‘Hunters’ Star Jerrika Hinton Gave Herself Permission To Say No
Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/WireImage

Amazon’s latest original series, Hunters, is a thrilling new drama about a rag-tag group of Nazi Hunters who discover an organization of high-ranking Nazi officials conspiring to create the Fourth Reich in the US.

Set in late-70s New York City, the series, created by David Weil and executive produced by Jordan Peele, features an incredible cast including Al Pacino, Tiffany Boone, Ebony Obsidian, and Jerrika Hinton, who plays FBI agent Millie Malone.

Hinton, who previously starred on Grey’s Anatomy and most recently Apple TV’s Servant, says securing the role of Millie was the “typical audition story,” but her turn on the Amazon series came after the actress spent time really considering the roles she wanted to tackle.

“I feel like I was in this stage of giving myself permission to say no, which is not a thing that it often feels like you can do when you’re an actor,” Hinton told ESSENCE. “You feel like, especially if you come from a blue-collar background, my parents raised me to just work. You work, you make money, you pay bills, and that’s what’s important. I was taking a step back and just evaluating things and saying no to a lot.”

Photo by Robb Klassen/Makeup by Mylah Morales

The actress says it was a huge decision for her and that, fortunately, she’d saved enough to be able to turn down roles. However, that didn’t stop panic from setting in. Soon, Hinton developed a system to determine which jobs she wanted to tackle, describing it as a “rubric for evaluating work.”

“Let’s say level one is four points. If it hit two out of the four on level one, then that’s not an automatic yes but it goes to level two. And level two has five points. If it hits three out of the five, then I say yes.”

It seems Hunters made it through the levels.

Hinton describes her character Millie as someone who “sees things in a very binary way.” For Millie, things are black and white with no shades of gray. There are good guys and bad guys and no in-between.

“I had deep empathy for is how she really does want the world to make sense. She’s a government worker, she works for the FBI, and she is a devout Catholic even in her adulthood. So this isn’t somebody that’s abandoned religion. Those elements together right off the bat told me a lot about her. She’s a person that places deep faith in institutions and believes that these institutions will guide and protect and that they deserve our respect. And, possibly on some level, believes these institutions are infallible. That says a hell of a lot about who she is.”

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Viewers also get a sense of who Millie is through her wardrobe and hair, which Hinton discussed with hair and makeup and wardrobe teams when building her character.

“When we did hair and makeup tests, they presented me with about maybe four or five wigs. Some long, some short, some shorter than the ones that we see, different haircuts. One wig was full-on Farrah Fawcett. And out of those choices, this one really did feel the most Millie. Millie isn’t going to have long hair. She’s worked in law enforcement for a number of years, at the time that was a part of the criteria to be in the FBI. And she’s working for an agency where she’s one of the first.”

Hinton continued, “Wardrobe was also figuring out how much of the boys’ club stuff does she feel burdened by. When John [Dunn], our costume designer, and I were having initial conversations about her wardrobe, I felt very clear that she’s not a skirt suit kind of girl. That’s not who she is. She’s a pantsuit woman. However, she’s not a masculine pantsuit woman. There were some options that we went through that felt a bit more masculine than others and I was like, ‘It’s not this.’ There’s still a level of comfort that she has in herself and her appearance but because she is a trailblazer, she’s burdened with having to consider all of these things at once. Which a lot of us who are black women, who are professionals, who are any number of things, we understand having to navigate all of those spaces and consider more things than other people may have to.”

Millie is a curious, ambitious FBI agent, which means in the world of Hunters, she’s likely to run into some trouble. And as the drama and thrills build in each episode of season one, sooner or later, Mille’s definitions of good and bad may have to change.

Asked how she thinks her character may evolve if Amazon greenlights the series for a second season, Hinton says, “Millie’s journey in the first season is, in the same way that Jonah’s [Logan Lerman] character is going through his own coming of age story, so is Millie. Albeit in a different way and later in life. My wish for her, if there is a second season, now that she has a veil lifted, you can’t go back. So I’m really curious about how deep down the rabbit hole she goes. How dark does it get for her? Once she starts using a little gray and shading that moral code, how messy does it all get?”

“I also kept joking with David [Weil], I was like, ‘You’ve got Millie in all these suits in episode one. How about we put her in a roller disco?’ That’s what I want to see. I want to be in hot pants and roller skates.”

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