Monica Raymond and James Badge Dale Talk About Season Two Of ‘Hightown’
Raymond and Dale join co-stars Riley Voekel, Amaury Nolasco, Atkins Estimond, Dohn Norwood, series creator Rebecca Petty Cutter and executive producer Gary Lennon to talk about what to expect this season.
The second season of the Starz series ‘Hightown’ finds many of the characters in different places; Jackie (Monica Raymond) is newly sober, Ray (James Badge Dale) has been suspended from the force, Alan (Dohn Norwood) has been promoted to sergeant, Frankie (Amaury Nolasco) is out of prison, Osito (https://www.moviefone.com/celebrity/atkins-estimond/20400156/main/) is in prison, and Renee (Riley Voekel) has to learn to get along with Frankie’s cousin Jorge (series newcomer Luis Guzmán). The cast and the producers talked to Moviefone about what to expect in the new season.
Stars Monica Raymond and James Badge Dale share where their characters are as season two starts.
Moviefone: Monica, could you give us a little bit about where Jackie is at the beginning of this season?
Monica Raymond: At the beginning of season two, Jackie comes out at the gate swinging. She's got, I think, 40 or 50 days sober. So, she has some time under her belt. She's dry. She's ready to put her big girl panties on, and she wants to start working with the police department. She's able to sort of talk her way in. So she starts off the season strong.
MF: Which is a little bit of the opposite for Ray.
James Badge Dale: Yeah, that's correct. Ray's not coming from a place of strength. And I think that's kind of the fun of playing Ray right now, is he's coming from a place of vulnerability. And it's really amazing to watch that kind of friendship where Jackie recognizes that, and Jackie really supports Ray in, I think, a way that maybe no one else does.
MF: How was it going back to Provincetown this year for the second season?
Raymond: It was awesome. I mean, look, the COVID, of it all, of course, was the most jarring factor of it. What's cool about our show, though, is that the first season we did Provincetown in the summer, so it's super colorful, vibrant, eclectic, electric.
And then in the off season, which is season two, it's in the fall and in the winter. It's a very different town. It's its own character, right? So it's like it's wearing a totally different set of clothes. It's sort of dark and shrouded in mystery. And the underbelly really starts to take shape. I actually really loved doing Provincetown in the off season. I thought it was dangerously romantic.
MF: And how are the locals with you filming in the off season?
Dale: Oh, they were fantastic. Cape Cod, Provincetown's a really, really special place. It's this kind of combination of blue-collar and artists. It's fishermen and theater, you know what I mean? It's this strange confluence of people. And we love shooting there, and we love representing them, and we try to be on our best behavior while we're there.
MF: James, what's it take to do a really good Cape Cod accent?
Dale: Mine's messy. Mine's like Massachusetts, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, Massachusetts, Brooklyn, you know?
Raymond: It's pretty good, Badge. It's pretty good. Don't be so self-deprecating. I don't have to do an accent, but he does. And he's constantly working on it, and he's very precise. And I don't know. I think it's on point.
Dale: Fake it till you make it!
MF: No spoilers, but what are you really excited for people to see this second season?
Dale: I feel like everyone came with their A-game this season. It was such a special season to work on. And I think the pandemic has been so hard on families. And we tried to adapt and bring a new kind of vigor to our work, you know?
When you're in a circumstance where you're in a quarantine bubble for six months, and you go home, and to work, and that's it, this is your family. And we were so happy to see each other. And I'm excited for everyone to see the work that everyone else did. It's a really special piece of work this year.
Riley Voekel and Amaury Nolasco talk about working with series newcomer, Luis Guzmán.
Moviefone: Riley, where is Renee at the beginning of season two?
Riley Voekel: I think we find Renee still fighting for a better life for her and her son. And she's really willing to sacrifice anything to get that. She chose Frankie and ultimately feels like that's the right decision. And I think she's really in a stronger position than she was in season two. She's less of a pawn in the game and more of a game player, this season.
