James Badge Dale talks Ray’s complicated arc in Hightown Season 2

James Badge Dale in Hightown Season 2 - Courtesy of STARZ/Dana Hawley
James Badge Dale in Hightown Season 2 - Courtesy of STARZ/Dana Hawley /

Show Snob chatted with Hightown Season 2 star James Badge Dale about Ray’s complicated arc this season of the STARZ series. When we last saw Ray Abruzzo, he was at rock bottom, having lost his job as a cop for sleeping with Renee, his confidential informant.

When Hightown Season 2 starts, Ray isn’t in a much better place. He’s trying to figure out who he is when he’s not a cop. We chatted with James about what fans can expect to see from this season and more!

Hightown Season 2 interview with James Badge Dale

SHOW SNOB: Ray is in a pretty bad spot when Hightown Season 2 starts. What was your first reaction to seeing his character arc for this season?

JAMES BADGE DALE: Oh, I love it. I love the switches. I love the changes. I love Ray’s desperation, I love playing in those dark areas. I also love Ray’s drive to get out of it. I love playing that push and pull between: is he going to accept this and fall deeper in this? Or is he going to try to get out of it? I think one of the issues is that Ray can’t escape Ray. Ray, I think, is learning that he’s going to have to change as a human being if he wants his life to change.

SHOW SNOB: One exciting thing about Ray’s arc this season is how he tries to find his identity outside of being a cop. So, he starts as a waiter and then tries construction, which I found relatable as someone who has done several different jobs. Was that something you could relate to as an actor, or even just as a person?

JAMES: Yeah, you know it’s funny. I was talking to Rebecca [Cutter] about this. Rebecca knows me, and she knows my history. I’ve worked in restaurants, I’ve been fired from every restaurant I’ve ever worked at. I bartended at the Blue Note Cafe in the West Village. I was fired on the first day. I also worked construction for six years, actually. And construction was a better job for me because I wouldn’t have to deal with people.

In my 40s, now I’m a little more social. When I was in my early 20s, I wasn’t the most social guy. So, working in a restaurant was hard for me. I used to show up to the construction sites, and you’re just with a group of guys, and everyone is yelling, and you can also keep to yourself. Construction, I have a long assorted history with that business.

Hightown Season 2
James Badge Dale in Hightown Season 2 – Courtesy of STARZ/Dana Hawley /

SHOW SNOB: You get to play with many different relationship dynamics in Hightown Season 2 because we’re seeing Ray interact with his family more. What was your reaction to seeing that you were going to get to do that this season?

JAMES: It was so interesting to go into that different world of Ray. It was a new world for me as an actor, in a lot of ways that mirrored Ray’s storyline because Ray’s been estranged from his family for a long time.

The kid who played my son was so funny. There would be moments in scenes where I was like, “Are you mimicking me? Are you messing with me right now? What are you doing?” We had a really good dynamic and banter. He’s really talented. Anything that can bring more of a fullness to the characters, I always think is a positive thing.

SHOW SNOB: One of the things that is so engrossing about this season is that we see a totally different side to basically every character.  Can you talk a little about Ray and Renee’s dynamic? Do you think his feelings for her are real? 

JAMES: It’s so wild you say that because, do I think Ray believes the feelings are real and legitimate? Yes. Do I think Ray also has been someone who has swung to different degrees his entire life when it comes to women and sex to make himself feel better?

I think Ray has a living problem. I think all of these characters are dealing with addiction in different ways, shapes and forms. Ray uses other people to make himself feel okay about himself. There’s that dynamic that I can see as I step back, but does Ray see that? I don’t know. We play in those areas.

SHOW SNOB: One of the big new characters that has been so fun to watch this season is Luis Guzmán, who plays Jorge. What’s that dynamic been like? 

JAMES: It’s so fun. We’re just a really close-knit family on this set. I show up to work, and I get to watch Amaury [Nolasco] work with Luis and watch the two of them work together and see their chemistry and how much they enjoy each other and playing off of each other. Also, what’s so interesting to watch is Riley’s character Renee, her relationship with Luis, with Jorge. Rebecca Cutter just wrote an amazing piece of work this year that’s so full for every character.

Hightown Season 2
James Badge Dale in Hightown Season 2 – Courtesy of STARZ/Dana Hawley /

SHOW SNOB: Did you miss working with Dohn Norwood this season? It takes a while for you guys to get scenes together again, and you’ve got a new dynamic this time around.

JAMES: I love Dohn. I was so blown away by his work. I was like, “Oh man, you’re such a better cop than I am.” [Laughs]

SHOW SNOB: You guys were filming in the Cape during the summer season, and now it’s in the winter, starting with Halloween. What was that experience like?

JAMES: I’m an east coast guy. I love the winter, I love the fall, it’s my favorite season of the year. It’s a special part of what it is to be up here. I live in a small fishing town. It empties out in the winter, and in some way, you find out who you really are because it gets cold, windy, snowy and lonely, yet you’re filled with this sense of community because there are other people here with you experiencing the same thing. I think it’s a strangely romantic time.

More. Hightown Season 2 interview with EP Gary Lennon. light

SHOW SNOB: What are you most excited for people to see from your character this season?

JAMES: There is a lot of vulnerability there. There is a lot of openness there. I think what you’re going to see from Ray is a man who has been cracked open and you’re going to see some of these inner workings. You’re going to see the desperate side of him.

You’re going to see the side where he’s struggling with his mental health, where he’s struggling with his sex addiction issues and also where he’s righteous in some areas. I think that drive he has, that darker selfish side, that’s kind of all of us in this show. I think that’s the brilliance of this show is that everyone is dealing with that push and pull at all times.

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Hightown Season 2 premieres Sunday night at 9/8c on STARZ.