When ‘Hightown’ first premiered on Starz, audiences got a peek into the coastal town of Cape Cod, but instead of the glitzy East Coast paradise we all have heard of, the show instead highlights the other side of the town—the darker side. During season 1 of writer Rebecca Cutter’s drama, we meet a variety of characters all struggling to find peace in a life peppered with corruption, addiction and personal demons—not far off from reality. But it’s that base of truth set in an exciting and fast-paced world that got viewers hooked in the first place, and luckily, season 2 shows no signs of slowing down.
At the center of the story is Jackie Quiñones (Monica Raymund), a wild child of sorts with a brave heart, sense of justice and a bit of a temper. At the end of the first season, Jackie’s life is changed drastically and at the start of season 2 we see the National Marine Fisheries Service Agent turned police liaison hitting her stride, newly sober and newly confident. The question is how long will that last when undoubtedly life’s obstacles continue to get thrown in Hightown?
Actress Monica Raymund gave us a peek into Quiñones’ journey for season 2.
What was it about this role that interested you in the first place?
The writing. It’s always about the writing for me. It comes down to the story, it comes down to the text on the page. I think I have a good eye for good writers—I read a lot of plays, I read a lot of screenplays and I’ve been doing this for a very long time. When I read Rebecca’s words and I read Jackie, instinctively, I was like I know that woman and I can do this, I can play her. I don’t know if I’m all of her but I’m some of her and I know how to communicate that and to explore it and to ground her in a reality sense for the show. But, for me it all starts with the story.
So, how would you describe Jackie then?
I think she’s a scrappy, brilliant, but a messy tornado. She’s totally a tornado, poor thing. But within it there’s the eye of the storm and something in there that she can find the purity and clarity of purpose. She wants to fill the void and yet she doesn’t know how because there’s all of these distractions that are keeping her from dealing with her own issues… And thats what’s so difficult for us as humans in the world, right? How do you sit with your pain and your trauma? It’s uncomfortable and people don’t like to be uncomfortable, so we drink or we have a lot of sex or we throw ourselves into our work. Having those distractions to keep us from dealing with the truth, it’s enticing because we don’t like to be uncomfortable. So, she’s squirmy.
At the end of season 1, a lot happens to Jackie…She loses Junior, she gets shot. But in season 2, she seems to be on the up with her career and life and we get to see other sides of her. How would you describe her journey through the second season?
I think in the second season we start the show off with her hitting her stride. She’s got a little bit of sobriety under her belt, I think she’s got clear vision, and she has a little bit more of a swag in a good way in her step. She’s starting to believe in herself and it’s coming from a healthier place. So, she’s able to get a job in the police department, she’s working with this really cute girl who’s her work partner and then they have to be these two women working in a man’s world. What does that look like? Then we get to see [someone else from her life] come into the mix. How does that affect her heart and perspective? Because she starts season 2 clear and sort of grounded and then as the season goes on, that lens start to get a little fuzzy.
‘Hightown’ has always shown dynamic relationship ups and downs with friends, significant others, family—are there any that you enjoy exploring as Jackie?
Junior definitely, he’s my boy. The actor Shane Harper, we just have a really, really great connection he and I. Unfortunately I do have experience in losing family members to fentanyl overdose, so it became a personal story and he’s one of my dear friends now. But I also really love the relationship she has with Ed [Mike Pniewski], because it’s just a loving relationship. I would say he’s avuncular, but he also really is a father figure to her. So, you really get to see him hold her accountable and when she’s not able to hold herself accountable and that’s a really nice conceit with Ed. But also her relationship with Ray [James Badge Dale], I love that one too. It’s complicated because they see themselves in the other person, they see the parts of themselves that they don’t like also exists in the other person, but this other person also has beautiful things about them too and they need each other. As much as they want to punch the other person in the face, they also really need each other because there is real love there.
With the writing, these characters are portrayed very honestly in regards to drugs alcohol and addiction overall. What do you hope people get from the show by seeing those real storylines?
The goal is always to have people connect to the characters and get them invested so they want to keep watching and really fall in love with the adventure. At the end of the day, it’s a TV show and we’re trying to entertain you, so we have to have a clear sense of adventure and it has to be a fun ride—even if it’s jarring and tragic. I think that’s what our show offers… it offers a very honest account of who these people are in the backdrop of the opioid crisis on the coast in Massachusetts. Because of that truth and honesty, I think people are really going to enjoy the adventure and become friends with some of these characters—or enemies.
Catch ‘Hightown’ season 2 every Sunday on Starz.