Dark Drama “Hightown” Looks At What Lies Under the Surface

James Minchin

Starz’s new show Hightown has all of the trappings of an intense prestige drama — murder, addiction, sex. It follows hard-partying National Marine Fisheries Service agent Jackie Quiñones (played by Chicago Fire’s Monica Raymund) as her discovery of a dead body in the bay propels her into sobriety and a compulsion to figure out what happened. The setting is Provincetown in Cape Cod, rife with tourists, but the people who live there have their own secrets.

This kind of project is new to Raymund, who after graduating from Juilliard cut her teeth on shows like Lie to Me and The Good Wife. “I had been doing television for so long and I really wanted to challenge myself with something dark and gritty and complex. … It could not be any more different than what I’ve done before,” said Raymund.

Coming from a series like Chicago Fire, Raymund was transitioning from a different universe. “That’s the difference between a procedural and a series like this. Procedurals, the story is not A to Z, there’s a format for each episode. [Hightown] is a narrative series, and so we start at A, we go all the way through, we come from one or a handful of characters’ points of view, but we’re following the full arc of these characters’ journey through the story.”

Claire Folger

The character of Jackie in Hightown is a portrayal of someone unfortunately familiar to many viewers, that of an addict trying to get by. “Jackie is someone who’s trying to figure out who she is,” explained Raymund. “She’s trying to discover what her purpose is in life and she has this hole inside of her. … And I think that finding this girl, this dead body, and becoming obsessed with this case is filling the hole within her. She’s trying to remove drugs and alcohol from filling that hole. … Maybe she’s doing it on the chance that maybe this is for something good.”

The city also plays a big role in the action. “Provincetown is known to be this really super fun, queer-friendly, artistic community, especially during the summer season. … But then, when everything dies down, there’s the reality of the people who actually live there. … There’s this dark underbelly to the town of people who are struggling, of people who are riddled with addiction, of drug trafficking and people making bad decisions trying to survive. So Provincetown as a character, you get to explore the duality of the town as much as you do the duality of the characters.”

Raymund hopes the show strikes a chord with viewers looking for something different on television, and she’s helping pave the way for inclusivity onscreen. “Something that’s really important to me is that I’m representing my community. I’m playing a queer Latina woman, and I am a queer Latina woman, so that’s an honor for me to be able to do.”

Hightown > Starz > May 17