For veteran actor Matthew Del Negro, Showtime’s “City on a Hill” was a return to his roots.
“It’s cool for me because I’m revisiting Boston in the early ‘90 — I was at Boston College from ‘90 to ‘94, so it’s a bit of a homecoming,” Del Negro, 48, told The Post.
Now going into its second season (premiering Sunday, March 28 at 10 p.m.) the crime drama is set in the criminal justice system in 1990s era Boston, centered around assistant DA Decourcy Ward (Aldis Hodge), who’s trying to clean up a bureaucracy brimming with corruption and sleazy FBI agent Jackie Rohr (Kevin Bacon), who doesn’t exactly operate by the book.
Del Negro, who’s been moved up to series regular for Season 2, plays Chris Caysen, the sergeant of the Youth Violence Strike Force — or gangs. While Season 1 centered around bank robbers in Boston’s neighborhood Charlestown, Season 2 focuses on a federal housing project in Roxbury that’s full of drug violence and inhabitants who distrust law enforcement.
“I’m the sergeant of the gang unit, and there’s a lot to do with that this season,” said Del Negro. “There are events that have happened in the last year in the real world that feel like we’re tackling them a little bit: policing, race relations. It’s really a great quality of show. It’s character-driven but also tackles some real issues. But it does it through the lens of a period piece, so it’s a little more accessible.”
To prepare for the role, Del Negro did extensive research, including watching documentaries such as “Fallen” and “Flint Town,” doing ride-alongs with cops and spending hours talking to ex-detective friends.
“That was really instrumental, because you’re not only getting the cliche of just playing the job, you’re actually meeting these guys and hearing their sense of humor and getting the vibe of what they do and how they approach it,” he said. “For every one of them that I talked to, I’d ask, ‘How do you continue to move on when there are a lot of tough days on the job?’ And for the gang unit, they’d say their job is to get guns off the streets. If you can do that, it’s a very specific task — you’re going to lose a lot of fights, but hopefully win the overall battle.
“For me it felt analogous to being an actor, where there are a lot of rough days where you go in for auditions and don’t get the role. How do you maintain that hope and keep the overall vision and purpose? So that was a bit of a jumping off point, because you could see how it would be easy for these guys to get overwhelmed.”
The prolific actor is known for appearing in host of iconic shows including “The Sopranos,” “Scandal” “The West Wing, “Teen Wolf,” and “Chicago Fire.” Although many are in the crime genre, he doesn’t have a particular affinity towards it, he said.
“I have an interest in it now that I’ve been able to play roles in that world — I think I’m probably cast based on how maybe I have a certain physical type that puts me in that world, but I haven’t sought it out. Really, the thing that will motivate me is if you can find great material and great collaborators, regardless of what the backdrop is.”
On the side of his acting, Del Negro also has a podcast called “10,000 Nos” where he’s interviewed many of his “City on a Hill” co-stars, including Kevin Bacon.
“Kevin sat down with me, and that episode will be coming out this Friday, right before the premiere of the second season. The gist of ‘10,000 NOs’ is that you have to overcome a lot of rejection to head to where you’re going.”