The stars of the Showtime period crime drama City on a Hill took part in a panel for Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event to talk about the ratcheting tension between their characters. Aldis Hodge, who plays assistant district attorney Decourcy Ward, and Kevin Bacon, who plays FBI agent Jackie Rohr, form the fulcrum of a drama set in ‘90s Boston.
In a time of racial unrest and police corruption, the two begin as allies, but find the philosophical differences between them often pits them as rivals. That intensity is dialed up several notches in the show’s second season, and the mano a mano gamesmanship between them is the highlight of a show that has a terrific ensemble cast that plays off each other, reminiscent of police procedurals like The Wire. Only here, the drama plays out in the home lives of each man.
The actors, who are also executive producers, talked about the chemistry between their characters.
Rohr and Ward begin Season 2 on opposite sides of a grudge match. The politically ambitious Ward’s prosecution of a team of armored car stick-up men who murdered three guards has tarnished the prosecutor when an accomplice he gave immunity to admits to committing a different murder. After abusing an informant, the rule-bending Rohr learns that the informant got even by courting his rebellious teen daughter, hooking her on drugs and left her to be sexually assaulted by several men. This sets up a showdown seen in the accompanying clip.
Later in the season, the two will be forced to reunite when Ward’s wife Siobhan (Lauren E. Banks) is shot in an attempt by local drug dealers to assassinate him, with Rohr stepping up to help even though he’s got motives all his own. These guys just can’t quit each other, and their toe-to-toe battles are great television.
“Since the day they met, Jackie and Decourcy, there is a sense of familiarity but also direct opposition,” Hodge said. “For Decourcy, Jackie is his beacon of all things corrupt in Boston. In the first season, he was like OK [Jackie], you will teach me the ropes. And then, oh, no, you are the ropes….He knows the tornado Jackie can be.”
Said Bacon in describing what makes Rohr tick and why he is drawn to Ward, a symbol of what Rohr might have fancied himself before the years and rule bending put him on the wrong side of good guy: “Complex is the right away of putting it. Jackie is a guy who comes from the streets, had a very difficult childhood which we will explore more this year, but he’s been able to get himself into college, work his way up, he’s a voracious reader. Initially when Jackie and Decourcy meet in Season 1, Jackie is constantly looking for favors, some quid pro quo way of doing business which is a very Boston thing. This season, Jackie is like a moth to the flame. There is something about [Decourcy] that he has an obsession with. He finds himself in a bar with him and he could find another place to drink, but he doesn’t.”
“It’s my charm, Kevin,” Hodge said.
“When Decourcy speaks about the difference between right and wrong, it immediately hits [Jackie] because I am struggling with a certain amount of guilt,” Bacon said about the moral clash between the characters. “But I immediately start to convince him there is no right and wrong, only doing for yourself.”
Check out the conversation in the video above.