“There is a right way and a wrong way to get justice,” says Jerrika Hinton’s Millie Morris to Logan Lerman’s Jonah in a pivotal scene in Amazon’s Hunters.
Everyone in Hunters underestimates Millie. When she investigates a crime scene, other cops second-guess her hypotheses and her direct boss at the FBI gives her an assignment to get her out of his hair. She continually has to fight a traditional boys’ club just to do her job.
Hinton embodies Millie with a quiet resilience and you can’t take your eyes off of her. For almost this entire first season, she has to work alone because it feels like no one else at the FBI wants to help take these bastards down. In her personal life, she has to keep people at a distance because she can’t let anyone know that she’s in a relationship with a woman.
Because Millie is a queer woman of color, she has to fight every step of the way for everything in her life. Hinton infuses her with such a devout faith in the system that it makes you want to fight alongside her. Can you be as tough as Millie Morris?
Awards Daily: This show blows my mind.
Jerrika Hinton: That’s great!
AD: My husband and I watched together, and at the end of every episode, he would turn to me and say, “What…are we watching?”
JH: (Laughs) He was like, “I can’t with this show!”
AD: How does Millie deal with people underestimating her at every turn?
JH: Isn’t that the way of the world sometimes? Let me see specifically about Millie. In some ways, it’s just the way of the world to her, you know what I mean? It’s frustrating but it’s that thick skin that she’s learned to develop. She’s had to evolve and create a thick skin in order to survive and carve a place for herself in these environments where she feels like she doesn’t belong. I will pontificate now. (Laughs)
AD: Please do.
JH: That’s par for the course when you’re a person of color. That’s par for the course when you’re a black face in white spaces. That’s par for the course when you’re a queer person period. It’s just an unfortunate part of living this life. Let me get back to how she deals with it. She holds onto the belief that if she could just prove herself, she would be accepted. She works twice as hard as the saying goes. She doesn’t take no for an answer. And she’s stubborn as hell.
AD: People just casually do it to her.
JH: Oh, yeah.
AD: You’re in the toy store at the crime scene and you’re the first person to bring up the notion that there’s more than one person responsible for this crime. The other cop immediately questions it. He’s like, “Well…it might be…” It’s maddening.
JH: Let’s also not forget that she’s a woman!
AD: Of course!
JH: There’s also that. It’s painful. I love that you asked that and that you catch these things. It’s 50/50 whether someone in the audience sees how she’s underestimated. What do we call that now? Microaggressions. There wasn’t a word for that back then. It was just a frustrating fucking thing you had to deal with. It was just an annoyance. Now we have the language to call things what they are.
AD: I wanted to talk about Millie’s faith. We see Travis follow Millie into a church early on, but I love that it’s prevalent throughout the season.
JH: Me, too.
AD: Is her faith being tested? She has to think of that core belief system as she is seeing this horrible stuff over and over again. There’s even a moment before you go into the apartment that Millie shares with Maria and she holds the necklace around her neck like she’s consulting it almost.
JH: God doesn’t put more on us that we can bear.
AD: Talk to me about her faith.
JH: I also love that it’s such a strong through line in the season. You asked if she was being tested, but I never thought that her faith was tested. It’s difficult to be a believer and I am being called to something higher and the road is going to be rough. I think she’s being called to evolve her faith personally.
AD: Oh, wow. That’s so interesting.
JH: She never renounces it. I am thinking about it specifically from her trying to figure out how to make peace with her sexuality and the church. When I think about it from that angle, she loves God and yet she is told that she’s a sinner and she’s going to hell. She can look around and see that the church is full of contradictions—even in her family. Her mother is a believer but is gentler towards her. Her father is stern towards her. How can these things coexist? In the way that Logan [Lerman]’s character is having his own teenage coming of age, Millie is having her own parallel coming of age story. She’s being called to look at things in a more complicated way than the binary, black-and-white that she sees the two.
JH: The church tells her that she’s an abomination and yet she still knows her heart and has been able to find love. And she’s trying to do good. Something isn’t jiving there, you know what I mean?
JH: She’s being called to evolve her understanding of faith and develop her relationship with God within that. It has to be murkier than what she was taught, and she’s trying to figure out how to live that.
AD: I always find it so fascinating when there are characters that struggled with that. I didn’t grow up with religion and I didn’t have that struggle of merging my faith with my identity. I’ve seen it in friends and witnessed it. From my perspective, there are aspects about religion that are black and white but they never actually can be. It makes it more complicated.
