Awards Daily looks at some of the crafts behind Showtime’s Your Honor to reveal some of the things you didn’t know about the making of the limited series.
In Your Honor, Bryan Cranston stars as a respected New Orleans judge facing the ultimate moral dilemma—turn your son (Hunter Doohan) in for murder and face retaliation from the biggest mob boss (Michael Stuhlbarg) in town, or keep quiet and violate the justice system you swore to uphold and protect. The Peter Moffat-created 10 part series is crafted like a dream marring together a gritty crime drama and a whip-smart legal thriller— all unfolding in pulse-pounding fashion.
We spoke to members of the Your Honor crafts team to find out how they brought it all together, including:
Edward Berger, Director
Volker Bertelmann, Composer
James Friend, Cinematographer
Lauren Grey, Casting Director
Scott P. Murphy, Production Designer
David Wyman, Production Sound Mixer
Here are some of the best behind-the-scenes tidbits we discovered about Your Honor:
1. Michael Stuhlbarg was casting director Lauren Grey’s first choice for the role of Jimmy Baxter.
A common thread among Your Honor‘s crafts team was finding ways to subvert expectations.
“We were really cognizant from the beginning that if you leaned into the whole Italian thing, it’s something you’ve seen a million times before, said casting director Lauren Grey. It was much more interesting to go into a different pool of people.
To play Jimmy Baxter, a grieving father, and Cranston’s central foe, they turned to veteran character actor Michael Stuhlbarg.
“He was the first person I thought of,” says Grey. I just fell in love with the idea, and luckily, he was able to do it.”
Stuhlbarg’s reserved demeanor was perfect for the slow, simmering tension director Edward Berger was looking for.
“Michael is a very quiet guy, and he’s not very physically imposing, but it felt like, with this quiet menace, he could present a very different kind of danger that we could all be frightened off,” Berger said. “I think he has a very frightening look in his eyes that gives me chills.
2. Your Honor‘s cast features a mix of A-Listers and fresh faces in prominent roles.
With Cranston, Stuhlbarg, and Hope Davis in lead roles and supporting appearances by the likes of Margo Martindale, Carmen Ejogo, Maura Tierney, and others, the casting team relied on newcomers and locals to fill out the remainder of the cast.
Peter Moffat’s writing so juicy and meaty, and he doesn’t write characters that don’t drive the story forward. Even the small characters really need to be able to pull their weight,” said Grey. “We got very lucky that we had a very talented local casting director, Megan Lewis, who really helped us fill out some of the smaller roles and make it feel very authentically New Orleans.”
Her favorite casting finds for the series include Andrene Ward-Hammond as crime boss Big Mo and Canadian actor Lamar Johnson in the pivotal role of Kofi Jones.
“I think we were successful and really weaving together a grounded, real cast to support big-hitters like Bryan,” Grey said.
3. The accident sequence at the end of the pilot was one of the most difficult of the whole series.
After suffering an asthma attack during a late-night drive, Adam (Doohan) is involved in a hit-and-run with the Baxter family’s youngest son.
“I think it’s a page and a half or two in the script and ended up being like eight minutes long. We wanted to get every beat of that process,” says Berger. The temptations of running away or staying, and trying to get into Adam’s mind of, ‘Am I going to help this person?’ It’s a lot of small beats that each need a shot. It seems to be like one scene, but it was actually a massive scene to shoot.”
4. The accident scene also presented a challenge for composer Volker Bertelmann.
Fate was a central motif in the Academy Award nominee’s score for the series.
“It was a challenge to have a consistency over all the episodes and find musical themes that work over 10 episodes and where you don’t fall asleep after episode six,” Bertelmann says with a laugh. “But I had the feeling that the show was much more about the inner process and also about fate in a way. It was more about describing the emotions and showing more restraint.”
Adam’s asthma is also a theme reflected in the music.
The biggest challenge was definitely, the accident scene for me. I thought it was so realistically filmed that I felt every melody would destroy whole accident,” Bertelmann said. I needed to find something that was in a way, musical, but at the same time, wasn’t overtaking the scene. I worked a lot with breath instruments because I felt the inhaler and the breathing of Adam had to continue. I wanted it to feel claustrophobic.”
5. The Baxter house is a combination of two hotels located in New Orleans’ French Quarter.
Production designer Scott P. Murphy served as art director on HBO’s The Sopranos to create the Baxter’s inner lives; he knew he wanted to go a different route.
“Instead of doing that typical cliche mobster thing of spending a lot of money, but with no taste, I said these people should actually have some class and taste and some sophistication and refinement,” Murphy said.”
Murphy said the crew was ‘very judicious’ about when and where to use the historic French Quarter neighborhood.
“We ended up using two different hotels, one for exterior and lobby, a different one for the restaurant. And then we built on stage a private room and what that allowed us to do for their home was find something really tasteful and grand.”
6. Louisiana weather was not kind to production.
Oscar-nominated production sound mixer, David Wyman, had his hands full experiencing the entire gamut of his craft, from capturing audio of mild-mannered cast members delivering speeches to filming intense action sequences and everything in between.
“We treated it like it was a 10-hour movie. So we had to keep the consistency throughout; though the weather wasn’t cooperative, that became part of our daily routine, Wyman says. “We did some fun things too. Bryan Cranston was running. And I was on a bicycle recording with my whole rig, chasing him down so I could keep the signals in range.”
7. But New Orleans did provide a stunning backdrop for the series.
Cinematographer James Friend draws his inspiration from natural places and shooting on location. The Big Easy provided an excellent visual playground.
“I had never been to New Orleans before. It was quite an overwhelming place, visually. It’s culturally very rich and inspirational. And then at night, it turns into a completely different world. It has a completely different palette where everything emits light. It’s almost like a weird mini Tokyo-type place,” ” says Friend. “It’s quite extraordinary. It’s got a real kind of character and flavor. You can smell it, almost taste it. It’s a remarkable place to shoot.
8. Production wanted to give audiences an authentic look at New Orleans.
“I went into the project pitching the idea that we really show the real New Orleans, not the tourist version of New Orleans,” Murphy says.
The positive feedback Murphy has received from life-long New Orleanians is the part of his work on Your Honor that he remains proudest of.
“People that I’ve talked to since the show has aired, that are third or fourth-generation New Orleanians, every single one of them has said this is the first time that a TV show or movie has really captured what New Orleans is like and what the real New Orleans is,” Murphy said. ” To me, that’s what I’m most proud of because that’s what we went in striving to do. And from everything I’ve heard from the people, we succeeded.”
All 10 episodes of Your Honor are available now via Showtime.