Actor Kevin Bacon speaks about starring in City on a Hill (2019- ), a crime series set in the 1990s, where a fictional account of what is known as the Boston Miracle takes place. Bacon plays corrupt FBI veteran Jackie Rohr, who is invested in maintaining the status quo in order to salvage his dying career.
The show deals with the inner politics of Boston. Do you relate to the inner workings of a city in any way?
It’s interesting you mention that. There was a film I watched recently, City Hall (2020), which coincidentally is about Boston city politics, the inner workings of a city, what happens in the world of town council, community relations, the sanitation department, teachers and other fascinating stuff. It was on a ‘best films of 2020 list’ that I read. It was a four-and-a-half hours, very dry city politics movie that I found just fascinating, especially because it was all about Boston. My dad was the head of the city planning commission in Philadelphia where I grew up. As a kid I kind of second hand saw him trying to avoid the political side of working for the city. But it was inevitable. Even though this was in the ’90s, when you look at City on a Hill, you see a lot of who knows who, who is doing favors for whom, relationships, and everybody knows a guy that knows another guy that can help you out with something. This is a very kind of Boston thing but I think it goes on in all cities.
You directed the first episode of season 2. Was it challenging to direct as well as act?
First off, I really understand Jackie. I feel one of the great things about television is you get a chance to play a character over multiple seasons and really sit in their shoes. I feel I am at the point where you could throw me at any situation and I will be able to do that guy. That helped when I was directing, because it was easy for me to step in and out of frame and become him in a heartbeat. We had some playback so I could watch what happened, but a lot of times because of the pace of television, I almost didn’t want to waste time stepping up in front of the monitor seeing how my performance was. I’m pretty much at the point of knowing if I am getting it or if I need to do another take. I know it when I work with other directors so I would know it with myself. On the visual side, we have a fantastic DP in Joe Collins and we would have extensive talks about the way I wanted the shots to look, the gear we were using, lenses and all that stuff, and I would just count on him. So he would ask did the shot work, was it in focus, did it land in the right place? If he gave me the nod, I trusted it was going to work and that the performance was going to be there.
How have you juggled between being a full-time actor and raising two wonderful girls?
That’s a great question. My kids are 30 and 28 now. We would talk about things to say and not to say and messages we wanted to give them. With my daughter Sosie, we would say, “use your power”. I don’t know if Kyra [Sedgwick] came up with it. It was about her not becoming a shrinking violet. The research was that girls in classrooms at a certain age stop raising their hands, and boys take over. It was important for us to raise a powerful and confident young woman. So we talked a lot about her power. As that morphs through the years, it’s during the teenage years where things can go out of hand between drugs, sex, and other things. Communication has been most important to us, beyond how to communicate. If you are able to have conversations that are real, honest and exposed with each other, I think you can get through almost anything.