JH: It’s way more interesting. (Laughs) I remember growing up and my parents are Christian, but I didn’t grow up going to church. They started going when I was in high school. It was this new thing and I was trying to be on board with it, but I’d ask these questions of my parents and whatever leaders were around. Mostly my parents. I’d ask questions to try and make sense of things, but the answers always fell short. I just didn’t understand and I remember being very, very confused. I knew in my heart that what was being said, wasn’t the truth. Or how we qualify truth. There is that piece of my own history that can find empathy of Millie and that avenue of her life.
AD: Why does Millie believe in the system so much?
JH: Oh, man. (Laughs)
AD: There’s a scene near the end of the season where Millie talks Jonah down from shooting Travis. There’s this goodness radiating from Millie that made me think of how she believe in justice and the right way of doing things. She does believe in the system, right?
JH: She does. It’s questionable by the end of the season. Fundamentally, she believe in structure. Way back in the beginning when I was making journals for her and did all these ridiculous things that are part of my process (Laughs)…one of the things that made sense to me about her early on is how she needs to be needed. She wants to be something meaningful in the world. These things together work to create a sense of drive that is fueled by pride and purpose. She finds pride in doing good. She finds pride in working withing systems that are perceived to do good. You see that in her Catholicism and you see that working for the government in the bureau. So there’s that. I think also, for some people, when you grow up with a very fragmented sense of self, the sense of structure is so important in finding their way in the world.
AD: That makes so much sense.
JH: It’s not that way for everybody, but some people must dedicate themselves to give themselves to lean on. Something reliable to lean on. I think all of that provides scaffolding for how she perceives the actions of others.
AD: The scene you have with Travis in the prison is one of the scariest things I’ve ever seen. It’s chilling. It’s one of the ways that the show connects to today’s world.
AD: What was it like to film that scene? You don’t say a lot in that scene.
JH: I like being a receiver. Scenes like that—where I am asked to respond and be there in the moment to receive what I am given—you sometimes don’t get a release. I remember being a little more tired that day. Let’s not forget, though, that this shit is fun for us. (Laughs) When Greg [Austin] gets to be creepy as hell, I’m always like, “Dude…more!” It’s like a drug. I love the dark stuff, and I love the lighthearted things. It’s such a treat.
AD: You were talking about parents earlier. Millie’s father is much more stern, but her mother says to her, “I know the rhythms of your heart.” That’s such a lovely moment in this series with big ideas. Millie isn’t there for her mother when she passes. How do you think Millie will go forward with her dad?
JH: Oh, dude. I don’t even know, Joey. Honestly. Let’s not forget that this was a different time. If I were Millie in 2020 with all the resources available to us like therapy, it might be different. Children are always going to love their parents, but it’s a two-way street. If I couldn’t have a respectful relationship with him, I couldn’t pursue that. But that’s 2020. If we are going to be realistic, it’s going to be torturous. If we are going to remember that this is the late ‘70s. She still has her younger siblings in the house and that’s an important part of her life. She likes to be connected with her family. Unless her father cuts her off, Millie won’t cut that cord. I just don’t see him growing in that big of a way.
AD: There is that second where he sees Millie holding Maria’s hand in the hospital.
JH: Yeah. He’s so disdainful. He could have his own come-to-Jesus moment, but I’d argue that if it does happen, he has to do all the work. It’s never on the maligned, never on the outsider.
AD: Even though she is stubborn, she would be willing to cross that bridge if it happened.
JH: Oh, yeah.
AD: She has an open enough heart that I don’t think she’d turn him away.
AD: We leave your character with a cool question mark. Elizabeth Handelman says, “A black woman and a Jewish broad…it’s the stuff of Nazi’s nightmares.” This could be the first Hunters spin-off.
JH: (Laughs) What would we call it?
AD: That’s a great question! I’ll have to think about that. What are you hoping will be in the second season? Even on the suggestion of that last episode?
JH: Do you watch RuPaul’s Drag Race, by any chance?
AD: …were you going to say Teets & Asky?
JH: I was going to say Teets & Asky!
AD: I swear to god that was the first thing that popped into my head. I swear!
JH: That’s what I want.
AD: The world needs it.
JH: One of the things that I told David [Weil] and who knows if it’s going to happen. One, because the world is how it is, and two, because it’s his show.
JH: Other than the government conspiracy of it all…where we leave her in terms of her personal development and her coming out and being a little less fragmented in that way, I think it would be fucking amazing if Millie went through a fuckboy phase.
JH: Truly. Really exploring what she likes. For all intents and purposes, for how it’s portrayed in the show, Millie shacked up with the first person. She never thought about the deeper connection in how to make a relationship work. I would love to see her explore that. When you are discovering pieces of yourself, it’s not always clean. It’s often messy, and I would love to see how she deals with that.
Hunters is available to stream on Amazon.