Friday, August 17, 2012

Ray McKinnon returns to Georgia for Sundance Channel's "Rectify"

Posted By on Fri, Aug 17, 2012 at 9:56 AM

Ray McKinnon on the set of Sons of Anarchy
The Emmy-winning producers of “Breaking Bad” and the Oscar-winning creator of “The Accountant” have gone down to Georgia for “Rectify,” the first scripted drama series for the Sundance Channel. This week, “Rectify” completes production in Griffin, Ga., under the watchful eye of actor/filmmaker Ray McKinnon, one of the most interesting and original observers of contemporary South working today.

Scheduled for broadcast in 2013, “Rectify’s” six-episode first season follows Daniel Holden (Australian actor Aden Young), a former Death Row inmate released after nearly two decades when DNA evidence casts doubt on his conviction for the rape and murder of his 16 year-old girlfriend. With flashbacks to his Death Row experiences, “Rectify” will explore his difficulties at reintegrating with his family and hometown after 19 years of changes, along with the opposition of powerful political figures invested in his conviction. The premise sounds kinda-sorta like Showtime’s “Homeland,” which also follows a sympathetic yet enigmatic central character’s struggle to adjust to society following years of confinement.

“It’s symbolically a dead man trying to decide if he wants to live, and the societal and emotional challenges he finds himself faced with,” McKinnon told me when I visited “Rectify’s” set, a cavernous warehouse used in part to tan alligator hides. “The story seemed ripe to be serialized. It wasn’t as if I was trying to break into the TV business,” he says of his new role as “show-runner.”

Originally from Adel, Ga., McKinnon acted at such Atlanta-area playhouses as Theatre in the Square become becoming a terrific Hollywood character actor, whom you have have seen in O Brother Where Art Thou, the first season of “Deadwood” and the most recent season of “Sons of Anarchy.” In 2000, McKinnon won the Best Short Film Oscar for “The Accountant,” a darkly comic tale in the vein of Flannery O’Connor, which qualifies as one of the greatest yet least seen films about the South ever made.

Later in the decade, McKinnon directed the independent Southern films Chrystal and Randy and the Mob, while collaborating with his wife Lisa Blount (who passed away in 2010) and “Justified” actor Walton Goggins. He admits that finding an audience for indie films can be an enormous challenge. “It’s just too hard to get them seen,” says McKinnon. “Maybe one day I’ll do one that’s even more low-budget, even more experimental. I don’t know how to make them more viable — I don’t think 'viable’ even applies.”

“Breaking Bad” co-producer Melissa Bernstein says that McKinnon’s indie filmmaking chops gives him the ideal background for “Rectify.” “It’s a wonderful fit for Sundance. It’s like an indie film made for television,” says Bernstein.

“Rectify’s” cast includes Abigail Spencer as Holden's crusading sister, J. Smith-Cameron as their mother, Michael O’Neill as a senator and Hal Holbrook as his former attorney. The Sundance Channel will debut "Rectify" in the first quarter of 2013.

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