Atkins Estimond talks ‘Hightown,’ culture and Corona Quarantine Jam Sessions

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Atkins Estimond, best known for his work on Dumb and Dumber To and AMC’s Lodge 49, is exploring a grittier character in Starz’s Hightown.  

“I’m really proud of the show. I’m glad to be a part of it… I’ve never booked a role like Osito, not even anything remotely close to a villain or a bad guy or anything that dark. That was initially something that kind of drew me to the role, the challenge of it,” said Estimond on his new bad boy role. “He (Osito) is essentially a hitman for this organization that’s moving drugs from Cape Cod. As you can tell, he’s a kind of a bad guy, a very dangerous guy, but there is some humanity to him, there’s some heart there. He’s not just the monster and as the series goes on, you kind of discover some of that humanity, it peeks out at moments. It’s not something that is in abundance, but it is there.”

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Estimond hardly seems like the bad guy type which is a testament to his acting skills, luckily he didn’t try method acting when preparing to play Osito.

“I can’t just go hang out with drug dealers or murder someone so to prepare, I had to really start with his humanity and kind of backtrack and start with who he was before he became the sort of dark person that he is currently,” said Estimond. “I feel like once you get on set and you’re actually holding the gun and you’re walking around in the character’s actual skin a bit, some of those elements that you aren’t really able to research, kind of come to life.” 

Estimond is proud of his Haitian descent and was able to incorporate his heritage with Osito’s Dominican background.

“After I found out that I booked the role, I had a conversation with Rebecca Cutter, who’s the creator and executive producer of the show, and I brought up the fact that I’m Haitian and that Haiti and the Dominican Republic are on the same island so it wouldn’t be in any way a stretch for him to be both backgrounds. We were able to make that work and I really appreciate that because for me, as an actor being of Haitian descent, I want to be able to bring more of that to the screen and to the industry in general,” said Estimond. “Another thing that I really appreciate about this project is that Alan Saintille, who is played by Dohn Norwood, is also Haitian, so you have both sides being portrayed from the culture. Whereas you may have more of what might be considered a more negative portrayal on my side of things, you also have the positive side where Dohn is your hard-working family man who’s trying to do the right thing.”

Estimond also hopes that by increasing his visibility onscreen, he can inspire more Haitians to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and to educate people about Haiti and its rich culture.

“Growing up as a kid, there were maybe a handful of Haitian actors that I could recall seeing on the screen and I feel like a lot of what we take in through media informs how we see other people, and I feel like the average person either doesn’t know anything about Haiti or has a negative idea about Haiti. So, one major way to change that is to have more honest and real portrayals of Haitian people in Haitian culture and media. So being able to be on television and be visible as a Haitian actor is huge for me,” said Estimond. 

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Like everyone else during this pandemic, Estimond has some extra time on his hands. In addition to being an actor, he’s also a musician and has been devoting time to get back to music.

“I have been doing what I like to call the ‘Corona Quarantine Jam Session.’ And I just post songs to my story- I play guitar and I’ve taken requests… I think for anyone who’s a creative, you kind of need an outlet and that was an outlet for me. And it’s really been nice because I had not been playing like I was back when I was in a band, I just kind of had put music aside for a little bit. So, having all this time available to me I was like ‘well let me get back into it’ and it’s actually been really nice,” said Estimond who loves playing rock music but says he’ll switch it up every now and then with some Britney Spears.

Hightown premieres tomorrow night at 8 p.m. on Starz.

“I gotta say this show is such a ride. Rebecca Cutter really put together an amazing story and the cast is so talented and so good. I’m excited for people to see the whole thing. I mean obviously I have my episodes that I really think are great and that I think that my character shines in but I’ve had a chance to see the whole thing and I’m just in love with it,” said Atkins. “As far as a crime drama or cop drama goes, I feel like Hightown kind of explores it in a way that I haven’t seen done before. The themes of addiction and recovery and the opioid epidemic, I feel is taken from a different lens and a different approach. They show the effect it has on people in the community and how hard it is to kind of get out of that once you’re in it, it’s such an exciting show… I’m really excited for people to get to dive into the world of Hightown.”