Bryan Cranston Is On Both Sides Of The Law In Showtime’s ‘Your Honor’

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Bryan Cranston as Michael Desiato in YOUR HONOR. Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/SHOWTIME.

By Kate Hahn

Award-winning actor Bryan Cranston is an expert at playing men whose desperation leads them to fall from grace. In the new 10-part Showtime legal thriller Your Honor (Sunday), he is another father on the edge: a respected, ethical New Orleans judge, Michael Desiato, whose teen son Adam (Hunter Doohan) is involved in a deadly hit-and-run that kills another youth, a mafia scion. Michael believes the vengeful crime family will murder both him and Adam if they learn who was responsible, so he orchestrates a coverup. Things go south fast. We talked to the actor about why he’s drawn to playing flawed humans; where this suspenseful, danger-tinged story is headed; and how he and his loved ones are coping in our challenging times.

Why did you want to play Michael Desiato?
Bryan Cranston: What all the characters I’ve been attracted to have in common is a struggle: They’re attempting to do the right thing, but they have ambitions of their own. Walter White, Dalton Trumbo [from the 2015 film Trumbo; a blacklisted screenwriter during the 1950s Red Scare], Lyndon Johnson [Cranston played the 36th U.S. president on Broadway in All the Way and later in the HBO movie adaptation]: They’re flawed humans with strengths and weaknesses, secrets and pain — and some joy mixed in. Michael grapples with his oath of office and the private oath he took when he became a parent, to protect his child.

You have a child. Did you feel any personal agony over this story?
Any parent would relate. Once you have kids, there’s something outside of yourself much more important. I’ve asked people, “Would you become a criminal to protect your child’s life?” Without hesitation they say, “Absolutely.” When I ask, “Would you take another person’s life?” there’s a line. Where your moral line is — that’s what makes this story so attractive.

What research did you do to play a judge?
I spent a lot of time in New Orleans, in and around the courthouse where we’re shooting. I would sit in on a trial, an arraignment, jury selection. Judge Franz Zibilich mentored me. He was instrumental in helping me shape the approach [to the character] from a legal and a human standpoint. You can have legal compassion for [the people who come through your courtroom], but devoting emotion toward that, case after case after case, will bring you down.

The pandemic interrupted shooting and you also had COVID yourself. Have you been reflecting on that?
I had COVID in March. I got it from my wife Robin; she was surprised she had it. We managed. When we talk to other people, ours was comparatively very mild. I have several people who are 20 or 30 years younger than me who had it far worse.

Social distancing is going to make the holiday season very different this year. What are the Cranstons doing?
We’re going to say a lot of prayers. Millions of people are unemployed, homeless, hungry. Let’s forgo the present-giving and give back to our society. We’ll have a Christmas tree, because the smell of pine evokes warmth and hearth and home, but exchanging presents feels wrong. Robin and I will make donations to food banks, and things of that nature.

You are directing the season finale of Your Honor. What can you hint about it?
It will shock you. Michael Desiato attempts to become someone that he’s not, and any time someone compromises their soul, there is a price to be paid.