MF: And where are we seeing Frankie at the beginning of this season?
Amaury Nolasco: Well, Frankie's out of prison now. So he's going to take things into his own hands. I think he's out to reclaim what's his, and he's bringing a new player to help him get what belongs to the family, and he’s Jorge Cueva, played by the amazing Luis Guzmán. So he thinks, like I said, he's coming out to claim what's his and also build, create his family, stay with his family, and we can see the struggle of having to juggle both things, keeping the family happy and build the empire all over again.
MF: I'm so glad you brought up Luis Guzmán, because he's terrific in this, and it's a bit of a rare treat these days to see him be so menacing. What is it like to work with him?
Nolasco: First of all, he's a fellow Puerto Rican that I admired since I was a kid, and he is very versatile. Of course, we know this. We've seen him do drama and comedy. I mean, I don't know if you remember him in 'Carlito's Way,' he's just brilliant. What was that other movie with Mark Wahlberg?
Voekel: 'Boogie Nights.'
Nolasco: 'Boogie Nights'. I mean, Luis is just one of those guys who can just play anything. And you know, the relationship... I don't know why, but we hit it off right away, and we had never met before. And people thought, from the get-go, that we've known each other forever. He is amazing, he elevates the work to a level you... It brings your A-game. He makes you a better actor, and it's fascinating.
I have a great story that when Rebecca Cutter, the creator of the show, told me, "We're bringing a new character for season two. It's going to be your cousin, and we're trying to see if we can get Luis Guzmán." I'm going, "Yeah. Okay, great." Like, we're going to get Luis Guzmán. And next thing you know, about a month before we start shooting, I ask Rebecca, I go, "So who do we get to play my cousin?" She goes, "Oh, I forgot to tell you. We actually got Luis Guzmán." I go, "Are you kidding me? I mean, that's amazing." And sure enough, on set, he's just one of those guys who are very, very professional and is making you laugh constantly. He's just constantly making you laugh and fun. I mean, Riley can speak to that. It was basically all the three of us through the whole season.
Voekel: So much fun. And he really is just, I always say, infallible. He can do anything. Everything he does works. He plays a lot in scenes, improvs a lot in scenes and just really allowed us to find moments and was just a dream to work with
MF: Riley, you and Luis have a really confrontational relationship on screen. What's going through your head when the camera stops, and it's back to just being fun? Is that a tough switch to do?
Voekel: With him, it's really not. Because yes, Renee and Jorge are not the biggest fans of each other, but as soon as, "Cut" is called, you're just laughing. And it was actually a challenge to keep a straight face and be angry at him or be annoyed at him. There's a scene where we're all having breakfast, and he's just improving these lines, and I'm having to be pissed because Renee is pissed. And then as soon as they call, "Cut" we're just bursting out laughing, and it was just so much fun. But yeah, it was a challenge.
Atkins Estimond and Dohn Norwood talk about their characters’ new situations, and what they might have in common.
Moviefone: Atkins, how is Osito adjusting to jail? Aside from the obvious answer; badly.
Atkins Estimond: Yeah. Yeah. Prison life is not treating him great at the moment. It's a huge change from where we find him in the first season. He's completely lost it. He's at the bottom, he's vulnerable. So, it's initially a very difficult adjustment for him.
MF: Dohn, how is Alan adjusting to his new sergeancy?
Dohn Norwood: Stress. A lot of stress. You know, people getting on his nerves and things kind of going haywire all of a sudden. So, kind of the proverbial leaking roof, pots and pans all over the living room.
MF: Atkins, you have this walker, at least in the first few episodes I've been able to see. You use that as such a great weapon when Osito gets attacked. Does that help you as an actor to have something like that?
Estimond: You know, absolutely. I mean, getting into it, you know, the physicality of having the walker, the day they gave it to me, it was like, all right. It just worked, you know? And definitely when one needs to defend themselves, the walker can be very handy.
MF: Dohn, we get to see Alan as a sergeant, but he gets a lot of support from his wife. She's the one that really is behind him. Do you have that kind of relationship with Charline St. Charles?
