Abigail Spencer is certainly staying busy as she tackles lead roles on two of the most recognized shows on television: the established hit for SundanceTV, Rectify, and the freshman hit on NBC, Timeless, both of which are currently airing. On Rectify, Spencer plays Amantha, sister of the falsely accused and vindicated Daniel Holden, and on Timeless she plays the intrepid Lucy, the history professor drafted to stop a rogue time traveler from changing the past.
Of course, the two characters couldn’t be more different. “If you were to watch Rectify and watch Timeless you wouldn’t necessarily be like, ‘Oh, that’s the same actress,’” says Spencer, “and that’s the goal, to completely inhabit people who are so wildly different, not being limited to certain tones, or types.”
This ability to take on different personas shouldn’t surprise anyone who has seen Spencer on Timeless, which has her character visiting different eras in time; Lucy always looks perfectly suited to any historical period. “Our makeup, hair and costume departments know me so well now,” Spencer admits. “The first day of a new episode I come to set and everyone’s like, ‘Whoa. This is your era. I thought it was that one, but no, this is the one you should live in.’”
When Lucy visited the 60’s for the moon landing on a recent episode of Timeless, viewers may have been reminded of another Spencer role: that of teacher Suzanne Farrell in the quintessential 60’s mega-hit, Mad Men. “It’s funny because Jon Hamm saw a promo and wrote me, like, ‘Whoa, the ’60s. I wonder how you prepared for that role,’” Spencer laughs. “I was like, ‘I had a very good teacher.’”
As Rectify wraps up its final two super-sized episodes this month, Spencer is appreciative of her time spent on that series as well. “The last episodes are going to be very emotional,” she says. “We actually got more time, so they’re going to be a bit longer than we’ve had before, which I think was really lovely of Sundance and AMC to do.”
The series finale should be an interesting one for Amantha, the way Spencer puts it. “It’ll be really interesting where you see Amantha go in the next two episodes,” she promises, “and there’ll be something really visceral where you’ll remember where she started.”
As the shows in which Spencer stars briefly overlap, the actor’s talents really have a chance to have their own showcase. Just after Rectify wraps its final episode, Timeless will go on hiatus briefly and will return on January 16, where Spencer will continue her role as Lucy, the time traveler who appropriately embodies several different roles of her own.