Riley Voelkel and Amaury Nolasco Preview Hightown, What Drew Them to the Show, & More!

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Hightown is about to be your new TV obsession. 

The new Starz drama finally gets underway this weekend, and we chatted with Riley Voelkel and Amaury Nolasco about what people can expect from the show. 

They discuss what drew them to the show, what was the most challenging about their roles, and so much more. 

riley amaury split

TV Fanatic: What drew you both to Hightown?

Riley: I think we both have been saying the writing is what initially brought us in. As soon as I read the script, I knew I had to be a part of this project. I came from a lot of world fantasy worlds with my previous characters.

And so I think I was craving as an actor to play a real person in a real world with real problems.

I immediately was drawn to the character and the script.

Amaury: I have to agree with Riley. When you find writing like this, you cannot just let it go.  This is like catching lightning in a bottle.

Riley Voelkel as Renee - Hightown

The writing is phenomenal. It's a page-turner and, listen, I hate reading, and I shouldn't say this, but I hate to read. But when you're giving me amazing writing like this, and I don't have to look at how many pages I have left.

That's when I know I have something amazing. As actors, we love to play roles like this. You know, they're flawed characters.

They're humans, and they have these layers and layers of who they are. This opportunity, you know, what can I say? It's a gift.

Both Renee and Frankie excellent characters. What did you like most about your characters?

Riley: There's a lot of things I like about Renee, like the fact that she's a survivor and she's incredibly strong and growing and was an ex-addict, who was able to wake up one day and say, that's not going to be me.

Amaury Nolasko as Frankie - Hightown

I think that's incredible that she was able to do that. But I'd say my favorite part about her is that she's a mother and that her son is her world.

And even though she's working at the club and is ultimately a single mother, she's doing what she knows and what she can to try to give her son a better life that she didn't have.

That's probably my favorite thing about her.

Amaury: You know what I like about Frankie? He's calm. There's something about him that, you know, he's in control.

He's the one moving the pieces, nothing can rattle him. Even when they try to get him rattled, he's always in control.

Riley Voelkel Attends Amazon Event

And that's what I wish I could be like sometimes. Sometimes I might have a problem come up in life, and I get rattled. 

He just takes everything in, and he acts accordingly. So that's one of my favorite qualities about him.

What did you both find the most challenging about playing these roles compared to some of your previous roles?

Riley: It was definitely opening myself up to this world that I didn't know well, playing an ex-addict, a mother, and also a dancer. 

I had no dance training. I could barely touch my toes, and I got this role, and so I went straight into coaching.

And it was this really incredible experience because even though I was terrified, I had these amazing coaches, and the other dancers on the show were so supportive and really taught me how to bring that confidence to stage as this alter ego of candy.

Riley Voelkel Smiles

It ended up being really quite empowering and a really amazing experience. No, it did not come naturally to me.

Amaury: I have to say the most challenging thing about playing Frankie was that I didn't want to play the cliche villain. He's bad.

He's evil. I wanted to play a role like that. He's a man that's very human. He can be your best friend for life. He just happens to be ruthless.

He loves his girl. He loves his kid. And as long as you don't cross the guy, he's fine. I really didn't want to fall into the trap of playing that villain. Listen, I already have a face when I'm serious that you people run away.

I'm already in prison. If I smile, I feel like I'm a charming guy. 

Amaury Nolasco

I wanted to play a guy who you would love to hate, but you would hate to love, and that was the most challenging thing to do.

You already played a prisoner on Prison Break. While Fernando Sucre was nice, Frank is nice, to an extent, so long as you don't cross him. How would you compare the two characters?

Amaury: Completely different guy. Like I said earlier, the only thing they have in common is their names. They both start with F. Frankie and Fernando.

Fernando Sucre was the loyal guy, the lovable guy to everyone, and he was like a teddy bear. He was the best friend of Michael. He was so in love with his wife or his wife to be, he was all about him and his baby girl that was about to be born.

He was just the guy that we want him as a friend. Frankie is completely the opposite, but at the same time, it comes back to your last question. I didn't want to play the guy that you can tell he's a villain, you know?

Amaury Nolasco Promotes Event

Okay. He's awful. I want him to play a guy that you might think could be Sucre. He could be Fernando, but he's not. And that's how I relate these two guys. They are completely opposite.

They could be twins. They're both in prison. One of them was, I guess, more beaten than the other one. But yeah, they're both different. They both have a little bit of me, but, uh, but clearly opposites.

So, Riley, Renee is trying to make ends meet for her son, while Frankie is imprisoned. How do you feel that affects their relationship?

Riley: I think before Frankie was in prison, Renee, she was probably fairly well taken care of. And she kind of had what could have seemed like a domestic normal family to some extent.

Now the father of her kid is in prison, he's using her to do his dirty work. She is just trying to survive and I think it kind of makes her see things differently of like, look, you're doing nothing for me anymore.

Riley Voelkel Attends EW Event

I'm doing this on my own. And it in some ways strengthens her because she can see what she's capable of as a single mother.

And in some ways, it pushes them apart a little bit because I think there's a little bit of resentment there for the fact that he's doing nothing for them while he's in prison.

That being said, I think there's still always going to be some love there and, he's promising her that he's going to get out and things are going to be different and they have a son to think about.

Hightown premieres Sunday, May 17 on Starz. 

We will have more exclusive interviews in the lead up to the premiere. Scroll down for our interview with Monica Raymund. 

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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Hightown Quotes

It's like damn, these white girls love trouble.


Therapist: So, Jackie. Why are you here?
Jackie: You know I found a dead body yesterday?
Therapist: No, I didn't know that.