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'Rectify's Aden Young chose not to know whether Daniel was innocent

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TORONTO - As a man released from death row after 19 years for the brutal murder of his teenage girlfriend, Daniel Holden's re-entry into the outside world is intense and almost childlike.

But in SundanceTV's "Rectify," the question of his innocence lingers as the second season begins — even for Toronto-born actor Aden Young, who plays Daniel.

Young said he had a conversation early on with show creator Ray McKinnon about Daniel's experience of the night his high school sweetheart, Hannah Dean, was raped and killed.

"When I asked Ray, I should have said, 'Is he guilty or not?' What I did ask him was, 'Are you going to tell me whether he's guilty or not?' He looked at me in the eye and said, 'I don't know. Would you like to know?'" recalled Young in a phone interview.

"That became the focus of a psychological discussion of, 'Well, what is the truth as told to anyone?' Even though you might regard it as the truth it might very well not be the truth. There was certainly enough information on Daniel's situation to know that he would feel incredibly guilty and responsible for Hannah's death."

"Rectify," a slow-burning Southern Gothic drama, returned June 19 to SundanceTV. As with the first season, each episode will become available on Netflix Canada within 24 hours of its U.S. broadcast.

Daniel returns to his small Georgia hometown to live with his mother (J. Smith-Cameron) after his conviction is vacated on new DNA evidence. But he is facing a retrial and most others in the town believe he is a monster, including Hannah's family.

The first season ended with a horrific cliffhanger, and Young said it raises the question in the second season of what Daniel's presence means in the town. As he was sentenced at 18, he's only ever lived in two places: his childhood home and a solitary white room without windows.

"Season two is about Daniel's adolescence. It's very much about this boy leaving his bedroom for the first time and going out to explore what it is to be alive. And like a teenager, being very unaware of the consequences of his actions," he said.

But he said Daniel doesn't know quite where to go — while he wants to establish his independence he also owes a great debt to his family, including sister Amantha (Abigail Spencer), who has continued to fight for his vindication.

"Daniel is afraid of being cast out into a world he doesn't truly know at the same time. There are other perhaps more cynical and sinister motivations for Daniel's not retreating from the issue of that night (Hannah died). The town holds the clues to the secrets that will expose what truly happened."

Young was born in Toronto but moved to Australia at age nine so his father Chip, a CBC broadcaster, could receive medical treatment. His Canadian roots actually helped him get the required work visa for "Rectify" — just before closing time in the Toronto passport office, he played a rousing Dominion Day speech by his father, and officials forgave his missing references.

"That speech meant a great deal because it was about being Canadian, and that's why I think it had the effect it did. I had forgotten to a certain degree that it's so much about immigration. To play it in that office was an eye-opener and I think a gesture they perceived to be very long in the coming," he said.

Young recalled how his family travelled to Australia on a holiday and decided to stay put so his mother's extended family could help support them during his father's illness. He was devastated and didn't return to Canada again until his 18th birthday, to shoot his first film "Black Robe."

His father died when Young was just starting his career. He said Chip's memory lives on in his children's books and speeches for the CBC — several of which he still has saved on his phone.

"It's the ghost I carry with me. He had a remarkable voice and when you lose somebody quite young in life, I was just getting into the place where I wanted to ask him questions, where my manhood was starting to form," he said. "It was just a case of, 'What fragments do I have left of him to piece together?'

"That (Dominion Day speech) was a speech about a country I had never wanted to leave behind. I feel to this day that my bones will lay there, even though my formative years were in the backseat of an Australian car. It's nostalgia in the true sense of the word. It's a homesickness that has infected me and which I'll never escape."

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