Interview with "Hightown" star Monica Raymund

Foto: Monica Raymund, Hightown - Copyright: Starz
Monica Raymund, Hightown
© Starz

15 May, 2020 by Lena Donth
Here's a German translation of the interview.

Monica Raymund is back on our screens on Starz this Sunday, May 17th, as she stars in the new drama series "Hightown". The actress took her time to tell us about the show being for every audience, her characater's journey to redemption and her excitement for the "Chicago Fire" fans to see her in a completely different role. The interview went down in form of a round table with our colleagues from Total TV Guide (UK), TV & Satellite (UK), Papo de Cinema (Brasil), TV Serial (Italy) and Fuera de Series (Spain).

"Hightown" ansehen:

Monica, what was it about "Hightown" that appealed to you and what were your first thoughts of Jackie when you read the script?

The first thought I had about "Hightown" that appealed to me was the subject matter honestly. This show deals with a very dark, complex subject, which is the opioid epidemic in the United States, specifically in the North-East, Massachusetts, and the death and destruction that it brings. I wanted to be a part of something dark and incredibly realistic. And the character of Jackie, I find her to be very layered, complex, a woman who is in a lot of pain but who runs from it. Those kind of characters who have inner demons that they are batteling I am very attracted to playing because I think that that is a reflection of real people.

At the beginning we see that Jackie is very much about the party lifestyle and the work is a means to an end for her. She is only interested in going out and having a good time, not really facing the consequences of what she does. What was it like playing her as a character?

She is very much in the world of partying in the beginning and you can see her struggling with her addiction to alcohol, her addiction to women, kind of using this party lifestyle to manipulate other people to get what she wants. I find her to be incredibly mystic that comes from a truth that she is running away from something. When it comes to her work itís really a means to an end. She takes her job seriously but she also uses it to flirt with girls, to get around town, itís her je ne sais quoi, it makes her kind of cool and sexy to a lot of the locals. But when she stumbles upon the body in the water it kind of opens up the possibility for her to find meaning in helping solve this case. There is something about the work being an investigation that replaces that party lifestyle because she is ultimately trying to fill this large void inside of her. And this becomes her way beginning the path to redemption.

Youíre openly bisexual and very active in the LGBTQ community, did it make you proud to play such a confident gay woman who has no doubts about her sexuality?

Oh yeah, it gave me a lot of pride to be able to be a queer woman, playing a queer woman. This is a historical moment for my generation, for my community to be seen in a mainstream setting. Weíre starting to see more closure to that and weíre seeing more inclusivity from my community. And to be one of the actors who gets to represent that is absolutely an honour and I am very proud of that.

Foto: Monica Raymund, Hightown - Copyright: Starz
Monica Raymund, Hightown
© Starz

Right in the first episode Jackie finds a body at the beach it reminded me of "Twin Peaks" that became a huge phenomenon. Are you looking for that same kind of audience or are you looking for another kind of viewers?

I think that this is going to be all kind of audiences to be honest. The story is very powerful and compelling. So when she does find the body at the beach it opens this very dark, kind of like explosive, mystery. What I like to say when you start watching this series, even from episode 1, the train is up and running. Itís a bullet train. You come in as viewer in the middle of a story that has already taken place. So you have two choices: either you get on the train and take the ride or you donít. This specific story I think appeals to all audiences. Anybody who is interested in good writing and grounded characters and where is some mystery and thrill involved in it is gonna love this story. I do, I watch shows like this. And there are not many. I am pretty self critic, so I am really excited for people to get on this train and take the ride.

I read a post from the TCA where you said that Jackie is a character that Gabriela Dawson would rush to save. The whole discourse on addiction on the show is very fascinating to me. Given that recovery is not a straight line how is Jackieís redemption going to pen out for the rest of the season?

