Last week, the pilot episode for Hightown, the murder mystery from Starz that's set in the LGBTQ mecca of Provincetown, Mass., premiered. The series from creator Rebecca Cutter is dark, sexy, and very queer, especially with out former Chicago Fire star Monica Raymund in the lead role as Jackie Quiñones, a party-happy lesbian and fisheries agent who stumbles across the body of a woman who’s been murdered and dumped on one of Provincetown’s storied beaches.
In an interview with The Advocate, Raymund spoke about what it means to her as a queer woman to continue to move visibility forward by playing a lead character who is part of the LGBTQ+ community. She also touches on Provincetown as a character and discovering what a "fish cop" is.
Filmed in Provincetown last summer with Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison (Mudbound, Fruitvale Station) at the helm of the first couple of episodes, Hightown sets a strong visual tone from the outset. It captures the pure queer joy of Provincetown and also the underbelly of crime and sorrow in the wake of the opioid crisis. As Jackie races to uncover the mystery behind the murder, she also grapples with drug, alcohol, and sex addiction.
One aspect of the series that appealed to Raymund was the fact that she was playing a queer lead but the character's sexual identity is not the focus of the piece.
“To be able to see that a character’s sexual identity is more about a characteristic and a description rather than being the event of the story, and to see it so accepted and normalized in that way that Rebecca has made it, that’s for me, a really critical part of progress,” Raymund says.
She also discusses the evolution of LGBTQ+ characters in film and TV.
"We were seeing queer people having to shed this stigma, then present as role models and perfect citizens," Raymund says. "And having to break from that and show the world that we are completely just as human as everyone else and allowing our sexual identity to no longer be the forefront of a story. That, to me, is real progress."
"It becomes more about the murder investigation and my recovery [as Jackie] than it is about me being a lesbian," she adds.
Hightown deftly balances the portrayal of the nautical industries in the town at the tip of the cape with its depiction of the queer life that has flourished there for nearly a century with the bars, shops, and restaurants that cater to LGBTQ+ people and the drag queens who line Commercial Street coaxing passers-by into their shows.
The series costars Riley Voelkel, Shane Harper, Atkins Estimond, Amaury Nolasco, Dohn Norwood, and Crystal Lake Evans.
Watch the interview above.