John Marshall Jones

John Marshall Jones

If you’re the sort of TV viewer who prefers your dramas to be of the fast-paced, escapist sort where little thought or emotional investment is required, then Rectify, which begins its fourth and final season later this month on October 26 on the Sundance channel, is definitely not for you. Because this is a series that definitely takes its time letting the story unfold, which means it takes time to truly get to know the characters, kind of like how it takes awhile to get to really know someone in real life.

But once you get hooked…? It’s better than your favorite candy.

Detroit native John Marshall Jones, a 54-year-old actor who has worked with the likes of Forrest Whitaker, Sean Penn and Jamie Foxx, will be starring in the final season as a character named Pickle. Pickle, as described by Jones, appears to be as layered and complicated as the show itself, which is specifically what drew Jones to the role. Pickle is a recent ex-con, who Marshall said was “doing hard time for hard crime” for 25 years in prison.

“Now he’s out, and he’s made the decision that he’s going to engage the world with truth. So he’s going out on job interviews, and when people ask him about his background, he tells them. And so he’s dealing with trying to keep his spirits up at the same time where the rest of the outside world is trying to crush his spirits down,” said Jones, who grew up near 6 Mile and Livernois.

Pickle, and the lead character Daniel Holden (played by Aden Young) cross paths in Nashville and “become really good friends.”

For those who have been following the show, and are familiar with Holden’s oddly serene yet volatile character (and who is also an ex-con), it is not hard to imagine how this pairing could further enhance an already wonderful storyline, which deals honestly, but not clumsily (as most dramas tend to do) with issues of race and class. But for those who are unfamiliar, the following description from a studio press release gives a pretty good description:

“Rectify follows the life of Daniel Holden (Aden Young), who returns to his small hometown in Georgia after serving 19 years on death row. Having spent his entire adult life waiting to die, Daniel must now try to find a way to cope with his past and forge a “normal” life with an unexpected future before him. While doubts surround the circumstances of his original conviction, Daniel affects everyone he encounters in different and profound ways — his very fractured family, his community and even strangers. At the end of Season 3, Daniel was banished from Paulie as part of a plea deal and set out to start his new life in Nashville. Season 4 picks up a few months later and continues the series’ documentation of the lives of Daniel, his family and the citizens of Paulie.”

For Jones, a graduate of U of D High School, this is near-perfect timing to step into a storyline that he finds intriguing for any number of reasons. And he believes his role as Pickle will find a particular resonance with an African American audience because his dilemma is so painfully familiar to the black male experience in America.

“The role itself, what’s most interesting about it is that there’s a search for his own humanity. This thing he’s done in his past, and the 25 years that he’s spent incarcerated paying for it, it takes a toll on your humanity. And he’s coming back trying to reconnect with the real world. Brothers are going through that on a daily basis in every city in the country. Just because you did something that got you in trouble when you were 19 years old doesn’t mean that you’re not a human being when you’re 45. Trying to get in touch with your humanity again, and how to express that, I think is a fascinating topic for us as African American men to explore because so many of us are going through it on a daily basis.”

It is this willingness on the part of the show’s creators to deal so honestly with issues of race and class, yet in a way that does not preach, that makes it stand out in such a stark fashion from just about anything else on TV today. It is excruciatingly subtle, which is hard for some viewers to take, but for those who appreciate subtlety and nuance, the payoff is huge.

“So one of the things that I think is so important about the show “Rectify” is that it is racially diverse. It is showing people in the lower socioeconomic strata of our society that are trying to get back up on their feet. It’s also showing people of diverse backgrounds that are trying to help them.

“I would say that so much of television is built to excite you but not to give you any insight. Rectify is all about giving insight to the audience into the nature of the human experience.”

Viewers looking to catch up on the first three seasons of “Rectify” will find them streaming on Netflix and available for purchase on Amazon and iTunes.

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