Uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer has become synonymous with blockbuster entertainment after decades of churning out everything from Top Gun to the Bad Boys films to the TV series CSI. Now Bruckheimer is executive producing the new Starz series Hightown, a crime drama set on Cape Cod that also delves into the opioid epidemic.
Bruckheimer spoke to CBR and other outlets about why he chose to produce Hightown, what sets it apart from other crime shows, and why he felt fortunate to be able to produce a show with a lesbian Latina lead character.
While much of the plot of Hightown centers around a murder mystery, it is drug addiction that presents the biggest challenge to many of the series’ characters. Bruckheimer said that was one of the reasons he’s excited about the project. “I loved the verisimilitude of [creator] Rebecca [Cutter]’s writing,” Bruckheimer shared, “it was just fantastic, [looking] inside these damaged characters, and how they look for recovery and redemption. It’s just the brutal honesty of this show is what I love about.”
Bruckheimer observed this was one of the things that made Hightown different from other crime dramas. “I’ve seen a lot of the shows that are on streaming,” Bruckheimer noted, “and I’ve never seen a show that is this brutally honest with these type of characters that really give you an inside look at what this world is really like and what these people go through and the trouble you have with addiction and recovery and redemption. It’s really a powerful, powerful series.
“It just shows you how this addiction creeps into every part of society,” Bruckheimer added, “and also to areas as beautiful as [Provincetown] and Cape [Cod]. So that’s what we want to show, we want to show that this affects every aspect of society, not just places that you would think they would be, ghettos and things like that. It’s all over the country and around the world. So we got to show the highlights of how dangerous and brutal this addiction can be.”
Bruckheimer also said that he was happy to give talented people new opportunities through the show. In particular, he was enthusiastic about the contribution of the Oscar-nominated cinematographer Rachel Morrison, who directed the series’ first two episodes. “I worked with [Morrison] briefly on some pick-ups on 12 Strong, a movie we did with Chris Hemsworth,” Bruckheimer explained. “And I thought she was so bright and understood character and story. And she’s so energetic and a great person to be around. And we’re kind of lucky that she sparked to the [Hightown] screenplay.
“And I always love to give new talent a shot,” Bruckheimer continued. “I work with a lot of first-time directors or directors that have limited exposure as far as making smaller movies — like Bad Boys [For Life], where [directors] Adil [El Arbi] and Bilall [Fallah] are Belgium filmmakers who’ve made a couple of small movies previously, but I thought they were enormously talented. The same thing with Rachel. She’s terrific, she’s a real talent and she brought such energy and depth of character — along with our writing team, Rebecca [Cutter] and [showrunner] Gary [Lennon] — to the series.”
Bruckheimer also noted that having a Latina lead enabled the show to tap into a talented but underutilized pool of actors. “…there’s so many talented Latinos and African Americans,” Bruckheimer said, “and there’s so much diversity in our society today, and we have to highlight them also, we just can’t keep going back to what we’ve had in previous years. There are issues with every segment of society, and we got to bring it to light. And now with the amount of African American and Latino actors, it’s just amazing how talented they are and we’re very fortunate to be able to tap into that really cool talent pool that’s out there.”
While Bruckheimer was clearly anticipating the release of Hightown, he also took the time to talk up another project: the highly anticipated sequel to Top Gun, Top Gun: Maverick. While the movie has been moved from its original summer release date due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Bruckheimer implied the movie would be well worth the wait. “It’s the most exciting aerial footage and great storytelling and character that we’ve ever done,” Bruckheimer said. “So it’s really brilliant what Tom [Cruise] has achieved.”
Starring Monica Raymund, James Badge Dale, Shane Harper, Riley Voelkel, Amaury Nolasco, Atkins Estimond and Dohn Norwood, Hightown premieres May 17 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer discusses what sets his new show Hightown apart from other crime dramas.