Created by Chuck MacLean, Showtime’s ‘City on a Hill‘ is a riveting drama series that revolves around John “Jackie” Rohr (Kevin Bacon), an unscrupulous F.B.I. agent, and DeCourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), an idealist assistant district attorney. In the first season, Ward realizes who Jackie truly is but is forced to join forces with him to take down a notorious group of criminals robbing armored trucks. In later seasons, the story expands, encompassing drug trade, institutional racism, and battling the elite class. If you are wondering where and when ‘City on a Hill’ takes place, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Where Is City on a Hill Set?
‘City on a Hill’ is set in Boston, Massachusetts. Actors Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, both native Bostonians, serve as executive producers on the series. At least the first season of the series bears some resemblance with ‘The Town,’ the 2010 film directed by Affleck. It is also set in Boston and about a group of robbers from the working-class, Irish Charlestown neighborhood. Affleck told The New York Times that the development of ‘City on a Hill’ stemmed from the extensive research he did for ‘The Town.’ The film didn’t match up to the scale and depth of his research, so he utilized the considerable leftover to develop the show.
Although ‘City on a Hill’ draws significantly from real life, it’s ultimately a work of fiction, and that’s true for its two main characters. Ward is reportedly based on Ralph C. Martin, the African American district attorney who served in Suffolk County between 1992 and 2002, and several other prosecutors. As for Jackie, he is supposed to be a loose amalgamation of F.B.I. agents H. Paul Rico, John Connolly, and Dennis Condon.
When the first season premiered, Affleck stated that the series would focus on different neighborhoods in different seasons. ‘City on a Hill’ has kept true to this concept. After spending the inaugural season in Charlestown, the show moves to Roxbury in season 2. In the third season, it comes to the affluent Beacon Hill.
When Is the City on a Hill Set?
The show begins in 1992. At the start of season 3, a conversation between Ward and boss, Guy Dan, reveals that the 1994 district attorney election will be held in over six months. So, it’s safe to assume that it’s still 1993 at the beginning of the third season.
The series begins with a text prologue mentioning the real-life Charles Stuart case. In 1989, Stuart reportedly killed his wife for insurance money and blamed an African-American man. Eventually, Stuart’s brother confessed, which culminated in Stuart’s death by suicide.
The pilot episode of the show was filmed in Boston, but after that, the production moved to New York. The main reason for this is that Beantown has undergone drastic changes since 1992, and many landmarks that made up the city three decades earlier don’t exist any longer.
MacLean and his team developed ‘City on a Hill’ as an unflinching depiction of 1990s Boston. Jackie is supposed to represent the city’s tumultuous past, whereas Ward, with his determination to clean up the justice system from within, represents the future. Despite the colossal difference between these two characters, they often end up becoming reluctant collaborators. Interestingly, each of these collaborations changes the characters fundamentally. While Ward learns to compromise, Jackie is reminded of his idealist younger self.