Emmy Watch: 'Rectify' star Abigail Spencer on the importance of chemistry (and nail polish)

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Image Credit: Blake Tyers/Sundance Channel

Between now and June 28, the deadline for Emmy voters to submit nomination ballots, EW.com will feature interviews with some of the actors and actresses whose names we hope to hear when nominations are announced on July 18.

When you first see Abigail Spencer on screen in Sundance’s strong miniseries Rectify, she’s a chain-smoking ball of nervous energy. Over the course of the six-parter, her character, Amantha, becomes the foil to her brother Daniel (Aden Young), who went from death row to freedom. As he is quiet and still, she’s electric, right down to the you-can’t-tame-me mane of hers.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What scene in Rectify stands out the most for you?
ABIGAIL SPENCER: My audition scene, when they said to just choose a couple of scenes from the first two scripts. That’s very rare. Usually they’re very specific. I strung together the first time you meet Amantha, from the car to when she arrives at prison. We shot that entire movement in one day. And the moment of seeing Daniel released. It was crazy because at the last minute Aden decided to cut off his hair without telling any of us. I had been living with this grizzly man, so to see him like that, we were all thrust into the moment. We all just burst into tears.

Was there a key to Amantha that helped you find the character?
One thing was her nail polish. It was so hot that first day that it kept coming off during shooting. We shot for three months, but it’s only seven days in real-time. We made a choice that by the end of episode 7, the nail polish would be gone. Each day, if you look at Amantha’s nails, it’s a little less of that really bright orange.

Amantha’s always got a lot to say. How was it memorizing some of that dialogue?
There’s a scene with [Daniel’s lawyer] Jon Stern [played by Luke Kirby] that is three pages of Amantha talking. We only had the location, that bar, for one day. It’s really when Amantha starts to babble. We started at sunrise. I knew this scene was coming for months, and I was like, oh my God, I have this whole day of Amantha speaking. We shot it so fast, five pages of her talking, and it just poured out of me. I actually don’t know if I had it memorized when they started rolling. This really magical thing happens with [creator] Ray McKinnon’s writing. It’s just there for you.

You and Aden have an incredible chemistry, especially during that scene when he’s first released from prison and they go for a drive and make all these dark humor jabs at each other. Did you try to bond ahead of time so you could convincingly play siblings?
Aden was the last one cast. I showed up in Georgia not knowing who was going to play Daniel. Their relationship has to have extreme comfort, extreme awkwardness, inside jokes, and all those things that go into a complicated relationship. As soon as he opened his mouth there was a natural dynamic. Aden has an incredible stillness in his soul, and it makes me feel loud on the inside. We just leaned into it. That scene we shot on one of the first days and one of the last days. I can tell which takes are which because I see the comfort in our last day of shooting. It’s like a beautiful secret.

Any ideas what Amantha will be up to for season 2?
No. But I think it’s really about discovering who she is. I do feel we will really see someone who has no idea where they are. She was so self-assured and had a warrior spirit and had one goal, but now she has to get her own life.

Read more:
Emmy Watch: ‘Sons of Anarchy’ star Maggie Siff talks Tara’s rise and fall (and rise again)
Emmy Watch: ‘Nashville’ star Hayden Panettiere on the hardest scene she’s ever shot
Emmy Watch: Natalie Dormer on her ‘modern’ wannabe queen in ‘Game of Thrones’


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