Kevin Bacon’s wise-cracking, corrupt FBI agent Jackie Rohr and Aldis Hodge’s idealistic and sole Black assistant district attorney Decourcy Ward once again go head-to-head in Showtime’s City on a Hill when the Boston-based crime drama returns for a second season on Sunday, March 28.
Still reeling from the fallout from last season’s botched capture and prosecution of a gang of armored car robbers, Jackie and Decourcy find themselves in lesser standing within their respective fields. With both focused on a street gang trafficking drugs around a federal housing project in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and how law enforcement interchangeably investigates and benefits from that activity, the adversarial pair get in each other’s hair in explosive – and personal – ways.
Executive producers Tom Fontana and Barry Levinson, the same team responsible for critically beloved NBC drama Homicide: Life On The Street, bring gritty realism to the ‘90s-set drama that doesn’t shy away from depicting the city’s historic struggle with segregation and racism.
Here’s three things to know about Season 2:
Jackie Rohr is still the worst
Recklessly driving while snorting cocaine off the back of his hand next to a woman that’s not his wife – this is our first glimpse of Jackie is Season 2. Same as it ever was. A caustic, showboating narcissist who throws around racial epithets as ubiquitously as a teen inserts “like” at the beginning, middle and end of any sentence, Bacon’s FBI agent lacks the qualities to even be considered an antihero. When asked to say something nice about Jackie during a post-screening virtual Q&A with the cast, Hodge bluntly says, “That’s an impossible question,” while Bacon deadpans, “Good luck.” Ever the diplomat, Hodge acquiesces and admits that “Jackie is a tutor. He teaches Decourcy what to watch out for and how.”
For Bacon, Jackie’s nefarious nature and contemptible habits only heighten the acting challenge. “I’m really not afraid of playing anything. I really like to separate, to the best of my ability, the characters I play from who I am personally,” the former Footloose heartthrob says. “Nothing is too far as I’m concerned for me to play … but I do think it’s important not to be gratuitous.”
Personal reckonings are in store for the characters
The show’s distinctive and historic locale provides “infinite source material” for the writers to mine – especially the intersection of race and the criminal justice system – for potentially multiple seasons, according to Hodge. But this sophomore season focuses intently on the evolution of these people we barely started getting to know over the course of the first 10-episode installment.
Decourcy and Siobhan Quays (Lauren E. Banks) experience a traumatic event that redefines their marriage while both grapple with her political star rising and his at a standstill thanks to Jackie’s trickery in last season’s armored car robbery case. Jackie must also contend with the slow decline of his transactional way of policing and how his corrupt antics affect his long-suffering wife Jenny (Jill Hennessy) and troubled daughter Benedetta (Zoe Margaret Colletti).
“What we see with this season is these characters dealing with different standards in a little bit more of an intimate space. It’s like that uncomfortable conversation you don’t want to have to have with yourself. When you’re sitting at home and you’re like, ‘Well, what do I have to fix in me today?’ I know I can speak for Decourcy specifically – it comes down to a personal conversation about moral compass,” Hodge explains. “Who am I in this particular situation? Am I gonna go this way or that way? Am I going to lose myself to vengeance and hatred or am I going to try to maintain who I am and who I know myself to be? Am I going [to be] a walking representation of the justice I want to see or am I going to let the city eat me alive?”
Set in the ‘90s, yet resonating today
“The only thing that’s different in the ‘90s versus what’s going on now besides technology is maybe the clothes – the shoulder pads?”
Hodge uses disquieting humor purposefully to underscore just how similar the racial inequities beleaguering Boston in the ‘90s are to 2021.
“The question that plagues me is when people sometimes think that it’s different and I say, ‘If you think that it’s different – why?’ Because you haven’t seen the ugliness of the truth that some people’s realities actually are,” Hodge says. “We get to expose that truth with such a great project like this and we get to show people what those challenges are.”
After the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that followed around the country last year, City on a Hill writers reconvened on Showtime’s dime to pour over the completed scripts – along with input from the actors – to ensure they reflected the moment within the context of the past.
“I do appreciate that they went back with a sense of responsibility to try to understand where they can be a part of being sensitive to what was going on and that’s a huge thing,” Hodge says. “We had the support of Showtime – they cut the check to put the writers back in the room to make sure that we go and look at these scripts and make sure we’re not pushing the wrong buttons or adding to any of the trauma in a more callous way than what was already seen every single day on the news.”
City on a Hill premieres Sunday, March 28 at 9 pm ET on Showtime.