Hightown: Atkins Estimond is one of the show’s biggest strengths

Hightown - Courtesy of Mark Schafer/Starz
Hightown - Courtesy of Mark Schafer/Starz /

What makes a show like Starz’s Hightown work?

For those who are unfamiliar, Hightown is a new crime drama on Starz starring Chicago Fire alum Monica Raymund. Her character Jackie stumbles upon a dead body, and that discovery puts the plot of the series in motion.

From there, we’re introduced to the seedy criminal underbelly of Provincetown, Massachusetts. The majority of characters are drug addicts or related to the world of drug-running in some capacity, at least. Frankie Cuevas Sr. is the local kingpin, through which many of the illegal dealings in town hinge upon — including the death of Sherry Henry, the woman whose body Jackie found.

However, Frankie is in prison, and while he is a master puppeteer with plenty of henchmen to do his bidding, it is his frontman Osito (Atkins Estimond) that does most of his dirty work.

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Spoilers ahead for Season 1 of Hightown, beware.

Osito is set up as a primary antagonist from the opening moments of Hightown’s first episode. The opening scene shows Sherry’s murder and how her best friend, Krista Collins, becomes a primary witness.

Initially, it seemed like Osito would not have much weight on the story. I also felt uneasy about Hightown giving us yet another negative portrayal of a Black man on television. Estimond himself discussed how his character is far more layered than one might originally realize in an interview with The Observer — his nuanced portrayal is a big part of that.

While there are certainly still criticisms to be made, my feelings on Osito have changed quite a bit as the season has progressed, and that is, in large part, due to how Estimond portrays the character.

He is far from a one-dimensional antagonist or simple lackey/henchman of Frankie’s. Osito operates under his own, albeit skewed, code of morality. He doesn’t just kill people for no reason, and he has his own desires.

As the season progresses, it becomes apparent that he isn’t always happy with his boss’s instructions. He tires of getting his hands dirty, and this culminates with two big decisions: he steps out on Frankie with a rival drug dealer Wayne, and he directly disobeys one of Frankie’s orders.

Frankie demands Osito kill Junior (Shane Harper) because he’s antsy about him turning on them to the cops. Instead of killing him in the woods as he planned, Osito kills Kizzle. Then he appears to help Junior with some money and a bus ticket so he can escape from Provincetown to Miami and hopefully start a new life for himself.

Sadly, at the end of Season 1’s penultimate episode, we find out Junior overdosed in a bathroom. It’s debatable as to whether Junior did it himself or whether Osito decided to follow through on his orders after all.

We won’t get to see the Season 1 finale until next week, but I genuinely hope this isn’t the end of Osito. Ray is on his heels and wants to arrest him badly for the deaths of Sherry and Krista, but part of me wants Osito to escape. I think he would make a great main villain for Season 2 of Hightown.

One thing I truly love about Estimond’s portrayal is how carefully he portrays his character, every move and decision he makes is a layered one. Osito is a man of few words, but Estimond can convey quite a bit with a simple facial expression.

Hightown – Courtesy of Mark Schafer/Starz /

His performance in Episode 9 of the season was standout for me, particularly the scene with him and Junior. I think it was partly his performance that complicated that helped create the theory Osito might have finished Junior off with the fentanyl originally meant for Krista. Throughout their “goodbye” scene, Osito seemed to be struggling internally with guilt.

His reaction could be read in multiple ways, which is partly what made it so brilliant. The entire ninth episode felt like it was building to that final scene, and the crescendo leading to that point was given more credence by his annoyance toward Kizzle, who seemed to represent the parts of his business he finds most unsavory.

I also think Hightown can’t have introduced Wayne and his complex enterprise only to dismiss it after a few episodes, so I feel like we’re going to see more of them as a unit in the second season.

I could be wrong, and Osito could die or get arrested in the finale, but I sincerely hope not because Estimond is one of the shining stars in the cast. Osito could easily have turned into a lackluster character, but the actor manages to not only elevate the script but genuinely add tension and suspense to the scenes he’s in.

You never know what you’re going to get! It feels like Osito is always several steps ahead of whoever he’s dealing with, but Estimond’s performance is like that, too. He has the charisma and on-screen presence to steal every scene he’s in and truly captivate the audience. It’s a shame we won’t get to see him and Harper together anymore either since they had chemistry I would have liked to see further explored.

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What do you think of Atkins Estimond’s portrayal? Do you hope to see Osito return in Season 2? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Season 1 finale of Hightown will air next Sunday night on Starz at 8:00 p.m. ET/PT.