[Warning: General spoilers for the season so far.]
Season 1 of City on a Hill hasn’t been a cakewalk for anyone, but I’d wager that Jenny Rohr has had the biggest upheaval vs. where we found her when the season began. A much beleaguered stay-at-home wife and mother to a crappy husband and rebellious teenage daughter, Jenny hit reset on her life with a decision to go back to school—until her daughter’s sexual assault forced her to revisit her own experience. It’s been a terrific part for actress Jill Hennessy, and this week she kindly agreed to talk about the role in an e-mail Q & A.
Hennessy was offered the role after a chance meeting between her husband and Michael Cuesta, who was directing the pilot. She had no idea how rich Jenny’s arc would be, but was involved in filling out the character’s story. “My husband ran into [him] on the street. I had worked with Michael a few years back on Roadie with Bobby Canavale and Ron Eldard. A week later, I got the offer to play Jenny Rohr,” she recalls.
“[I knew] nothing at all before the pilot. During filming, [showrunner] Chuck MacLean disclosed two scenes from Episode 2 that hinted at a fascinating character. I then sat down with Chuck and [executive producer] Tom Fontana to spitball a lot of ideas about Jenny’s background and arc. We are all pretty dark individuals. As an actor, it’s actually pretty exciting to have a horrific secret color all of your behavioral choices with a character.”
“Jenny’s POV felt pretty crystal clear. I love being able to play between the lines of Jenny. So much is said in her silences and it’s beautiful to see a character who has so much bubbling up underneath the surface when all the other characters around her are so vociferous and loud.”
One of the things that nagged at me after the reveal last week that Jenny had been abused and impregnated by her father and that her mother knew, dismissed it, and drove her for an abortion was how Jenny could still live in any house with her, much less her childhood home. Hennessy says that’s a deep-seated issue. “I think sometimes when abuse is enacted upon children by their own parents, they don’t realize it’s even abuse until a later point in their adulthood,” she explains. “There’s a scene in episode 10 that will definitely [address that].”
A significant disappointment early in the season was Jenny’s seemingly budding friendship with Father Doyle that Jackie quickly torpedoed with a payoff. Hennessy would like to see that door opened again. “I’m sure that Jenny has seen many people cave to Jackie‘s threats and pressure over many years but I have great hope that Father Doyle will come back for Season 2,” she shares. “And who the heck knows what will happen then?”
One of the few moments of levity for Jenny happened late in the season when Rachel tried to ambush her with an interrogation about Jackie and Jenny twigged to it and left Rachel on the street. Hennessy loved getting to cross story lines. “I was so psyched to work with Sarah Shahi and get a chance to walk on the other side of the show. That scene was a little too much fun to shoot,” she says.
“I truly hope that we can do it again! I also love the fact that Jenny was so empathetic to [Rachel’s] situation in that scene and completely ready to help her in any way she could. But I guess after years of living with Jackie, her BS meter was very sensitive to the fact that she was being lied to.”
Most fans recognize Hennessy from NBC’s Crossing Jordan, which ended its six-season run in 2007. In it, she headlined as the titular Boston medical examiner, and she’s enjoying representing Boston again more than a decade later. “I’m so honored that I’ve even been associated with the amazing city of Boston through the work that I’ve done. It is a little bit of a mind-bender going back to ‘92 to work on this character in this show. I’ll take all the Boston I can get baby,” she says.
Given how tech-heavy present-day shows can be, the dial back 25 years erases cell phone screens and Internet searches as plot devices, and Hennessy appreciated being unplugged as much as we did, saying it lends a richness to the storytelling. “I think a lot of tension can be created from the lack of opportunities to communicate with other characters; i.e. walking next-door to find out what happened to your daughter…” she explains.
Our Canadian friends saw Hennessy more recently on CBC’s comedy series, Crawford, which doesn’t have U.S. distribution yet, but hopefully one of the streamers will pick it up for us. She had a ball on the show before switching gears to play Jenny. “That show was hilarious to work on. Mike Clattenberg is a rare gem,” she points out. ”But it was a rather icy dip in a cold lake to suddenly jump into the dark depths of City on a Hill after that.
Thankfully, we know we’re getting second season. Until filming begins, Hennessy is hard at work on her third album. City on a Hill wraps its first season Sunday night at 9 pm/8c on Showtime. I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview.
