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Aden Young on ‘Domestic Epic’ Rectify and Why a Beer Is Not Just a Beer

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Beautiful, brilliant, and unlike anything else on television, Sundance’s Rectify returns July 9 for the premiere of its third season. Created by Ray McKinnon, the show deals with a man, family, and community torn asunder by the imprisonment and eventual release of one of their own who was accused of a vicious crime 19 years earlier. Aden Young plays Daniel Holden, a man learning what it is to live in the world again, and all that comes with it. Young sat down with us at the Austin Television Festival and waxed poetic about the show’s languorous nature and why it doesn’t have to be for everyone. (If you haven’t seen the show, seasons one and two — 16 episodes total — are currently available on Netflix and Amazon Prime.)

Rectify is very quiet and serene for a show that has so many intense emotions bubbling under the surface.
It’s interesting. The show, to me, it is a wonderful piece of literature. I don’t think it’s necessarily that slow when I watch it. I find that it has a cinematic breadth that so many shows don’t have.

When I watch Rectify, it is an all-encompassing experience unlike any other show on TV.
It’s strange. With technology, we now have the cinema in our living rooms. We don’t have to get the babysitter, we don’t need to park the car, we don’t need to make reservations, go to that dinner and be suddenly [get] billed for a $65 lamb chop that’s flown in from fucking New Zealand. Whatever. Then unfortunately be told a story that had to be compressed by seven executive producers into this jack-in-the-box that hopefully doesn’t resolve itself in the end with a Mexican standoff. Now you have a remote control, you can microwave your dinner if you’re that crazy, you can sit down and there are options available.

Ray McKinnon came along, and went, “There’s a window here.” That’s all it is. The cinema, the TV is a window. Why have all the windows look out the same way? Why have the aspect never change? Why take a script from New York, send it to Las Vegas, change the names of the character, send it onto L.A. and change the names of the characters, send it down to Miami? As long as there’s a bikini-clad girl dead in each one, we’re going to have a hit. We’re intrigued by crime. We’re intrigued by the notion of whodunnit? But also we’re intrigued by what happens when to a community on a personal, spiritual level when the universe is tilted by the destruction of a human being. I mean the destruction of a human being. How do they rebuild?

That’s really what the show’s about. Daniel’s essentially the catalyst for this story of society on a sort of microscopic level. You’re looking at a family that breaks apart, everything’s destroyed. And you’re left with, oh my gosh, what dramas are going to unfold with so much broken glass available to be picked up and stabbed and thrown? I like to call it a domestic epic because it’s so layered. Every story, every single event that occurs in these people’s lives has a cause and effect. You pull on a rope and a monkey comes to town. That’s it with this show.

It’s a show that I love, but I dread it. It somehow becomes the most difficult show to watch, yet also the most satisfying.
Life’s not easy. It’s a mirror of life. We wake up in the morning and we’re not afraid. By midday, somebody’s asking us to do something outside our comfort zone, and suddenly fear creeps in. We become the person who went to bed yesterday who’s afraid again. Then you wake up in the morning and you’re not afraid, or maybe in the worst case you are.

In Australia once, somebody said, “It’s a really slow show, and it’s been criticized for being slow.” I just tore them a new one because I said, “You know, you’ve got this box. It comes with this little square thing. It’s two AA batteries. You just hit the one that says channel up. All your problems are solved.” That’s in Australia, where we only have I think one and a half channels. America, you’ve got, well, there’s more channels than money. You can watch somebody’s navel or you can watch somebody taking a shower for 24 hours a day. Turn the channel. It doesn’t have to be for you.

If you invest in even five minutes of the beginning of season one, if you come into season three you’re not going to be disappointed, but then go back and have a look. It’s a story of us. It’s a story of great, great terror, great enlightenment, great joy, jubilation, fear, envy, territorialism, disgust, disgrace, betrayal, secret agenda.

Your subtext remains subtext.
For instance, say I need a beer. Invest in it, and suddenly you realize that that beer’s the first beer in 20 years. For example, episode one of season one. “I think I feel like a beer, Mother.” He goes to the fridge and gets a beer. Now, that’s not what the scene’s about. The scene’s suddenly about something else. This scene’s about a child returning, but let’s just play the beer for a minute. I open the door, or she opens the door because I’m not sure. Even though I’m next to a fridge, I’m not quite sure if it’s a fridge of a closet.

It’s space-age.
Exactly. The fridge is open, the beer is handed to me, and she goes to get an opener. I look down and the beer says twist. I twist it and she comes back, and now her job’s done and she’s embarrassed. Now I’m embarrassed because she didn’t get to be the mother, and now it’s suddenly about this beer. I’ve just screwed up. Suddenly you go, oh, gee. Then we sit down and I pretend to drink a beer. Now, I don’t tell her that when I have a sip, “Holy shit,” or “Oh fuck, this beer is good,” or “This tastes like piss.” I can’t tell her. I’m just a man.

So, I’m just a man pretending to be my dad having a beer because I’ve upset my mother. I play with the label and I do what people do. I’m trying to remember how people drink beer. Try to drink it like that, and even though we’re talking about everything, it’s so much about, how do I act here? I don’t know how to do that.

What’s one line you would tell people to tune into season three?
Look, I’d say, “You might think it’s slow, but if you sit with it for even for one episode … Wherever that episode, it’ll give you a little bit more life.”

Aden Young on Why a Beer Is Not Just a Beer