The “RECTIFY” Cast on Getting Into Character

Daniel’s freedom echoes throughout Paulie creating schisms in both the community and his family. What’s it like to have a son, brother or suspected killer released from death row? How does that affect a family—and an entire town? And, as an actor, how does one prepare for such intense, unconventional role? Aden Young, Adelaide Clemens, Johnny Ray Gill, J. Smith-Cameron, Bruce McKinnon, Jake Austin Walker, Sean Bridgers and Michael O’Neil discuss the research they did (or didn’t do) and how they view their characters.

Aden Young: Things certainly can affect you if you’re not careful, and in some ways Daniel got into my brain stem. He wanted to remind me that I was confused and sad, that you have to feel to communicate this fiction that’s based on someone’s truth. Because you want to give that a certain justice.

Adelaide Clemens: She is [naïve]. She’s so clumsy. For example, her wardrobe. I really urged the costume designer, in the first season, we really made sure that… she doesn’t know what to wear. She just buys whatever is cheapest. She shops at Walmart. She doesn’t see herself as powerfully attractive. She doesn’t see herself as that kind of person. She’s a very functional woman.

Johnny Ray Gill: I didn’t do much research, honestly, because as an African American man I am always under the threat of the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex. It preys on us, it eats us for lunch. We are its dinner, its main course. For example, black men are incarcerated at roughly six times the rate of whites. If the current incarceration trends continue, one in every three black males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in their life.

J. Smith-Cameron: The famous areas of conflict that mothers and daughters have–I’ve felt that with my mother and my daughter. But in this case, Amantha is a perfect storm. She’s not easy for anyone to get along with–she’s fantastic and a heroine, but she’s challenging. I think if you look closely, Janet is overwhelmed by Amantha, but she really admires her. She’s just a different animal.

Bruce McKinnon: Over half of our regular cast have Southern roots, and those that don’t like Aden [Young] and Adelaide [Clemens], they have such wonderful talent that they just brought that to their research and how they went about doing their roles. They just nailed it on the head. Even though I was born in New Orleans and grew up in East Tennessee, I still have to be really conscious to make sure I pronounce certain words correctly.

Jake Austin Walker: I’ve got a 12-year-old sister, so it’s easy to fall into that dorky brother-sister relationship with Amantha (Abigail Spencer). I also have a 24-year-old brother, which definitely helped with both Daniel and Ted Jr. (Clayne Crawford). I always wanted acceptance from my brother, and I was always so curious about whatever he was doing. I wanted to be my brother; he was just kind of like my idol.

Sean Bridgers: I know just enough to play the scene in front me, and that’s kind of all I want to know. In terms of the grand design, I don’t know and I don’t think anyone would tell me if I asked. As an actor, you play it moment to moment. And with a show as well-written as [RECTIFY], that’s the best way to do it.

Michael O’Neil: The Innocence Project and…the Southern Poverty Law Center [have] been trying to deal for a long time with some of these inequalities in the justice system, as have other agencies and states that are looking into this. So in that regard, the great volume of information is flowing against my character, so I’ve simply had to, in many respects, discard that and dig in my heels to go, “You know what? That might be fine for you, but not in my little town. Not on my watch. There’s a blood death that’s owed here, and we’re going to make sure that’s paid.”

Need to catch up on RECTIFY? Find out where to stream, download or purchase Seasons 1-4.