It takes a certain type of actor to go toe to toe with Bryan Cranston, and Hunter Doohan is afforded many opportunities to do just that in Showtime’s limited series, Your Honor. Cranston is an actor who is known for his thunderous screen presence, but Doohan is the volatile, emotional component to the show. The performances complement each other so well but Doohan wrenches your heart in this star-making turn.
Your Honor‘s first episode features a grisly crime in the first half hour. Doohan’s Adam Desiato leaves the scene of a hit-and-run and his father, a judge, goes to extraordinary lengths to cover Adam’s tracks. It is a series that explores privilege and power without explicitly expressing it in the dialogue. The actions of the characters speak for themselves. Adam is dealing with the anniversary of his mother’s death and it forces the viewer to question whether they would make the same choices that Adam makes when the stakes are so high.
Doohan connects with his character’s actions so implicitly that he puts us in his shoes. That bottled up frustration–that dangerous combination of fear and guilt–is so riveting to watch and it’s painted all over Doohan’s expressive face.
*This interview contains some spoilers*
Awards Daily: This show is wild. Some shows would buckle under the weight of everything but this show keeps everything going.
Hunter Doohan: Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say that.
AD: In the first episode, you get this long, almost wordless sequence when the major incident happens. You have to do a lot of heavy lifting alone. I imagine it was incredibly exhausting.
HD: It was exhausting but it was so much. I remember that Edward Berger showed me the initial cut of that scene and it’s pretty much as it is in the show. It was 7 or 8 minutes long and I couldn’t believe we stay with it for as long as we do. It’s so gruesome and hard to watch. I think that grounds the show because it forces you to look at this kid dying and you feel like you’re there. I love how Ed directed it. I have to praise Peter Moffatt because it’s about three pages of action lines. Everything that happened as scripted.
AD: Oh wow.
HD: That was probably the most difficult part of the show for me. The first thirty minutes of the pilot, I basically have no dialogue and Adam makes so many decisions that set up the action of the series. I desperately wanted to play that authentically so you could track every thought and every decision even when they are terrible decisions. It was about 105 degrees in New Orleans so some things we could only do one time. They had to water down the pavement because it was getting so hot. It was so much fun. I hate to say it was challenging because I’m not down in a coal mine. We are lucky to be doing what we do.
AD: As an audience member, I kept wondering how I would react if I was placed in the same circumstances. He was in an area where his mother was killed and he’s all alone. I also kept having vocal reactions when I saw some of the things your character does. I did yell, ‘What are you doing?!’ at my TV a few times.
HD: My brother texted me when he was watching episode three and Adam is going around and taking pictures. He was like, ‘I’m 12 minutes in. Can you be more of a dumbass?’
AD: You never want to judge a character for what they do, but at the same time, Adam is in this really messed up headspace. There are a lot of things that Adam does that raised my eyebrow. How did you not judge Adam?
HD: A lot of actors say that you’re not supposed to or allowed to judge the person you’re playing. So maybe I’m totally wrong here. Adam is not an idiot. He knows what he’s done is so wrong. He hates how many people get wrapped into it. Adam is judging himself so that was a way into it for me. He never thinks he is getting away with it so I luckily didn’t have to justify it in that way. To me, Adam is judging everything he’s doing and hates himself.
AD: What does he think of what his father is doing? Of course, there is the constant theme of ‘a parent doing anything for their child’ that we see all the time, but I was kind of taken aback by how much composure Michael has as he does all this.
HD: Those are my favorite scenes to shoot. Bryan and I got to go up against each other. We see things totally differently. He’s a judge and he’s very pragmatic and from an audience point of view, that might be everything he needs to do. Adam caused all of this and he’s so emotional and volatile. Bryan’s character lies to me sometimes and that starts to bubble up in the second episode. He never wants to use his mom’s death as an excuse. He hates that Michael had the car stolen and now this other 17 year old is brought into it. In episode four, Kofi Jones dies and Michael says it has nothing to do with us. The less you talk about it, the more you can convince yourself it never happened. For Adam, it will never be that way. He shuts down around his dad and that causes more problems. One of my favorite scenes was the fight between Bryan and I after that crazy dinner in episode four. That’s the first time Adam articulated what’s in his head.
AD: That’s a great scene.
HD: Thank you.
AD: You brought up the character of Kofi Jones, and I was curious how much you talked about privilege and status. Because it’s not explicit in the dialogue but a Black family pays the price of what a white family does to get Adam off the hook for a crime.
HD: We absolutely did. That’s one of the most important themes of the show for me. They did a beautiful job of exploring of exploring systematic racism and white privilege, especially Adam’s privilege. I love that you mentioned that it’s not spelled out in the dialogue because Peter and the other writers weren’t going into it to try and teach a lesson. I don’t think people tune in to dramas like this to be taught to, but I do think people want to see stories that take place in the real world. And in the here and now to reflect the struggles and stories that we talk about. Everything that happens isn’t a fantasy. These are things that happen and this is a great example of white privilege when you look at it as Adam’s story versus Kofi’s story. He’s not necessarily aware of his privilege but he doesn’t need to be aware of it to yield it.
AD: Yeah, an unconscious aggression.
HD: It doesn’t feel like an intention thing, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there. All the stuff Adam and Michael get away with is a reflection of the real world.
AD: How much do you think Adam wants to get caught?
HD: On some level, he does. It becomes more and more complicated, and it’s kind of like how one lie leads to another lie. You can’t admit to any of it without getting other people involved. Now it’s not just Adam’s life on the line, so in a way he does but he’s too far in. It’s the constant inner battle that comes out in small ways. I think Peter does a really great job of giving us these private moments with our characters. I loved that we got to see Adam alone and becoming obsessed with Rocco and Googling him. In episode three, there’s that dance sequence in the dark room and that’s the total physical representation of everything he’s feeling. It cuts to him there alone–not listening to music–and he’s trying to keep a lid on it.
Your Honor is available to watch on Showtime Anytime and other streaming platforms.