Like you said recovery is never a straight line, itís not for anyone. Itís always an up-and-down-journey. Everyone on this call knows this because we all have friends and family who have been affected by addiction and that is such a fact, thatís a reality. So when we see Jackie take off on this path towards her redemption, like you said itís not straight, itís always an up and down. Towards the end of the series you begin to see the light of her redemption come into view. The story of her recovery is only beginning in season 1 and it leads down this rabbit hole of this very layered and dark world of opioid trade, so this kind of drug, gang lifestyle. By the end of season 1 we are just beginning to tell the story, so hopefully we get a season 2. What I love about it is that you start to only begin to see her redemption. You start to only see her find hope through helping solve this murder. She is just trying to do something right because she feels like she is a total fuck up all the time. By trying to do something right she is trying to find purpose and meaning in her life. So I think that through the series youíre starting to see a more mature development of Jackie understanding what it means to find that purpose.

Itís becoming very common that we see these very dark female protagonists in this type of shows. Why do you think it is that TV shows are paying more attention to these characters?

I think that people are paying more attention to these protagonists because a lot of these worlds were always inhabited by men. So now there is room, there is space for women to be leading the world of dark, mysterious, thrilled, suspenseful protagonists. For so long they have been dominated by men. So I think people are interested in seeing what kind of women who inhabit those worlds, what kind of women they are. And what is cool about a role like this is that there is more than one way to play it. These women and roles that we see in this genre are incredible layered, incredibly dark, incredibly complex and thatís fascinating. Itís not interesting to watch a superficial character where everything is predictable. Itís fun and it scratches your itch but itís not particularly compelling or intriguing for a long period of time. You have to create these layered individuals that feel like real women who go through pain and suffering to overcome adversity. Thatís why I think people are watching it and seeing women to explore the darkness and overcoming the darkness is kind of watching us as heroes as well.

Foto: Monica Raymund & James Badge Dale, Hightown - Copyright: Starz
Monica Raymund & James Badge Dale, Hightown
© Starz

I was wondering did you any research into drug and drink addiction to get into the mind-set of Jackie?

Yeah, I did the research. Look, I am going back to what I was saying before. Unfortunately, I along with everyone on this call probably has a relationship with someone or themselves, who suffer from drug or alcohol addiction and abuse. This is not incorrect, that is something that is equivalent and incredibly relevant in common. You know talking to friends and family, my own experiences in and out, being a kid vs. being a grown-up, itís a very personal world for me, so I have a lot of research on that.

As you got to film in Provincetown: what was it like and what response did you get from the local people, specifically in terms of the subject matter?

It was really fun filming in Provincetown. P-Town is apparently very famous for the LGBTQ community. I am a queer person and I had never been there. So it was kind of cool to experience it by myself by going. We filmed the carnival that happens every summer in P-Town, itís what itís known for. Itís always very helpful filming in the landscape that the story takes place in. Youíre naturally in the element and you donít have to work so hard to imagine what it would be. You see, you feel, you breathe everything, like the salt in the air, what itís like to be out by the water. Itís very different from when you shoot in Long Island. So it was really refreshing and so fun to be in Provincetown and support the community in that way. And the people in Provincetown were very welcoming. Their arms are open and they supported our shedding light on the subject but also bringing work to the city and also being a TV Show that really embraces the queer culture, the LGBTQ community. There is a lot of divine in that. Itís like everyday pride over there. Itís really awesome and phenomenal for me. Itís also cool because Provincetown is well known for being a famous stop for a lot of artists, for writers. Itís a very eclectic town full of extremely inclusive people.

Jackie is a federal Fishery Service Agent what doesnít seem to fit in with her free spirit. What do you think was her motivation to take this job?

I guess because she gets a gun and a badge. She gets the cool moment of pulling out her weapon and flashing her fancy Federal Agent badge to seduce women. It sounds attractive to them: "What a cool job!Ē Kind of when we were all like teenagers or in our early 20s: "Uh, I wanna be CIA!" Itís cool but not really realistic to get to West Point. Originally it would have been probably very cool and sexy. Some of the backstory I created in my own head for Jackie is that it represented a way out. It was a job that she could do. She needed something to do with a job where she gets the fancy badge, where she gets to hang out on a boat by the water and then she gets to the bar by five oíclock. And every single night she can use that gun and badge to get laid.

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When I did my research online to find more about "Hightown" and of course about you I noticed a strong desire for your return to the small screen. Your previous character Gabriela Dawson was very popular. Do you usually follow these kind of reactions on Social Media?

