Bryan Cranston on Breaking Moral Lines for Showtime's 'Your Honor'

Your Honor Season 1 Bryan Cranston
Q&A
Skip Bolen/SHOWTIME

On Breaking Bad, Emmy-winning actor Bryan Cranston held us rapt as brilliant, unpredictable Walter White, a chemistry teacher turned deadly drug kingpin. In the new 10-part legal thriller Your Honor, he "breaks bad" again as respected New Orleans judge Michael Desiato, who covers up his teen son Adam's (Hunter Doohan) involvement in a hit-and-run that kills the scion of a crime family headed by vengeful Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg, Fargo). Cranston fills us in.

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Why did you want to play Michael Desiato?

Bryan Cranston: The characters I'm attracted to are struggling. They're attempting to do the right thing but have ambitions of their own. Michael grapples with his oath of office and the private oath he took when he became a parent, to protect his child. His intention was to turn his son in to the authorities; he believes in the system. When he saw whose child was killed, he panicked. He felt his son would be killed by this gangster.

You have a child. Did you feel any personal agony over this story?

I did. I don't know any parent who would say, "I would only go so far to protect my child." Where your moral line is — that's what makes this story fascinating. 

Your Honor Showtime Bryan Cranston

(Credit: Skip Bolen/SHOWTIME)

Just how bad does it get when Michael crosses his moral line?

How bad can you imagine? He has to double down on lying, on developing alibis, destroying evidence. It devolves into this harrowing nightmare. Any time someone compromises their soul, there is a price to be paid.

What research did you do to play a judge?

I spent a lot of time in the New Orleans courthouse where we're shooting. I sat in on trials, arraignments, jury selection. Judge Franz Zibilich helped me shape the approach from a legal and also human standpoint. Much like a doctor, they have to have a guard up so their emotions don't languish in that suffering, case after case. 

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How does it feel to wear the robe?

It's cumbersome and baggy. At least we're not in England, where we would also have to don white wigs!

Your Honorseries premiere Sunday, December 6, 10/9c, Showtime