Jill Hennessy can’t give many details in advance, but she vows that the third season of “City on a Hill” takes her — and viewers — on a wild ride.
The Boston-set Showtime series starts its latest round of early-1990s drama Sunday, July 31 (after getting a digital debut two days earlier), with the actress’ traumatic-past-plagued character Jenny Rohr experiencing more personal shifts as her ex-FBI-agent husband Jackie (Kevin Bacon) starts overseeing security for a rich family. Meanwhile, Assistant District Attorney DeCourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge) steps up his efforts to reform the city’s justice system, which his defense-lawyer wife Siobhan Quays (Lauren E. Banks) runs up against with her latest case.
“This character has been a gift,” Hennessy says of Jenny, “especially in what might come off at first glance as a typical, male-driven crime drama. To play such a fractured yet vaguely heroic person is such a joy. Then to work with Kevin Bacon, he’s such a generous and fascinating actor. You just know you’re going to have fun passing the ball back and forth with him, in an acting sense.”
In Season 3, notes Hennessy, Jenny “hits a few of her glass ceilings, shall I say, and manages to break through some of them. In one story line, she confronts somebody — I hesitate to name the person — and things sort of get out of control. There’s an unpredictable sort of final grace note that I think is necessary for her. And a curveball halfway through the season throws Jenny for a loop.”
“Law & Order” and “Crossing Jordan” alum Hennessy enjoys exchanging ideas with “City on a Hill” executive producer Tom Fontana (“Oz,” “Homicide: Life on the Street”) and the show’s writers. She deems them “so receptive, and they’re always coming up with really brilliant, outside-the-box dialogue and plots and character arcs. It would be much easier to be complacent, but this is one of the best jobs I’ve ever had.”
Though the first season of “City on a Hill” used actual Boston locations extensively, the series has done considerable New York filming in Staten Island and Yonkers since. Also a singer, Hennessy has mastered a Boston accent for the show, and a very particular one.
“You read the dialogue and you go back to the set and it all falls into place,” she maintains. “When I first got the character, I assumed she was from the (city’s) North End. I tried to look up videos of people from that era at that time, because dialects and accents change, not only by neighborhood but by time period. I really wanted to go specific with the accent Jenny would have been raised with in her formative years.”