Hightown's Atkins Estimond on playing murderous drug trafficker Osito: 'It's fun to be bad'
Starz has built up quite the fame for gritty crime dramas with twisted, dark undertones, and the latest addition to the list is 'Hightown'. Revolving around a lesbian female marine's life named cop Jackie Quinones (Monica Raymund), the show sees her battle with avid alcoholism issues, while being roped into a murder investigation when a woman's body washes up ashore right outside her Cape Cod home.
But before Jackie's extravagant partying and drinking problems spring her into the middle of dead bodies with bullet wounds washing up ashore, the show introduces us to the prime element of terror: a hitman called Osito, working for a drug trafficking organization in the quaint beach town.
Treading into the deepest abyss of an opioid epidemic plaguing the town, 'Hightown' too bad and ugly, too quickly. But if you ask Atkins Estimond about his villainous on-screen avatar Osito, it all boils down to connecting with him through the character's latent humanity. Amidst a string of sinister characters orchestrating the incidents that lead up to Jackie becoming a prime element in these mysterious murders around town, Osito is the initiator of it all; in short, he is the one who murders the woman Jackie finds dead along the shore.
"This event throws her (Jackie's) world into chaos and she finds herself compelled to solve this murder and find the people responsible," Estimond spilled exclusively to MEA Worldwide, setting the premise for the horrors to come.
But that's not what drew Estimond to playing the drug-trafficking mercenary; it was more of a chance of being the bad guy itself. What one must understand about Osito, is that "He's a very dangerous and violent character," Estimond tells us. "What initially drew me to the role was the challenge of portraying this kind of character. None of the roles that I've done before was anything like this, so as an actor I was excited at the opportunity to stretch myself," says the actor who's already played a doctor, a hacker, and even a gangster on-screen.
But Osito is a full-fledged killer, slinging guns and murdering innocent people unflinchingly - a seasoned druglord in the making.
Apart from their common Haitian heritage, Estimond and Osito don't have a lot of similarities, claims the actor. But opposites tact, so it's no secret why this challenging role drew him in. "Osito was definitely a big shift for me. He has a darkness in him that no other character I've portrayed has." And even though Estoimond assures Osito is 'vastly different' from him in real life, his "favorite part about playing the role was getting to be a bad guy. It's fun to be bad. Also as an actor, I enjoyed getting to play with some of the other tools in my toolbox!"
Speak of the darkness within, in this age where true crime is a fetish, Estimond claims all he needed was finding something human inside the murderer to connect to the role. "I began with Osito's humanity," he revealed, explaining: "He does have some heart and I used that as my entry point in trying to better understand him and why he operates how he does." That said, Estimond would also 'love to be the Mandalorian' if he could go for any other mainstream roles from TV. "I love 'Star Wars' and I love a good western and you've got all of that right there," he enthuses.
Arriving right in time as most TV procedurals are wrapping up their cut-short seasonal run amidst the COVID-19 outbreak and lockdowns, Estimond also reflects on what makes 'Hightown' unique unlike most crime thrillers seen before. "I believe that 'Hightown' explores the opioid epidemic, addiction, and sobriety in a way that other shows haven't. I also don't know of any other crime/cop dramas that are being created and primarily helmed by women. I think that offers a fresh lens into these issues that you find in these types of dramas," he remarks.
Estimond also promises "There are many moments of humor and levity in the show which is surprising considering how dark the tone is," and that's a relief because it's all about striking the balance without losing the significance, right? And even though he self-proclaimedly quips "I'm a little biased" he would like to assure viewers "The cast is amazing and the writing is so good!", making it quite something to indulge in as we stay quarantined indoors.
'Hightown' premiers on Sunday, May 17, at 8 pm only on Starz.