Your Honor is Back for a Second and Final Season

As the series returns, its star and executive producer Bryan Cranston says that, as in life, it ain't over till it's over

Judgement day

When all was said and done on the supposedly limited series Your Honor, prominent and respected New Orleans judge Michael Desiato had lost everything: His moral compass. His career. His child. Few assumed that there was anything left to explore on creator Peter Moffat’s adaptation of the Israeli drama Kvodo, but as the series returns for a second (and final) season, its star and executive producer Bryan Cranston says that, as in life, it ain’t over till it’s over. “Michael set everything aside and became someone he was not. He lost himself,” Cranston explains. “It then occurred to me, if we end it there, it’s certainly understandable. The man is dead in so many ways. But is there life after despair? Is there any sensibility of life after grief? That intrigued me.”   

When we pick up again, months after the death of his son Adam (Hunter Doohan) and the total collapse of his life, Cranston’s character is alive in name only. Serving his prison sentence, Michael has turned into a ghostly figure, and Cranston—who transformed himself to play Walter White on Breaking Bad—has once again gone through a physical metamorphosis, this time to embody his character’s grief. “Actors do this all the time,” the Emmy winner notes. “We look for things that inform us, physically. How would you carry yourself now? I don’t think Michael would really care or even think about what is happening to his image, what people think of him. It’s not important. So, along those lines, the hair grows, my posture changes and there’s weight loss.” 

Starting from the bottom also allows for his character to experience an evolution, both physically and emotionally. “Season two has a very slow spiral upward, for lack of a better description, and it actually made me feel better about human beings and the complexity that we hold,” says Cranston. “What we want to do in any good piece of drama is to explore the human behaviour and to be as honest as we possibly can. That’s what we’re constructing in season two. And it’s not just my character.”  Your HonorCraveWith Moffat unable to join the second season, first-season staff writer Joey Hartstone now takes over as showrunner, following the map that Moffat laid out for the road ahead. For Hartstone, his personal interest lay in the repercussions that this level of despair has on a person. “What you’ll see largely are characters who, because of the circumstances of season one, are somewhat different from who you met,” says the showrunner. “When you look at Michael, the way that he thinks mentally and the way that he’s quick on his feet, that’s atrophied because of what he’s experienced. Expect to see the characters that you know, but, because they all endured such trauma in season one, it has impacted who they are and how they react.” 

Portraying Michael’s nemesis, crime boss Jimmy Baxter, Michael Stuhlbarg sees his character’s revenge storyline as an exploration of just how far people will go for those we hold dear. “One thing that I bring with me, in regards to how these characters have affected us, is how much our families mean to us, how deeply those bonds affect us individually and what happens when those bonds weaken or are taken away from us,” says the actor. “Left to our own devices, our identities can tend to get away from us as well. So, I think it is quite a shaky time for the Baxter family.” Your HonorCraveNeither Cranston nor Stuhlbarg are strangers to this type of intense role, but the blind fury these men portray on screen, says Stuhlbarg, stays right there on the soundstage. “There is a kind of purging that happens in the doing of it,” he explains. “It’s the audience who gets the brunt of everything. They have to take in all that we’re offering them, so they get most of it. For us, when you do a tragedy or something that is quite dark, there tends to be a levity around it, because you have to let that pressure out some way. And with these intense scenes that Bryan and I have been afforded to do, it is in the doing of it that it goes away.” 

In fact, the dark drama has allowed Cranston to take a closer look at his own life, and the way we as humans handle trauma. “Part of the process of dealing with tragedy or grief is to allow yourself to feel it, to truly be in it. Not try to hastily get out of that but put your arms around grief and almost welcome it, to then work through it,” he says. “The more we try to resist it, the longer it takes to process it, and it may then linger. It also may exacerbate other situations in your life. So, it’s allowing me to mature in understanding all of life and its ups and downs.” 

The second season of Your Honor premieres Sunday, January 15 on Crave1