No, not really. I mean I obviously am aware of it and I really love the fans who get so engaged und invested in a story. Itís why I do what I do to relate to other human beings through storytelling. But to be honest with you I donít engage terribly much in Social Media. I do have one social media platform which is Instagram. I am very new to it, I only started last year. I donít have Twitter anymore, I cancelled that. My engagement is intentional when I do engage, you understand what I mean? I am not as into promoting myself to be honest. So my engagement with fans is always personal and I love engaging with fans in real life. I am really excited for them. If theyíre big followers of Gabriela Dawson I really think that theyíre going enjoy me being something totally different, 180° different. I hope they like it, because I always want the fans to follow my work as well. I love them.

What is it in your opinion that makes Jackie a step forward in terms of queer and latinx representation on television?

I just can be who I am. I am a queer woman and I am Latina, I am already both of these things walking in the room. I think to be able to play a role about a woman who looks like me and about a woman who feels like me in terms of my own relationship to relationships is a step ahead because it doesnít become about her sexual identity or the fact that she is Latina. The story isnít about the search of a sexual identity or race. The story is about the characters inheriting flaws and overcoming those obstacles in order to find redemption. Itís incredible progressive and really exciting to see when a woman who looks like me, who feels like me is able to tell stories where itís not about my skin colour or my blood or who I sleep with. I couldnít see those women on television when I was a little girl. I never thought that I could be a TV actress because there was no one looking like me. Now in my 30s I get the privilege of being able to play someone who does look like this and have it be able to be a story about not being just that. Now weíre exploring a different level, these characters who actually have something to live for and to die for. This is about the stakes of the story. This is about this narrative of a woman who is trying to survive in her own way. So once weíre able to get pass this surface dimension of race and culture which is important I am not saying itís not, Iím just saying itís really cool to be able to have passed that and finally be able to be in a place of acceptance where that becomes just normal.

What do you hope the viewers will take away from the show?

I hope they have fun while watching the show. Thatís ultimately the goal here, we all just wanna have fun. On a deeper level I really want people to feel connected to some of these characters. A few of the characters in the world are going through personal issues, personal aspirations that are dark and painful and honestly about a lot of things that so many of the viewers can relate to. These are dark battles that the characters have to go home to and deal with quietly and privately. You get a glimpse of that world. For example, when you get a glimpse at a woman who is struggling with her relationship to drug and alcohol and struggling to get sober thatís something that relates to people. So I want people to come out of this feeling connected to these characters. I think the writing is so good that you feel like you know these characters, that you can be friends with them, that you see them in the world. I hope that they are engaged in the story so they want to see more.

Foto: James Badge Dale & Monica Raymund, Hightown - Copyright: Starz
James Badge Dale & Monica Raymund, Hightown
© Starz

In the first two episodes that we could see Jackie and Ray (James Badge Dale) seem to be following very separate path but then there is a hint at the end of episode 2 that through the season they are coming a lot more together. Can you tell us what their dynamic will be like when we see them together?

Thatís a good question! Ray is a really interesting counterpart to Jackieís archetype. He is someone who approaches the world differently. Heís in the police department, Jackie is not. She starts coming to his territory, invading his territory, testing the boundaries to help out with this investigation, to hand off some clues of the information she found and he really much tries to reject it. By the end of the series you see that both of those human beings have a lot more in common than you think. Because theyíre both these misfits they actually fit very well together. Theyíre both odd shaped pieces of a puzzle that click. Their dynamic is a pretty messy odd couple.

Looking forward do you have any wishes for Jackie and something specific in character development? Fingers crossed that there will be a season 2.

There is not too much I can say about the end of season 1 obviously because I donít want to spoil it but you start to see some new characters getting introduced by the end of season 1 and you start to see how bloat the world actually is. This small circle that that we think is contained in P-Town turns out to be a lot more expansive than we think. There is definitely development narratively happening. In terms of Jackieís narrative, I would love to see her to explore what it means to live with sober life for a while and start to understand loyalty. She is only beginning to find her meaning and purpose but I wonder if in season 2 she starts to flirt with a relationship with her own integrity. Right now she is so captive in her own addiction and pain. In season 2 I would like to see a bit more room for her to breathe, to begin to build her integrity in a way that she can live more freely and happily.

Thank you for taking your time, Monica!

Thank you for all the questions. I'm glad that we could do it. Take care!

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