Why Kevin Bacon Is Sticking With TV For Showtime's City On A Hill

kevin bacon city on a hill showtime
(Image credit: showtime press)

For 35 years, Kevin Bacon was almost exclusively a film actor, minus some sporadic short-term roles. But he's far more familiar with the small screen now after starring in series like The Following and I Love Dick. Bacon will soon be oozing intensity and causing ruckuses on Showtime's crime drama City on a Hill, and he told the TCA press why he was so drawn to the project, and why it fills a specific TV void.

The thing about City on a Hill that I loved was immediately, from the first time I read the pilot, Jackie’s voice was something that I heard. His manner of speak, the way that Chuck MacLean constructs dialogue, in this world of ’90s sort of cops and robbers, had a kind of gritty vibe to me that was reminiscent of the movies that I loved in the ’70s from Scorsese and Sidney Lumet. And I felt like there wasn’t much on television that was really in this pocket, you know. Television is great, and there’s a lot of really cool stuff to watch, but nothing that quite felt like this.

Even though the production on City on a Hill is only now getting started, Showtime put together a trailer to give everyone an idea of what we can expect to see when the drama arrives in full. (See it below.) In keeping a fully serialized narrative that doesn't have any pattern-adopting killers to catch, City on a Hill instantly stands apart from the majority of populist TV crime dramas. And to Kevin Bacon's point, the show looks like Ben Affleck's take on The Wire by way of Serpico.

In this crime-ridden Boston, Bacon plays a veteran FBI agent Jackie Rhodes, whose behavior is still stuck in a time where drugs and sex could be considered job perks. As corrupt as he is genuinely effective, Jackie soon takes on an unexpected partner in District Attorney Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), who comes to Boston from Brooklyn in an effort to rid the city of its suppressive criminal element, which includes a team of armed robbers led by Jonathan Tucker's Frankie Ryan.

Thankfully for Kevin Bacon, City on a Hill doesn't exclusively hang its hat and coat up at the office, and aims to tell a more rounded story with these characters. Here's what else he told the press at the Television Critics Association's 2019 winter press tour.

Also, the thing that I like about City on a Hill is that when you go into a situation where there’s crime involved, your character can live most of the time on the job, which is only interesting up to a point as far as I’m concerned as an actor. It gets interesting in City on a Hill because we go home. He goes home. I go home. They go home. Everybody goes home, and you see them outside of work, which is way more fun to explore as an actor.

It's hard to truly get to know and understand characters when the only time viewers see them is when they're in the thick of it in the workplace. With an egotistical vice-loving guy like Jackie, it's impossible to know if he retains that hard-edged personality on the home front, or if his bristled nature is just as act put on for the public. City on a Hill won't leave such details up to speculation.

Jackie looks like a bit of a sleazy character who can muster his charms when necessary, the law-sidestepping agent apparently fosters a persistent inability to shut the hell up in any given situation. Kevin Bacon didn't initially think that element of the role suited his talents, but soon found much to enjoy about Jackie's long-windedness.

When looking for [a project], I want to find something new to explore, and I don’t really feel like I’ve been Jackie before, not quite in this kind of way. Somebody mentioned The Following. A lot of what that was about was a very internalized kind of character who said very, very little and had a lot of secrets. Jackie can’t shut up. I start talking from the beginning, and I keep talking all the way to the end. I look at these scripts, and we highlight them in yellow, and I go, 'That’s too much yellow. That’s too much yellow for a 60-year-old guy to learn,' and yet that’s one of the things that I love about it is because it’s this kind of verbosity that he has, which is not something that, at least in recent times, I’ve really been exploring.

Kevin Bacon has one of the most distinguishable voices in pop culture, so it'd be a waste to have to return to a role where he's required to deliver more pensive staring. I can't wait to hear him delivering (presumably) coked-up and semi-pulpy monologues throughout the season.

You can check out Kevin Bacon yakking it up, but only a little bit, in the City on a Hill trailer below, which was released in time with the first showing at TCA.

For a fun fact that was shared during the show's TCA panel, Kevin Bacon pointed out that he had originally worked with City on a Hill co-star Jonathan Tucker when the latter was just twelve years old. Bacon then revealed that project was Sleepers, and everyone laughed when he immediately followed that with, "Let's not go there."

Created by Chuck MacLean, from a story idea he crafted with Ben "No Longer Batman" Affleck, City on a Hill is a fictionalized account of what was officially known as Operation Ceasefire, and unofficially known as the Boston Miracle.

The gritty drama series also stars Sarah Shahi, Mark O'Brien, Jill Hennessy, Kevin Dunn, Rory Culkin, Cathy Moriarty, Amanda Clayton, Kevin Chapman and more. Beyond MacLean and Affleck, its mega-list of executive producers also includes Matt Damon, Jennifer Todd, Barry Levinson, Tom Fontana, James Mangold and Michael Cuesta.

Showtime has already given City on a Hill a premiere date of Sunday, June 16, at 9:00 p.m. ET. Before that gets here, though, the rest of the midseason premiere schedule still has to air, so get ready for lots of awesome comedies and dramas in the meantime. (Even if, sadly, none of them will be that Tremors TV show that Bacon was fully into.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.