The new season of Hightown is finally here, and the Season 2 premiere debuted last night on STARZ. If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you should do so before reading, although there are only a few mild spoilers for the new season.
We had the opportunity to chat with EP Gary Lennon about what the sophomore season of the hit crime drama offers, including exciting new characters, alliances, and overall more profound complexity within the characters we love so much.
Show Snob chats with Hightown Season 2 EP Gary Lennon
SHOW SNOB: What was your reaction to seeing how positive the reception has been to Hightown and how excited people are to see Hightown Season 2?
GARY LENNON: I was really pleased that we had such a great response and specifically from the gay and lesbian community. It was so nice to see that a Latinx lesbian was being portrayed in a premium cable show. I think a lot of people who didn’t see themselves in entertainment saw themselves reflected, and it was a really good thing. I go to Provincetown every year, which is very much a gay and lesbian community, and they were really psyched about it.
SHOW SNOB: How have you guys brought Provincetown to life this season, especially since you’ve expanded the world of the show?
GARY: You’ll see that the second season doesn’t take place “in season,” and Provincetown is a seasonal destination. It lends itself to really getting to hunker down with our main characters and dive in, and we masquerade a little bit like a procedural. But obviously, it’s masquerading as a procedural that is an exploration of character show, the way The Shield was. We really got to dive into the backgrounds of who these people are, where they come from. The audience of the second season will get to see a lot more and know a lot more of who Jackie is, who Renee is, that kind of thing.
SHOW SNOB: It has been great to see Jackie in a happier place this season. I watched the first four episodes, and I’m kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop. I like how there is some foreshadowing in the show. How do you guys balance that?
GARY: I think it’s purposeful that they showed the first four episodes because in a season of ten episodes, the midseason, if you will, is episode five, and in episode five, everything takes a turn by design. It’s one of those things that is surprising yet inevitable for these characters. They say leopard don’t change their spots, and I’d say that was one of the themes of this season as well.
Jackie and Ray have sort of inverted arcs, but it was all by design. But from the midpoint of the season until the end, the other shoe definitely drops.
SHOW SNOB: Oh no.
GARY: [Laughs] Yeah.
SHOW SNOB: Along those lines, it has been cool to see Jackie and Leslie’s relationship grow. Since Jackie gets to be a cop now and has this partner she’s getting along with, but in the first episode, Ray warns her that Leslie isn’t someone you should trust, so that has been in the back of my mind.
GARY: That is obviously a breadcrumb we planted that will pay off after the midpoint. But they are both so good together. They have great chemistry and a real easygoingness with each other.
SHOW SNOB: Another thing that has been really fun to watch this season is the introduction of Luis Guzmán’s character Jorge and the relationship between him, Renee and Frankie. I also like that Frankie and Renee’s relationship is not stereotypical. He’s not 100% a bad guy, and you can see why she fell in love with him at one point.
GARY: I think it’s important when we’re creating characters that we don’t paint people just black and white. We’re all on a daily basis some of us are good, some of us are bad, some of us succeed, some of us fail. I think it’s wonderful creating characters who are all of the shades of the spectrum.
It’s good to point out that Frankie is that kind of guy, you can definitely see why she fell in love with him. She’s a beautiful girl, and she’s smart, Renee, she wouldn’t be with him unless it served her in some way. Sometimes things that serve you don’t end well or don’t sustain themselves.
SHOW SNOB: There are so many unique female characters on this show, and they are all so fleshed out. Then you’ve got Daisy this season, who is a fun wild card, and Donna has a different role to play. What was the genesis of those characters for this season?
GARY: Another great example of that is Daisy, that actress when she auditioned for the role, as soon as she auditioned and she sort of improvised. We all watched the tape, and we all voted and were like, “Okay that’s her, we love her.” And Imani Lewis, who plays Charmaine, I think is a real find and a really talented actress. I think we used her this year to her best abilities.
And our writer’s room is a diverse writer’s room, and we have two out lesbian writers, Cortney Norris and Molly Manning, who definitely put a lot of themselves into the character of Jackie and pulled from their own life stories and made sure that we were portraying that character truthfully under imaginary circumstances. Also I, as a male, love writing female characters as well. We all just dive in and give it ourselves. I think if you were to ask the writer’s room, you can see a lot of us in them.
SHOW SNOB: I’m curious if this show does end up getting renewed for another season, have you already started thinking about where it could go?
GARY: There have been conversations, even from Season 1, where the show would go in multiple seasons. Not super specific, but big ideas. And in the second season, when we were in the writer’s room breaking it, you can’t help but talk about where it might go in the third season because if you’re a good dramatist, it’s like a novelization. You’re setting things up in Season 2 that you’d want to pay off in Season 3. Or there are breadcrumbs of storylines in Season 2 that you would pull upon in Season 3.
SHOW SNOB: Based on what I’ve seen, I love this season so far, and I’m curious if you felt any pressure because of the dreaded “sophomore slump” or how to avoid that.
GARY: Yes, it’s so interesting because if you watch some of your favorite shows ever, you might go back and look at the first season and go, “They were finding themselves, they were finding their legs and it really kicked in in Season 2.” For me, I’m not afraid of the sophomore thing where you may fail. I actually always think if I’m involved in something that the second season is going to be better because I get to hang out with those characters more and be inside their head and know their likes and dislikes.
Not only that, but you get to know the actors, and you start writing for their strengths and exploring things the actor told you in a personal conversation that you realized would be wonderful to include in their character because it seems so authentic and honest. For me, I like photographing the truth as a piece of entertainment. So I’m not too concerned with [the sophomore slump]. I actually thought, “Oh, the second season is going to be better.”
SHOW SNOB: What is the thing you’re most excited for people to see this season?
GARY: The thing I’m most excited for people to see on Hightown Season 2 is the new alliances that come to be. As you mentioned with Jackie and Leslie, there are a number of those that reveal themselves throughout the season. I love surprising the audience, and I also love delivering on the promise that we made in Season 1. And I think at the end of Season 1, we made a promise and in Season 2, we delivered.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
New episodes of Hightown Season 2 premiere Sunday nights at 9/8c on STARZ.