric pride people have in the South, and that was eye-opening. They were kind and gentle, and took the time to inform me what the South was all about.
What got you into acting in the first place?
The writer Graham Greene once said “There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets in the future.” My godfather was head of the Canadian Director’s Guild, and he showed us an IMAX film he worked on, and that was an epiphany. Many years later, I chased a girl into a drama class, and it was again, an epiphany.
Your family moved from Canada to Australia when you were 9 years old. That must have been tough. What was it like?
My mother is Australian, and I loved it when we went there on holiday, but when they said we would move, we were marooned in some ways to this new world. My brother and I wandered around wondering where on earth we had landed. Nothing was recognizable. Everything about the change was dramatic, and part of me for years wanted to hold onto anything that had to do with Canada. I kept my accent for years, and joined the local hockey team.
So what about you is most Australian?
It has a lot to do with cars, where you spend your time growing up. And there’s always the part of me that is gun shy of political correctness.