Abigail Spencer’s turn as Amantha Holden on Sundance TV’s Rectify has seen her emerge as a serious supporting contender. Now, with a role on the upcoming second season of True Detective, the buzz around her name will surely only grow louder. Spencer cites Mad Men as a “turning point” in her career and says of Amantha, “I’ve never seen anyone like her as a character being written,” yet says she’s still continually told she’s “just one role away.” She says, “at a certain point you just realize – away from what? I’m just working. When you’re in the middle of your dream you can’t really see outside the dream, you can just take one day at a time.”

You’re working with Chris Messina on The Sweet Life movie right now?

Yes. It’s this great little film. Chris Messina is awesome. He’s amazing. I’ve always wanted to work with him and he and I kind of became friendly a year and-a-half ago. I was cast in this movie, and the producers and director went to him with it. He’s one of the greatest actors I’ve ever worked with. He’s so awesome. It’s like this dark romantic comedy about two people that meet in Chicago and decide to go on a road trip to throw themselves off the Golden Gate Bridge together.

How romantic.

Yeah, it’s super light fare.

You’ve just wrapped season 3 of Rectify – what can you tell us?

It’s so interesting because it’s so much a part of the allure of the show – not revealing too much. It was that way on Mad Men. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone I was on the show. I can say that we had left off of Season 2 with Daniel and that was a big break for Amantha because she didn’t want him to just get out of jail, she wanted to clear his name. She wanted him to be totally free, totally clear, to ‘rectify’ the entire situation, and I think she was willing to go the distance and then realized that Daniel wasn’t. That was a big shift in her perspective. So, we will pick right back up where we left off of Season 2. Rectify is a very torture-driven private relationship-centric drama. What’s really interesting is actually seeing how the lives of these people play out almost in real-time.

You also have season 2 of True Detective coming up.

I can’t say anything about it! I mean, I could tell you how amazing I think it’s going to be.

True Detective has previously been criticized for its lack of powerful female characters, how are women represented in season 2?

You know, this season is very different than season 1 and there are more characters this season. I think that you can tell from the first trailers that have been released that Rachel McAdams’ character is not lacking on complexity or strength. I find women in general just amazingly complex and strong, so I don’t lead with that, but I definitely want to serve my character’s throughline, and there are times when she’s going to be incredibly strong and yet incredibly fragile, incredibly broken, trying to do the right thing as I think all the characters on the show are. So, I felt incredibly supported by Nic (Pizzolatto) and the material to do that and it’s really cool just to be a part of this moment with True Detective and with television in general. In the last year I’ve gotten to play Amantha on Rectify and then to play another amazing character on True Detective and then on Suits. I’m getting a lot of opportunities to do really cool stuff, so I’m speaking to the generality I guess of where television is at, but particularly on True Detective there’s going to be some amazing performances from the women on the show for sure.

How has your working relationship with Aden Young in Rectify evolved through the show?

You know, Aden and I have a very unspoken thing, like we met and that was it. We don’t rehearse, we don’t talk about our characters, we didn’t build a history, we just had it. It’s kind of inexplicable. I had the good fortune of seeing Aden screen test for the show because I think they just wanted me to get a sense of who he was and I started crying because he looks like my mother’s side of the family. He actually looks like my little brother grown up. A picture of Aden and a picture of me – our profiles are almost exactly the same. We both have that like flared nostril thing! We could have come from the same parents for sure. So, when I saw him I was like, “that’s Daniel.” 

Abigail Spencer and J. Smith-Cameron
“We will pick right back up where we left off,” Abigail Spencer says of Rectify’s third season, pictured with co-star J. Smith-Cameron
Photograph by Blake Tyers

Do you feel as though this is your moment, like people are really taking notice of your work?

I will say I’ve been hearing for the past 15 years of my career that I’m just “one role away.” I’m just working. I haven’t thought about it to be honest. I’m just trying to see what I need to do today on set for the character I’m playing right now, so I am just grateful. I worked for 10 years before Mad Men, and what was great is that when people saw my work I was just loving working, so it wasn’t about anything else than that.

What does awards season mean to you?

Awards are very important for a show like Rectify. We’re a small show, we’re on a more obscure, harder-to-find channel that is very supportive of creative and singular vision. Hopefully we’ll keep having the opportunity to make this beautiful thing because we’re just not going to be a show that is going to have like Walking Dead numbers. It’s just not going to happen, which is okay. So, it’s really important for the critics and people within the industry to recognize the show just so we can keep doing it. So, I guess that’s how I view it. It’s a platform. You hope that it really just celebrates good work and I would love it for the show, whether it’s me specifically or not, I think anybody that got recognition, it would just get more people to watch the show.