Junior is tangled in one complicated web of secrets. HL spoke with Shane Harper about his character’s fight to stay clean and how Junior is ‘capable’ of more than people think. Plus, watch an EXCLUSIVE preview of episode 3.
Hightown viewers instantly found a soft spot for Junior. Jackie’s best friend is 90 days clean and working to get his life back together. However, he still has secrets. Big ones, too. He’s still involved with Frankie, despite being clean, and even disposed of Sherry Henry’s body. To make matters even worse, Jackie is now looking into Sherry Henry’s murder, which just puts Junior is an even more vulnerable position.
HollywoodLife talked EXCLUSIVELY with Shane Harper about what lies ahead for Junior in the episodes ahead. As much as Junior would like to get out from under Frankie’s clutches, Shane noted that there’s an aspect of that life that is still attractive to Junior. Shane also discussed Junior’s “mental space” as he tries to stay clean while still being involved in the drug world. The actor said that relapse is never far from Junior’s mind. Read our Q&A below.
Junior was the one who dumped Sherry Henry’s body. Is there something that Frankie has on him that made him feel like he had no choice but to do that?
Shane Harper: I think what Frankie has on Junior is really just his livelihood because what he’s doing as his day job with lobster fishing and all of that is not really providing him the kind of life that he wants for him and his daughter and the woman that he loves. I think Frankie’s kind of holding that over him. Also, once you’re in, it’s so hard to get out. In the second episode, that’s what we learned. Frankie tells him that he doesn’t get to just walk away, and he’s in this. Junior doesn’t realize that he can’t just walk away, but at the same time, in episodes 3, 4, and 5 we start to figure out what kind of benefits Junior gets out of this kind of life. It starts to kind of become that there are elements to that life that Junior actually can benefit from.
Why do you think Frankie wants to continue to work with Junior, even though Junior is clean and sober? Is it just a control thing?
Shane Harper: Honestly, that’s a really good question. I think that, from my perspective, it has to do with the fact that once you’re in you can’t get out. If you do get out, you’re a liability. You’re a liability to the task force that clearly already got him [Frankie] locked up. It’s almost too volatile, right? Frankie knows that he can control Junior as well. I think it’s pretty clear in that scene they have together that he’s got him where he wants him, and Junior doesn’t have a whole lot of control. He’s not really built for the life of crime and dealing. It’s not really his thing, so he gets pushed around by pretty much everyone that he comes into contact with in that world.
Junior is on this road to recovery and seems to be doing well, for all intents and purposes, just with the sobriety aspect of it. But still being involved in that world must be very tempting. As we move forward, what kind of impact will it have on Junior staying clean if he’s still involved in the drug world?
Shane Harper: That’s a great insight. Rebecca Cutter and I talked about that a lot. He’s in such close proximity to something that he’s not that far off from. The show opens and he’s only 90 days clean. In the life of sobriety, especially when it comes to fentanyl and heroin and things of that nature, that’s really not all that long. For Junior, in his mental space, it’s always running in the back of his head that it’s just right there. Is today the day that the relapse happens? It’s really walking that kind of edge that I think was really helpful in playing the character and giving him some depth and texture. With everything he does, it’s always hovering in the back of his mind.
It’s like an itch he can’t scratch, ultimately.
Shane Harper: Exactly. But it’s also kind of getting him what he wants in life, which is upping his game financially. It’s the balance of that.
In the episode, Jackie is starting to dig for answers about Sherry and going down that rabbit hole. She tells Junior about it, so how is Junior feeling about that? Because the look on the face in the episode was one of worry.
Shane Harper: This is one of my favorite dynamics in the show. Jackie is such a good friend of Junior’s. I’ve said often in interviews that I feel like she’s almost like a sister to him. They’re familial. They’ve always been friends, and their history just goes as far back as you could imagine. My estimation is that they’re more like family. So for her to be snooping around the situation that he’s clearly involved heavily in and stuck in, if she gets too close to the fire, she’s going to get burned. It could be really dangerous. He really cares about her, so there’s so much going on there. Throughout the course of the season, she’s inching closer and closer and closer. It’s like this race to the finish line, and he’s on the other line of it going, “You don’t want to get here. You’re not going to like what you see.”
She’s newly sober, supposedly. Does Junior think she’s serious about that?
Shane Harper: I think he does in a sense, but again, he knows her so well that I think he’s expecting this cycle to repeat itself because he knows the addict cycle better than anyone. He OD’d three times on fentanyl. Junior does have a real sense and a real heart for people and what people can be and do. He believes in himself that he can be sober and stay sober. So I think almost as a friend, he would definitely be split 50/50, but I feel like a big part of him does think that she can do it because they have that conversation. He’s like, “Look, we’re the lucky ones. You’re sober now. You can do it.” But I think in the back of his head he’s going, “Oh, boy, I hope it doesn’t happen again.” But I think he is really rooting for her and feeling like maybe he could help in her process.
Junior is really trying to get back to what his life was like he got addicted, and he’s really trying to reunite with Donna. What can you say about that relationship and how he’s going to try to get his family together again?
Shane Harper: I think reuniting with his family and Donna and his daughter again is really what gives the energy to his life in everything he does. He loves them so much. But also his love for them is not really placed in the right way. It’s almost causing him to end up doing the wrong things, too. It’s kind of fascinating because he’s kind of swept up in what he thinks loving them means, which is providing a house and having certain things they don’t have. He wants to make that extra money and put them in a position where they can be comfortable financially. I think the sensitivities that he has in his life cause him to really just want to be able to earn love. He wants to feel love, and it’s hard for him because he deals with so much shame. The shame management side of addiction is really important to talk about. I think a lot of people, even if you don’t have radical addictions, I think everyone kind of knows what that shame feels like. You just want to be loved for who you are, so I think he really looks for that love in his daughter and Donna.
Shane Harper as Junior in ‘Hightown.’ (STARZ)Junior is clearly struggling with having to dump Sherry Henry’s body. However, he’s still involved with Frankie. Do you think Junior is willing to go farther than that? Do you think he’ll reach a breaking point eventually in terms of what Frankie will maybe ask of him?
Shane Harper: You’re hitting right on this character arc with Junior. When will he break and what will break him? That’s really what we’re going to find out in the season. You’re going to be rooting for him to make it and to not get broken and to finally find his way out. But I think as you’ll see, without, giving anything away, those are really the two points that you’re going to be looking for. Where’s the breaking point and what’s it going to be? I think he’s capable of more than people think.
Krista Collins is connected to Sherry Henry. You can see the wheels turning in Junior’s head for a minute when Jackie is talking about Krista. What is he thinking at that moment?
Shane Harper: He’s definitely looking around to make sure no one’s following them or paying attention. Episode 3 is about if he’s actually safe. Like I said, his daughter and the woman that he loves are the most important things in his life. With Jackie, even though she’s like family to him, is betrayal going to happen? That what’s he thinking at that moment when he brings her onto the ship. It’s a little bit of where do the loyalties lie kind of a thing. If she keeps on this trail that she’s on, like we had talked about just a little earlier, he knows this is going to be dangerous for her. Who knows how that’s going to shake out for her? Because these are obviously dangerous people. Osito just caps people like it’s no problem. Clearly, killing people is not as much of a big deal for Frankie.