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Abigail Spencer on Rectify’s Third Season, and ‘Why It’s Like Trying to Bring a Poem to Life’

Photo: Valery Hache/AFP/Getty Images

Abigail Spencer is doing double-duty this summer on HBO’s True Detective and Sundance’s Rectify, which returns July 9. In the acclaimed small-town drama’s third season, Spencer’s character, Amantha, must deal with the fact that her brother, Daniel (Aden Young) — whom she sprung from Death Row with the help of attorney/lover Jon (Luke Kirby) — has accepted a plea deal that requires him to leave their home state of Georgia. She spoke about the new season and whether Amantha has found her happy place at Thrifty Town.

Now that Daniel’s taking a plea deal, what’s next for Amantha? His case has been so much the focus of her life.
That’s what we’re exploring in season three: What now? Season two was a big transition. The first season was the rebirth and the second season was the adolescence. Season three is about maturing and exploring. It picks up a couple of hours after Daniel’s “re-confession.” It’s about how Daniel’s choice is going to be affecting everybody. With Amantha, she’s making some really bold moves to stay still and figure out what she really wants outside of Daniel. You’re going to really see that play out.

Does she have any doubt that Daniel’s innocent now?
There’s natural disappointment. It’s just a really bitter pill to swallow. She dedicated her entire life to defending him, and he doesn’t want to go the distance with it. Even though Daniel’s behavior is peculiar, Amantha knows in her gut he’s innocent. But she’s really starting to come to terms with how damaged he is. I think it’s amazing what Amantha did. She did the impossible. But she’s dealing with her expectations of how that would be perceived and getting credit. She fought so hard for so long.

What’s behind her dedication to Daniel? She seems to have gone above and beyond the call of sibling duty.
It’s deep love. I have two brothers. That familial gene, that blood you share, that you shed for one another is very powerful. Daniel is all she has because they’re the only two Holdens. Her mom has moved on in some ways, Amantha feels, and she and her mother are so different. Daniel and Janet [J. Smith-Cameron] are much more similar.

What’s keeping Amantha in town, especially with the prospect that Daniel will be court-ordered to leave the state soon?
She’s reconfiguring when it’s time to really make a change. When you take a step back and really look at your life, there’s a natural inclination to want to be home. There are a lot of things that are still untied — like her relationship with Jon. That’s something she still may want to contemplate. There’s also something really valuable about being good at her job. She’s really great at Thrifty Town. She’s appreciated. It’s an interesting opportunity to have this simple life. Part of her life was something so extraordinary. That didn’t work out totally.

Is there still a glimmer of hope for Amantha and Jon?
I sure hope so. I really hope Amantha figures this out, and they can meet again outside of Daniel. They did an incredible thing together, and Jon really cares and knows her, but Amantha has to play this instinct out. Some of the backstory that doesn’t get explored much on the show is that Amantha’s father was really the one who was carrying the torch for Daniel’s release. He died very suddenly of a heart attack, so it also feels like Amantha’s duty to the family. That’s her job in the family. So she’s really just adrift.

The tone of Rectify is so consistent and specific. Do you have to maintain it between takes?
We definitely keep it when we’re on set. You can’t get too far away from it. The scripts are not dialogue-heavy, but they’re very full. It’s so much more about what’s not being said, the space between the lines, the description. It’s almost like you’re trying to bring a poem to life.

Why Rectify Is Like Bringing a ‘Poem to Life’