TV Viewpoint: Your Honor

Bryan Cranston charms Tubridy before exploring the underbelly of New Orleans

THE latest in the of a series of celebrities dialling in via Zoom for a ten-minute interview with Ryan Tubridy from the comfort of their home was Bryan Cranston, who had a pleasant chat with the talk-show host on last Friday’s Late Late Show.

The actor was on to discuss his new drama, Your Honor (American spelling deliberate), in which he plays a judge in New Orleans. His character’s honest, upstanding morals are questioned when a terrible accident occurs involving his son and that of a local gangster.

The interview, ostensibly to promote the programme, which began on Sky Atlantic on Tuesday, revealed the actor to be, predictably, a very nice chap, open and amenable to discussing the complex issues of how far a parent will go to protect their child, and also more unique subject matter, namely who gave more blood platelets to medical research after their Covid-19 recovery last year, him or Tom Hanks?

Despite proclaiming to not being all that bothered or moved by awards shows, or other responsibilities that come with being a working actor in Hollywood, there was a lot of give in his conversation with Tubridy, even volunteering the obligatory Irish fawning (he loves the Emerald Isle and is dying to return to visit his ancestral home of Armagh) before the interviewer even had to ask for it.

The actor who made anti-hero Walter White a television icon in Breaking Bad was nominated, for a Golden Globe in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Limited Series, Anthology or TV Movie category for his new role in Your Honor, but lost out on Sunday evening to Mark Ruffalo.

Your Honor

However, on watching the first episode of the show it was obvious why he at least got the nod. His performance as Justice Michael Desiato is measured and controlled, convincingly portraying a man who wants true justice to be served, except when rules can be bent for family.

The story begins from three different viewpoints; a young man drives to what appears to be a rough part of town, to lay a photograph of a woman and flowers by the wall of a convenience store, another young man gleefully speeds through the neighbourhood on a brand-new motorbike, presented to him earlier on by his affluent father, and a hooded jogger stops by a ramshackle house, his intentions unclear as to why.

It’s a good set-up; we later learn that the jogger is the esteemed judge, off to do some research of his own before the sentencing of a woman brought before his court on drugs charges. This unconventional approach aims to show that this judge is not your average lawmaker, but one who will go above and beyond to ensure everyone gets a fair and accurate trial.

The man laying the photographic tribute is his son who, spooked by hostile locals takes off in his beat-up car, suffers an asthma attack and in grappling for his inhaler is distracted and ploughs into the motorcyclist at speed.

He is appalled, and the scene that plays out afterwards is genuinely harrowing, and could probably have come with a warning to viewers beforehand. It becomes very clear, very quickly that there is nothing to be done for the other young man, whose injuries seem far too serious to have any chance of recovering from.

What follows is the set up for the rest of the series; a devasted and dangerous father who is out for reputation versus a morally compromised father who, once getting the wheels in motion, has no choice but to spin and increasingly complicated web of corruption.

It’s an interesting premise, and in capable hands – the series was developed by Peter Moffat, who brought legal dramas Silk and The Night Of to the BBC, and it is executive produced by Michelle and Robert King, the duo behind The Good Wife.

But I was struck by how “white” the cast is, at least in the first episode, particularly as it’s set in New Orleans, where 60% of the population is African-American. The Black characters involved are the threatening neighbourhood gang, the poor family being victimised in Desiato’s courtroom and one jolly friend of the judge, whose role will hopefully be expanded in later episodes.

Still, I’d like to see where it goes, and if Cranston’s Michael Desiato can live up to his meth-making predecessor as a character for the ages.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on 03 03 21

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