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ATX Festival 2014: Abigail Spencer and Mark Johnson discuss 'Rectify' season two

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I had the privilege of speaking with Abigail Spencer (Amantha Holden) and Mark Johnson, an executive producer, of “Rectify” at a press roundtable this past weekend at ATX Festival. Season two of “Rectify” airs next Thursday, the 19, at 8 p.m. central on Sundance.

Q: Can you talk a little about Daniel and Kerwin’s relationship?

Mark Johnson: He [Kerwin] is the family that Daniel has, and he has all these other people who come visit him and who he has blood ties to, but they don’t know him even half, even close to how Kerwin knows him. And you know think what a sort of perverted way to have a relationship. It’s really done through a grating between their two cells, but they know each other. I think it’s very profound what Kerwin says about I know about Daniel’s innocent because the rest of the characters including, and you’ll [Abigail Spencer] attest or you'll disagree or not, including his sister, I think all have, they hope they know, but they can’t not have doubts also about what happened. And Daniel's not a very good spokesperson in his own defense.

Abigail Spencer: Umm, no. [laughs] I mean he wouldn't be out if it weren't for Amantha, but I think it is interesting, and that will shift in season two that the flashbacks in the prison really are mirroring something that Daniel is trying to work through in his own life. So Kerwin really is such a pivotal force to project him into trying to live, you know. And because he wouldn't be out if it weren't for Amantha. I don’t know that Daniel would have chosen that on his own.

Johnson: It’s interesting though about Kerwin because there is no doubt in Kerwin’s case. There’s a, it’s one of the early episodes when he says, they have a conversation in the cell, and Kerwin says, without irony or a touch of even really the awareness of what he's saying, he says something about his lawyer thinks his chances would have been a lot better had he not done it. Kerwin did it. Kerwin knows he did it. Daniel knows he did it. This horrific thing that…But in Daniel’s case, who knows. It really is the other side of that coin.

Kerwin has these little nuggets of profound wisdom.

Spencer: Kerwin is a bit of the soothsayer who comes in and out. There's quite a few on our show outside of the immediate family. I think just knowing Ray [McKinnon], it's so beautiful to see some of these periphery characters that come in that ask these big questions of our, especially Daniel, but our main characters trying to walk this walk. It's just a beautiful way to tell this story.

Johnson: And they get to the heart of the matter perhaps quicker and with less filters than all the family around him. The people who really do care about him.

Spencer: You are too close to it in the family, and you project your own things, and everyone's different agendas. As much as the senator and some of our proposed antagonists have their own agendas, the people in the family have their own agendas too, and are trying, you know, there’s this self-preservation that is igniting in each person that I think Daniel’s existence in being out kind of flares up in each one.

During season one, you said in an interview that Amantha really needed to find her identity even though, as viewers, we saw that she was very strong and powerful. By now or season two, does she discover herself more kinda who she is and what she is capable of doing?

Spencer: I think that season two is the space between that. It’s the bridge, hopefully. Amantha’s going to be very tested in that area because Daniel’s a human being who unfortunately in this situation has choice in Amantha’s opinion, and he has to be able to choose things now. It’s his decision. It’s not Amantha, as much as she’d like to, can’t be his protector and keeper. I mean she says I am my brother’s keeper in episode two. I think she says it with irony as she always does, but I think she actually believes that. So we are going to see Amantha really get challenged on who am I when I don’t wake up every day and that’s my soul purpose is to get Daniel out.

Johnson: Where would she be if this whole thing hadn't, wasn't, if Daniel were just off living his life? I mean this has become her life.

Spencer: Oh totally.

Johnson: It runs everything. It brings her back to this town. What would she be doing? I mean clearly it fills this huge void.

Spencer: I think about it. I also come from a pretty small town, not too far from where we shoot the show. I think, I had really big dreams of grandeur growing up, and I moved to New York when I was 17. I actually think there is a similar thread. I think she would have gone to New York. I think she would have to college. I think maybe she would have gone into law, if not found her way into something where she could fight, fight the system, you know, on some level. I think she really would have become very successful. Because the fact that she put all that energy into Daniel, and he got out! You know? The thing happened. This impossible thing that everyone else gave up on that I, you know, maybe even because her father died of a heart attack too, who was on her side. It was like her and her dad, some backstory that we talk about that I don’t know if it filters through or not in the cuts. But that they worked together, and when he passed on, you know, this case killed people like Hal Holbrook's character. He said got cancer fighting these things. You know it really can destroy people, and it didn't destroy Amantha.

Johnson: Is she in any way resentful or sorry that he got out? Because she's now sort of accomplished what she set out to do, and now what does she do?

Spencer: I think that’s part of the journey that we will definitely see is being challenged of her blind faith and care. I felt playing it, and I see it in the storylines, she really gets tested of, between Daniel and Amantha, of his gratitude. You know, if he understands what her life was like. If she’s thought about it.

What do you think drove Amantha to dedicate a good bit of her life to getting Daniel out of prison?

Spencer: I mean I have brothers, and there is this deep, interconnected, you know, woven tapestry between her and Daniel. They are cut from the same cloth, as different as they are, I think, I mean he's the older brother. I totally adored and admired my older brother growing up. He was my hero.

Johnson: But he hasn't been around. You haven’t seen him in 18 years.

Spencer: Exactly.

Johnson: So how can he still be your hero?

Spencer: I think it’s the projection, it is the idea. Now it's become her identity, not knowing who she is without it. I think it's just part of who Amantha is, you know. It’s just part of her DNA is to fight, is to fight to the death, you know, to the freedom, and not give up, to not lose hope. Some people come out that way, and I think she is one of these people.

Are you ready for season two of “Rectify?” Leave me your thoughts in a comment below.

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