The first season of Hightown ended with a lot of power shifts. Ray has lost his job and Renee, Frankie’s out of prison, and things are finally looking up for Jackie. The show has been renewed for season 2, and those final moments teased that even more trouble is ahead for those on the Cape.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Rebecca Cutter about where season 2 will pick up. She teased Jackie’s “new chapter” and what those last seconds mean for season 2. Rebecca also discussed a whole new dynamic for Renee and Frankie now that he’s out of prison, but don’t give up hope for Renee and Ray. That “triangle” will still be a factor in the second season.
First and foremost, Junior’s death devastated me. When you were writing the season, was there ever a version of it where Junior lived, or was he always destined to die in this first season?
Rebecca Cutter: He was pretty much always destined to die. I really viewed him and Jackie as being on opposite paths. One sort of starts at the bottom and kind of works her way out of the hole, and he kind of starts as the example of sobriety. But because he’s doing all these other shady things, he can’t really ever dig his way out of that. He’s sort of on his way down. A show about the opioid epidemic… I think most people that have been touched by the opioid epidemic would think of someone overdosing and dying. It’s not a show about that unless you lose somebody you love in it, so it felt like it a horrible and tragic necessity.
The end of the season features two girls with drugs headed to the Cape. Walk me through why you wanted to end the first season there rather than with Jackie or one of the other characters we know.
Rebecca Cutter: It was sort of like that last little promise of something for season 2. These girls have crazy drugs, and they’re coming to the Cape. This is going to be a new addition to season 2, so it was just a little bit of a jumping-off point for season 2.
Jackie went through such a journey in this first season. By the end of the finale, she was in a better place. Do you think this is the start of a new chapter for her?
Rebecca Cutter: I think any person in recovery would say it’s one day at a time. No one should ever say I’m going to be celibate for the rest of my life because you just don’t know. But certainly, it is implied. She has gone in a better direction, and she learned something from Junior’s death. She learned something from all the stuff she went through in season 1. She is digging into recovery by the end of the season, so it’s fair to say it’s a new chapter.
A lot of her drive in the first season was trying to figure out details behind Sherry Henry’s death and then Krista’s death. With Frankie out of prison, is she going to be targeting him and trying to figure out and how he could be connected to Junior’s death?
Rebecca Cutter: I think her focus will be on Frankie. I don’t know that she would necessarily say she’s avenging Junior’s death, but I think it’s like the way he [Frankie] was Ray’s white whale. I mean, she says it in season 1: “You’re my white whale.” Certainly, that becomes her focus, and I think in her heart of hearts it is avenging Junior, Sherry, and Krista but it’s also just the thrill of the chase, which is always sort of Ray’s thing. This adrenaline that she certainly fills herself with is that chase, and that’s always been what she does.
By the end of the finale, Ray is out of a job after his relationship with Renee comes to light. How would he fit into the narrative next season? Will he be taking more of a Jackie approach in terms of going rogue?
Rebecca Cutter: I’ve already written season 2, so I can say that he gives it a good college try living a normal life. And then I think he realizes he is who he is, and he’s only good at one thing. So I would say the more rogue approach is what he’s up to.
Now that Frankie’s out, Ray has a target on his back.
Rebecca Cutter: It’s definitely going to be some good drama in season 2 with them.
Ray and Renee had such great chemistry. Do you think there’s a part of her that loves Ray, but she had to pick the best option for her and her kid? Or do you think she was loyal to Frankie the whole time? She did cry after Frankie proposed…
Rebecca Cutter: I think she’s always somebody who’s looking out for number one, but she only views her choices as being which man is she going to be connected to? I think after the whole thing in episode 7 when she finds the receipt… I think she was falling in love with Ray, but whether or not she’s wrong or right, I think she came to the conclusion that this is never going to last. He’s using me, or this is just a fantasy that’s never going to last. Frankie, for better or for worse, is forever. He’s the father of my son, and he’s always going to look out for me. I think she made a very almost businesslike decision, even though it did break her heart.
I really came to love Osito by the end of the season. Will he be a major aspect of season 2 considering Alan asked him about being an informant?
Rebecca Cutter: I think he’s a pretty big part of season 2 for sure. He was definitely the dark horse fan favorite that I didn’t see coming. People just go crazy for him. I think it’s because Atkins [Estimond] is so charismatic, and it shines through even though Osito’s such a dark character. I think people fell in love with the Osito and Junior bond and Osito having a code and outsmarting everyone. He’s definitely a big part of season 2.
What can you say about how Frankie not being in jail anymore opens things up for season 2?
Rebecca Cutter: We get to see how he actually runs an operation in Cape Cod. With Renee, I think we’ve only ever seen her as a single mom out on her own. Now we get to see her as more of the Carmela Soprano. I think there’s a real element of that. He always says, “You’re my queen.” But now she gets to actually be the queen, so that’s a very different dynamic. I won’t spoil anything, but of course, there’s always going to be some sort of triangle situation there with Ray. And then there are some new players that are coming to town in season 2. We talked about the girls already, and then I won’t spoil anything, but there’s another big baddie coming in that also interacts with Frankie and Renee. There a lot of new players. Osito’s is in a very different situation in season 2 than in season 1, but he’s still the very smart, ruthless Osito that we know and love.
You mentioned that you’ve written season 2. Are you completely done with the season?
Rebecca Cutter: I’m pretty much done. We had started the writers’ room before the official pickup, so we were pretty far along. Now we’re just trying to figure out how we can get back to work shooting safely, which is obviously going to be a big endeavor. We’re waiting to see how other people do it. All of us can’t wait to get back.
The first season explored so much of Jackie, but will we get more backstory in season 2? Maybe about her family?
Rebecca Cutter: That’s definitely part of season 2.
What about Ray? I feel like there’s some mystery in his backstory as well.
Rebecca Cutter: We meet some of his people as well. I definitely think we expand out. We meet a lot more family members.
Ray and Jackie worked together really well at the end of the season. Will that dynamic still be very much at play in season 2?
Rebecca Cutter: I think by season 2, they have a friendship. They drive each other crazy still, and they also are both people who love to have secrets and do things on the fly and be shady. It’s not like they’re together in every single scene. They certainly are doing things on their own. Season 1 was really a collision course between them, and they really didn’t spend a significant amount of time together until episode 7 and 8, but in season 2 they’re definitely further along in that relationship.