Norwood: Yes. I mean, obviously there's a chemistry and when we did our testing and things like that, that was one of the things that allowed us to go in that direction with her, was that she had some good instincts and things like that, as well as obviously with the character, that's what the wife has. You know, she knows her husband, she's got the meal waiting for him because she knows he didn't eat, and she knows to ask certain questions because that encourages him to think a certain way. And, she knows he can kind of get settled, so she kind of pushes him to be a little more ambitious and all those kinds of things. She knows how to lead from behind without shoving him and things like that. So, dually her personality and reality, and then her skill as an actor, kind of works similarly with that chemistry,
MF: I feel like both Alan and Osito have a something in common, as if they both think “I'm not sure about the people that are working for me.” Have you guys thought about that at all?
Estimond: Yeah, I definitely have many reservations about the people in my network, as obvious by the situation I found myself in. So, for sure I think that he doesn't know who to trust at this moment. He's very much in a place where he's like, it's kind of just me going at it by myself, primarily, and let me just see who I can kind of feel out and see what their real motives are.
MF: Dohn, do you think Alan has a similar thing happening?
Norwood: Yeah, he's dealing with some loose cannons and wild cards, so he kind of has to pay attention to what they're doing and things like that. And so, from time to time, again, putting out fires and making sure things are going his way.
‘Hightown’ creator Rebecca Petty Cutter and executive producer Gary Lennon talk about shooting season two during the pandemic.
Moviefone: How was the response to the first season?
Rebecca Perry Cutter: I think the people that loved it, loved it, and I don't hear from the rest so. It works out fine, but I think people are really intrigued by the characters. I think people really loved the world. If they've been to Provincetown or Cape Cod, they feel like, "Oh my God, that's that amazing place that we went that summer." And if they haven't been there, they're very fascinated to go. So I think it's been really great.
Gary Lennon: Yeah, I agree. You know, Rebecca goes to Provincetown and so do I, and I was out there after the first season aired, and it was great to hear that the locals love the show and that was exciting. And also it's really nice reception from the gay and lesbian community. They are really pro Jackie. They love seeing themselves on screen, and that's been a wonderful win for us, I think.
MF: Rebecca, I saw that you directed the seventh episode. What led to that decision for you to take that one over?
Cutter: One of the producers just told me I had to do it and I wanted to challenge myself. And I felt like as an executive producer that you're already involved in so many of the decisions that would usually fall to the director. So it felt like a much easier leap to make, and you know, I have directed a feature before, that it was not my first time directing. But if it did feel like I was already halfway there and episode seven has a very sort of scary sort of third rail thing happening in it that I really felt like, okay, well, if anyone's going to do this, I have to take responsibility for this thing. And if anyone's going to mess it up, it should be me. So that was kind of why I chose that one.
MF: How does shooting during a pandemic complicate things, and what's that like?
Lennon: Well, it was difficult, but JBTV, which is run by KristieAnne Reed and Jonathan Littman, and the show was also executive produced by Ellen Schwartz, just are an amazing group of people who made things run so incredibly smoothly. But it was very challenging. It was very scary and our crew and our actors really went to bat, and our actors really deserve a lot of credit, because I think a lot of people would not want to have been put themselves in that situation where it's literally life and death. So I salute every crew member and all our team members who made it happen.
MF: No spoilers obviously, but is there anything coming up in this season that you're really excited for the audience to see?
Cutter: So many things. Just off the top of my head, Luis Guzmán coming aboard playing Frankie Cuevas's cousin. Amazing actor, amazing character, really fun. A lot of hijinks in season two, a lot of twists and turns that you will not see coming. Pretty much everybody is in kind of a different place emotionally, in the world, in their freedoms than they were in season one and in their jobs. So I think there's a lot of new and exciting elements for people who are fans of the show, and they could have a totally different experience as well.
The second season of 'Hightown' is on Starz on Sundays.