Hightown Team on Launch Hurdles, Unique Take on Crime Dramas, and More

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Hightown's long and winding road to the screen comes to an end this weekend as the Starz drama finally makes its debut. 

The series focuses on a National Marine Services agent who changes her outlook on life when she finds a body on the beach. 

She attempts to put her hard-partying and destructive behavior behind her to crack the case and pick up the pieces of her life at the same time. 

From Script to Screen - Hightown

Hightown was created by Rebecca Cutter, who told me in a recent interview about why she decided to make a series set in Cape Cod. 

"I grew up going to Provincetown in the summers, and I married a man from Cape Cod, whose father was a fishery service agent like Jackie.

Jackie Quinones is Upset Hightown

"A lot of the elements are from my life, but I think the real spark for the show was I had an image of Jackie Quinones in my head."

"This sort of tough-talking, very sexual, unapologetic character," Cutter continues. 

"And the idea of her kind of out of her league on a murder investigation was, I just knew there was a show there."

The series has been a passion project of Cutter's for years, something that she has been thinking about for a while. 

"I didn't think it would ever get on the air. I just wanted to do something that I was proud of, and then I gave it to my agents, and they said, 'Oh, no, I think we can sell this.'"

On the Beach - Hightown

"They sent it out to producers, and Jerry Bruckheimer television decided to come on board, and they were huge fans of the script."

"We went out and pitched it, and Starz bought it. That was in 2017.

"Then they ordered a second script. So I wrote the next one as well. And then finally, they greenlit a writer's room to write the rest of the episodes."

"And that was, that was maybe a year and a half ago. And then last summer, we shot it."

Cutter went on to tell us what set the show apart from other crime dramas. 

Time for a Shot on Hightown

"I think it definitely uses the genre, the crime drama, especially the sort Ben Affleck would play, like The Town, like those with real Boston dialect."

"It uses that world as familiar in that way, but I don't think we've seen a woman in the lead role, especially not a Latinx lesbian fishery service agent."

"We haven't seen Provincetown. I think Provincetown is a very unique character that even people in the States, you know, most people don't know."

Executive Producer Jerry Bruckheimer said that the stories drew him to the series upon reading the script.

Hightown Promotional Photo

"It's always the characters and the trials and tribulations they have to go through in their everyday lives," he said.

"And how Jackie gets caught up in this with her serious addiction problems."

"So I think that's what really drew me to this. And the characters that she deals with are different problems, but are also have serious issues."

Rebecca did not have an actor in mind when she initially wrote the pilot, but she realized that Monica Raymund was perfect for the role of Jackie when they first met. 

"The second I met Monica Raymund, I really felt very confident that she was Jackie, and she felt very confident that she was Jackie. And that confidence is very appealing."

Amaury Nolasko as Frankie - Hightown

It was a similar scenario for James Badge Dale, who plays Ray. 

"Just the second I saw his face and saw him acting in other things, I knew that he would do it."

"He was so excited to play that sort of ambiguous, moral, immoral, gray area."

"He really wanted to explore that. So that was exciting."

Cutter opened up about her thoughts on the opioid epidemic when asked about why now is the best time to tell a story like Hightown.

"I think that part of the story you could tell in Florida or West Virginia or Ohio or Vermont."

Riley Voelkel as Renee - Hightown

"There are many, many towns in America that changed very suddenly with opiates. It became a whole economy into itself and a whole new problem."

"That is still happening right now, even while we're on lockdown. And you know, I just hope people recognize their towns in Hightown and recognize the people they know and also have empathy for those people."

When it comes to the look of the show, Rachel Morrison was on hand to direct the first two episodes. 

Morrison previously worked on the Marvel movie Black Panther as the Director of Photography. 

While Hightown is set in Cape Cod, the series spent around a week on a location shoot, with the rest of the show shooting in New York. 

Jackie Quinones on Hightown

Morrison notes that not many people have been allowed to shoot in Cape Cod before. 

"You know, there was a lot of buildup around the shift because not many people have been allowed to shoot there before," Morrison said. 

"And I think because we were the precipice of tourist season, there was, you know, a little bit of people being wary about what it would do, you know, clogging up to one or two walking streets with doing things like that."

"And then in the end week was incredibly supportive and collaborative."

The show also filmed a gay pride scene for one of the early episodes, and Morrison says that people got dressed up for the occasion. 

Hightown Poster Starz

"You know, they're wearing things from their own closets and really, but so much personality and spirit. They brought the spirit of Provincetown, on a summer day to our April shoot."

Rachel has worked on both TV and movies, so we asked if she thought there was a difference between the two mediums. 

"There are a number of differences. For one thing, with a show, even an anthology series, you know, you're setting the tone and then handing it off."

"And it's something that needs to be able to translate throughout."

"It's a collage. Every cinema is by nature, but it's collaborative. "in a different way because the writers and the showrunners and the more consistent forces you've been above and beyond the director."

"I think with television there's a speed to it. It's certainly true for those two, and I think my background in shooting films sort of helped to prep the speed at which you go."

"You're moving through your days at quite a speed. So everybody has to bring it every day. And then that shoot can go on if we're doing eight episodes at a time."

"So, you have to bring the same idea on day 70 that you did on day one."

Hightown premieres Sunday on Starz at 8/7c. 

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Hightown Quotes

It's like damn, these white girls love trouble.

Jackie

Therapist: So, Jackie. Why are you here?
Jackie: You know I found a dead body yesterday?
Therapist: No, I didn't know that.