The first episode of ‘Hightown’ set the stage for a riveting season. HL spoke with creator Rebecca Cutter about what’s next for Jackie, Renee’s ‘interesting choices’ ahead, and more.
Jackie Quiñones has hit rock bottom. She started out just living it up during P-town’s Carnival, and then discovered the dead body of Sherry Henry on the beach and got into a car accident. To avoid jail time, Jackie went to rehab. But will she take sobriety seriously? That’s to be determined. Meanwhile, Junior has a big secret. He was the one who dumped Sherry Henry’s body. Is he hiding anything else? Time will tell.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Hightown creator Rebecca Cutter about Jackie’s journey in the coming episodes. Rebecca noted that Jackie’s “mistakes” are far from over, and her quest for answers about Sherry’s death will lead her down a dangerous path. Rebecca also discussed Renee’s arc and how we shouldn’t underestimate her. As for Junior, his “double life” will have a “huge impact” on him. Read our full Q&A below.
At the end of the first episode, Jackie is in rehab. How serious is she about this about getting sober?
Rebecca Cutter: I think obviously when she shows up, she’s not sober. She’s just looking for a get out of jail free card, but I think you start to see a little glimmer of her relating to the speaker in that very last scene of her listening to the woman sharing. I think her heart cracks open a smidge, and we’ll see what that looks like in the next episode.
When she’s talking earlier, she breaks down just a smidge when she’s saying she’s fine. There was a little bit of a crack in her armor there. Will we see more of that vulnerability as the season goes on?
Rebecca Cutter: She’s a tough cookie, and she likes to present that way. We definitely see more vulnerability throughout the season. I would say it’s not always so positive. I guess for her any vulnerability is a step in the right direction, but sometimes we see her react. It’s not always because she’s changing and growing. There’s certainly vulnerability when she makes mistakes, which we’ll see a lot of this season.
On the wall there at rehab in the final moments, we see the girl who was with Sherry at the beginning of the episode. Will Krista and Jackie’s lives cross at some point? Is that something you’re alluding to?
Rebecca Cutter: Yes, there are certainly parallel paths between them, and Jackie goes on a journey in that direction.
Will we get to see more of Krista? She holds a lot of key information.
Rebecca Cutter: Yes, we definitely are with her on her journey. She’s a terrific actress — Crystal Lake Evans. I love her. It’s not in terms of screen time huge, but she holds so much emotional rooting interest, and it really holds your attention.
Ray and Frankie clearly have a past. Will the show get into more of their history as the season goes on?
Rebecca Cutter: Yes, we certainly hear a bit more about it. I think it’s as simple as Ray was just doing his job and put Frankie away. He says in the pilot, “I’m the reason you’re here. I was at your arraignment.” So we get Ray is the reason Frankie’s in prison now, but I think what turns it from just him doing his job to sort of an obsession is the killing of Sherry Henry. That’s when it becomes personal for Ray, and when he sort of stepped outside the bounds.
They have an interesting dynamic in that they’re really willing to push each other’s buttons. How far are they both willing to go to do that?
Rebecca Cutter: Pretty far, as you’ll see throughout the season. I don’t want to spoil too much, but I think the weapon they use on each other is Renee.
I feel for Renee. She’s sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place. What can you sort of say about her journey moving forward in the midst of these two men sort of battling it out?
Rebecca Cutter: It’s funny, you literally put your finger on what we always talked about in the writers’ room, her being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think we always want to view her as a woman with agency. The only sort of problematic thing about her agency is that she is really looking out for number one. I think because of her upbringing or the way she learned to be transactional in her relationships with men, she views her two options for looking out for number one as being one of these men who she’s sort of playing at any given moment. I think you’ll see her making a lot of interesting choices. She’s always looking out for herself and also for her son. I think that’s where her loyalties lie.
Frankie does tell Renee to get close to Ray. What does he really mean by that? That could mean a lot of different things.
Rebecca Cutter: There used to be a line in the script where she says, “What does that mean?” He says, “Whatever you think.” So I’ll repeat that. I think it’s up to her to interpret that. I think the way she interprets that very clearly speaks to her character. That’s what I’ll say. But certainly, she uses her sexuality. That’s part of her job is to use her sexuality in a transactional way to get things, so I think that obviously would be one of the tools in her toolkit.
Is Frankie okay with whatever decision she makes? There’s definitely an element of control that he doesn’t have over her with him being in prison.
Rebecca Cutter: I made the choice that he was okay with it, as long as it was in service of a bigger plan. It takes a certain kind of man to be comfortable with your wife being a dancer. He obviously is that kind of guy. He’s very confident in himself and perhaps even enjoys that idea of his woman being desired by many other men, so we explore that.
I loved Junior right way. I felt like he was on the upswing until I saw Sherry’s nail on his boat. How soon will we learn of what his involvement was in Sherry Henry’s death?
Rebecca Cutter: You will soon. You will not have to wait.
How will his involvement impact his sobriety? This is a lot to put on someone who is newly sober.
Rebecca Cutter: That’s sort of the great arc for Junior. How can you live a double life? Can you be trying to become a better dad, a better son, stay sober, become a valuable member of your community, but also still be involved in crime? We see that he’s trying to have it both ways. We see that ultimately causes a lot of friction within him. Of course, it’s not just that one thing. As the season progresses, there’s more. It has a huge impact on him.
Is he involved by choice or has he been pulled into this? Is that something we’ll get into?
Rebecca Cutter: I think a lot of people are attracted to a kind of seedier side of life, especially if that’s what you’ve known. But I think the other part of it is, like a lot of people, what are your economic options? If that’s the way of life that you know and that’s how you know how to make money, it’s hard to just change.
Jackie had a little bit of an introduction with Ray when she discovered Sherry’s body, and she clearly has a presence in this case. Will Jackie and Ray’s paths cross again? Will they continue to maybe work in parallel with each other?
Rebecca Cutter: I think when I was first writing the script a long time ago, I had this idea that they had to be teamed up by the end of the pilot. Obviously, that’s not where I ended up going. I think of them more as like a long, slow collision course. They have scenes together in a few episodes, but it’s really not until around episode 7/8 where they’re really together. I think they’re working on the same thing from opposite angles, and there’s a lot of tension around that.
Jackie is going on her own journey to figure out what happened. With that, there are a lot of secrets and a lot of danger involved. What kind of toll does that take on her road to recovery?
Rebecca Cutter: I think Jackie’s fatal flaw is that she kind of mistakes this idea of solving this case and this altruistic mission or quest for recovery. She thinks that’s going to be the thing that keeps her sober, and she forgets about doing the actual sort of spiritual emotional work. I definitely think there are consequences for going on this journey. I really wanted her emotional journey to really parallel the case. The personal is procedural on this show. Each thing affects the other side. They’re not two separate things.