Images courtesy of Showtime.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Kelly McCormack Talks Favorite Moments in A League of Their Own
[Warning: Mild spoilers for season 1.] Now that you’ve had a chance to watch A League of Their Own, here’s the rest of my chat with Kelly McCormack about her favorite moments of the season. Seeing the iconic Peaches uniforms for the first time wasn’t just a goosebump moment for…
John Griffin and Harold Perrineau Talk From on EPIX Season 1 Finale
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] How are we doing, #FROMily? In case you missed it this morning, the very good news is that that cliffhanger will be followed by a second season, which was gifted this morning ahead of the linear broadcast of the finale. I always legitimately appreciate when we…
Elizabeth Saunders Talks EPIX’s From
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] One of the things that makes EPIX’s From such a fun ride is the abundance of Canadian cast members. Elizabeth Saunders, who plays Donna, is a favorite from her turn on the third season of Mary Kills People [streaming on Global TV in Canada and Roku…
Corteon Moore Talks From “Broken Windows, Open Doors”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight’s episode of From had us all in our feels as we learned through flashbacks about the Sophie’s Choice Boyd had to make to save his son, and back in the present as Boyd said his piece with Ellis before heading into the woods with…
Pegah Ghafoori Talks From “All Good Things…”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode] Tonight on From, Fatima’s anniversary celebration turned into a Colony House of horrors when a misguided Kevin let his monster bae in and she promptly killed him and left the window open for her crew. While the party devolved into terror and sent everyone running,…
Shaun Majumder Talks From “Book 74”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight on EPIX’s From, Father Khatri made a bold move, kidnapping Sara instead of turning her in, and then recognizing her as a vessel for some big messages. That startling realization speaks to him on multiple levels–as a man of faith, a man trapped in…
Avery Konrad Talks About Sara’s Struggle in From “Silhouettes”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Over the course of the season so far on From, we’ve witnessed Sara’s battle against the voices telling her to to do terrible things, and tonight we saw her unravel further, threatening the Matthews and lashing out in a moment of terror with horrifying results….
Hannah Cheramy Talks From “Choosing Day”
[Warning: Spoilers for tonight’s episode.] Tonight, on EPIX’s From, the Matthews participate in the show’s version of the sorting hat, choosing where to call home–the town or Colony House. At the end of the episode, Julie makes the decision to split from her family and instead settle in with Fatima…
Ricky He Talks From “The Way Things Are Now”
[Warning: Spoilers for episode 102 of EPIX’s From.] Epix’s new series From is two episodes in and it’s already laying the groundwork for a seriously spooky season. Tonight’s episode demonstrated the careful balance of relief and horror that the show hits, with our characters’ worst fears realized, just not when…
Catching Up with Ted Lasso and Previewing Season 2
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.] The not so dirty little secret about how I approach a new series is that I sometimes make a call based on the headspace I’m in at the time. It’s been a minute since I’ve picked up a show after the first season and then binge…
What They Said: Three Revealing Conversations from Survivor’s Remorse “Closure”
WARNING: Spoilers for Survivor’s Remorse “Closure” The latest episode of Starz’s Survivor’s Remorse featured conversations that showed characters really digging deep into their thoughts, emotions and motivations.
Two Takes: The Catch “The Knock-Off”
Who can you trust? If this episode of The Catch was any indication, the answer is just about nobody. Betrayal was running rampant as Felicity (Shivani Ghai) arose from the dead to seduce-con Margot, Gretchen (Maria Thayer, Gotham, The Mindy Project) played gold-hearted Alice 2.0 before swindling Ethan, Tessa jumped…
What They Said: Top 3 Quotable Moments from Preacher “El Valero”
Both Quincannon and Jesse refuse to give up on what they each think is rightfully theirs. While Jesse is struggling to face the consequences of his actions, Quincannon has laid his past demons to rest and is hellbent on moving forward and putting Annville on the map again. Despite a…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Supergirl “Worlds Finest”
Oh, Supergirl. That ending was cold. But I can’t hate on you because the latest episode has quickly become one of my favorites.
What They Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Black Sails “XXIII”
The dialogue in “XXIII” is phenomenal. It’s always a fun ride when Black Sails carries its viewers along without giving them the chance to catch their breath. When an episode moves at this unforgiving pace, there is no chance for a breather nor is there a respite from the information…
What Lucifer Said: Favorite quotes from Supernatural “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”
Supernatural episodes are almost always funny but thanks to the dialogue and a certain man speaking said dialogue, I laughed a lot during “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” You know, when I wasn’t busy fearing for Sam’s life or wondering what in the world was going on with Dean and…
What They Said: The Flash, “Legends Of Today” and Arrow, “Legends Of Yesterday”
Two nights of Arrow +Â The Flash = what more could we ask for?! I don’t know what it is about blending these shows, but I canâ€™t help but feel that every time they come together, they somehow become greater than the sum of their parts. And thatâ€™s saying a lot…
What they Said: Top 4 Quotable Moments from Graceland “Little Bo Bleep”
Shoot outs. Fake outs. And long-awaited revelations. “Little Bo Bleep” was a jam-packed episode that wrapped up some loose ends and totally frayed others. Â It finally gave us one Sarkissian in jail and pulled back the curtain on Briggs’ master plan, but it also set up Jakes for a world…
What They Said: Favorite Quotes from Poldark “Part 4”
â€œWhat have I told you, I don’t require my wife to crochet and sip tea, but I do require her to remember she’s not a beast of burden.â€ No, Iâ€™m not talking about The Rolling Stones! I have to admit though, just for a second, the lyrics popped into my…
3 Moments of Goodness from Brooklyn Nine-Nine “Johnny and Dora”
The most satisfying part of this season’s finale has to the Jake and Amy kiss. Well, they kiss three times but the last one is the best one — and it means something. The Charles and Rosa dynamic was also great. I love how she’s convinced he doesn’t know anything…