For decades, Kevin Bacon has earned plaudits playing characters who, as he puts it, "hold it inside." (See: 2003's Mystic River, 2009's Taking Chance and Prime Video's 2016–17 comedy I Love Dick.) He knew that would change when he signed on for the role of renowned but rotten FBI agent Jackie Rohr in Showtime's ensemble drama City on a Hill.
"I couldn't find a way to play Jackie in a quiet, restrained way. He can't shut up," Bacon says of the corrupt, cocaine-fueled Fed, who teams with ambitious African-American ADA Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge) in early-'90s Boston to solve a crime that could upend the city's brotherhood-based criminal justice system. (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon are among the producers.) Bacon tells what made him decide to cut loose.
You seem to relish playing Jackie.
Kevin Bacon: He's a hot mess, no doubt about it. The role was so clear on the page: I saw the clothes, the walk, the cigarettes, the coke; I heard his voice.
Did your wife, actress Kyra Sedgwick, also find the script irresistible?
She read it and said, yeah, this one for sure.
So much of the action revolves around family. We see marital tensions for both Jackie and Decourcy, plus complications with the robbing and killing Ryan brothers, Frankie (Jonathan Tucker) and Jimmy (Mark O'Brien).
There's a crime in our show, but I'd never consider it a crime show because we spend as much, if not more, time at home with these people and what's going on with their very complicated personal lives — [much like] what made The Sopranos interesting.
It's become a cliché to say a show's setting is another character, but Boston really is key.
I did think, why is this the spot? Me personally, I've ended up there six times in various movies. I think part of it is that it's a major East Coast city, yet everybody knows a lot about everything going on. Boston is the only place I've gone where if a cab driver picks you up from the airport, chances are he'll have a really strong knowledge of the city — not just birth-of-the-country but this-was-where-this-guy-was-murdered.
Oz's Tom Fontana is the showrunner. Is grittiness a given?
It's part of what I responded to. To me, this feels a lot like the '70s films Dog Day Afternoon, Serpico, The French Connection or Mean Streets — films that made me want to be an actor. Let me put it this way: We don't have any dragons. But I don't think there are a lot of shows with this kind of tone right now.
City on a Hill, Series Premiere, Sunday, June 16, 9/8c, Showtime