YOUR HONOR, a limited series running on Showtime Sunday nights, stars Bryan Cranston in the title role. Executive producer Peter Moffat adapted the show for American television, based on the Israeli drama KVODO. Cranston’s Judge Michael Desiato presides on the bench in New Orleans. He is a man of impeccable ethics – until his seventeen-year-old son Adam (Hunter Doohan) is responsible for a hit-and-run accident that claims the life of another boy. When it turns out the dead youth is Rocco Baxter, the younger son of brutal mobster Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg), Michael sets in motion a chain of events to protect Adam that have terrible unforeseen consequences.
Hope Davis plays Gina Baxter, Jimmy’s steely wife, who is determined to get vengeance for Rocco. When older son Carlo (Jimi Stanton) is put on trial for murdering the man he wrongly thinks killed Rocco, Gina’s resolve to see Carlo acquitted is equally ferocious.
Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays Charlie, Michael’s lifelong friend and Adam’s godfather, who is currently running for mayor. Charlie’s uses his ties to another gang to help Michael out, only to find out what’s actually happened way too late.
Whitlock, originally from Indiana, is still lauded for his performance as State Senator Clay Davis on the series THE WIRE. He can currently be seen in Spike Lee’s film DA 5 BLOODS, Whitlock has often worked with Lee previously, in films including 25TH HOUR, SHE HATE ME, BLACKKKLANSMAN, and CHI-RAQ. His other films include CEDAR RAPIDS, THE OLD MAN & THE GUN, GREMLINS: THE NEW BATCH, and GOODFELLAS, and he has also been a regular on a number of TV shows, including THE MIST, THE GOOD COP, and LUCKY 7.
Davis, a New Jersey native, was twice nominated for Emmy Awards, once for IN TREATMENT, and once for her portrayal of Hillary Clinton in THE SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP. Some of her other notable work includes performances in the films AMERICAN SPLENDOR, THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS, CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and REBEL IN THE RYE, and the TV series THE NEWSROOM and WAYWARD PINES.
Both Davis and Whitlock are also prolific stage performers. In separate environments, they come together for a Zoom interview about their work on YOUR HONOR.
ASSIGNMENT X: How did both of you get involved in YOUR HONOR?
HOPE DAVIS: I was standing in my bathing suit by the side of the ocean in Maine [laughs], and my cell phone started buzzing on my towel, and my agents called me to tell me about this show that Peter Moffat had written, and all they had to say was, “You’re going to be the wife of the head of the organized crime syndicate in New Orleans,” and I was immediately in.
ISIAH WHITLOCK JR.: [laughs] Pretty much the same way. Sitting in a café, I got a call that they wanted to offer me the role of Charlie. They explained it to me, they told me who it was with, and who was going to be in it, and I jumped at it. That was pretty much it.
AX: Not necessarily comparing the characters of Charlie and Clay Davis, but in terms of all of the multiple levels of different things going on in different societal groups, do you see any similarities between YOUR HONOR and THE WIRE?
WHITLOCK: There are a few, and I like to say just a few that will sort of spring out. But I feel I was very successful in fighting against that. It would have been so easy to just lean into that, but there was a lot more fun in doing the role, going the other way. And I really felt like I was successful in making that happen, just doing some other things that I’ve always wanted to do with characters. I could begin to see a very large difference between Clay Davis in THE WIRE and Charlie in YOUR HONOR. Charlie has a few more morals than Clay Davis, trust me.
AX: There seems to be at least a hint of a Lady Macbeth quality to Gina Baxter. Is that a correct take on the character?
DAVIS: Those are exactly the words that Peter Moffat, our writer, said when we first spoke on the phone about the show. I thought that just sounded so exciting. That’s exactly who she is, making things happen behind the scenes, putting ideas in her husband’s ear, pushing him forward to do the deed that she doesn’t want to do herself. She has a few less morals than any character I’ve ever played. But she’s pretty fun to dive into.
AX: Is it exciting or difficult to play somebody who is operating out of that kind of parental grief for ten episodes?
DAVIS: That’s always challenging for an actor. But we go to work to be challenged, and I would much rather do that than do a lot of other things, certainly because it’s pretend, it’s on screen. First of all, when you’re in a show, and Bryan Cranston is your lead, you know that there’s going to be great work for all people involved. It was a joy to do, it was difficult – the last six weeks of our shoot were difficult, we just finished. We went back and finished the show during the COVID era, with masks and plastic collars on. But as far as the content, we all kind of welcomed the challenge, I think.
AX: It seems more immediately evident in Charlie, but for both of your characters, they have a number of different faces they present, depending on who they’re with. How many different faces do you think your characters have, and are there ones that are more fun, or more difficult to deploy?
WHITLOCK: I couldn’t tell you how many there are, but as an actor, it’s such a joy to just get a character and let it rip, and play those different levels, and those different phases. You’re going in and out, and weaving, and working, and you never get bored, because there is so much to do, and there are so many things to play, just even in the moment. I loved it. I mean, there’s nothing better than to play a variety of different characters within the character, so to speak.
DAVIS: Yeah. I think for me, it’s how many different ways are there to lie. Gina’s very good at understanding who her audience is, and knowing what they want to hear. She’s a very deep, and dark, and hidden person, and I think she’s like someone out of a Shakespearean play, or a Greek tragedy. She would sacrifice anyone to save her children. She would sacrifice her husband if it would bring her son back. So, she’s a dark character that I don’t think anybody really knows what’s going on in her head. [laughs] Not even the priest that she goes to confession for. I think she keeps it all hidden away.
AX: Did you and Michael Stuhlbarg sit down with each other, before you started working on it, to talk about the relationship between your characters?
DAVIS: Yes. Michael is very involved in the process, and we did talk a lot, and we really wanted to understand our back story, and what kind of businesspeople we were, what kind of family people we were. So, yeah, we did have lots of involved discussions, and with Peter Moffat, our show runner.
AX: Does Gina Baxter have a favorite among her children? Was Rocco the favorite, and he died, or does she love either of the remaining two?
DAVIS: She loves her boys more than she loves her girl, sadly. I think, of course, one’s baby – Rocco is the baby of the family – the baby always has a special place. But I think her true deep love is reserved for her eldest son, Carlo Baxter.
AX: Mr. Whitlock, did you and Bryan Cranston sit down and talk about your characters’ relationship, and how much Michael knows about Charlie’s maybe less savory business stuff?
WHITLOCK: Yes. We talked a lot about our relationship. We never really got too much into the unsavory-type things, because I never viewed it as that way. I never said, “This is what I am.” I always felt like I was doing the right thing, and I was more focused on doing the right thing in that moment to help him, and to help his son. And that’s pretty much where we left it.
AX: So, Charlie doesn’t see his dealings with the mob as a bad thing, he just sees it as the normal course of doing business?
WHITLOCK: [nods] It’s doing business, it’s doing business.
DAVIS: Charlie’s a politician. He has to be able to play on all the fields. He knows the whole world in New Orleans, and he has to be able to deal with all of those people, and he’s going to do what needs to get done to move his own career ahead, and to take care of the people that he loves.
WHITLOCK: Because if you don’t, and if you get bogged down with the other, that’s when you start to lose. And Charlie is not a guy who’s going to lose.
AX: Is it fun to play somebody who gets to delegate to others at this point in their life?
DAVIS: It’s fun to play someone who is hellbent on holding onto power, and will do anything to keep it. It is. It’s fun to be somebody who’s in control, as well as the victim of a horrible accident. So, yeah. The characters kind of run the range.
WHITLOCK: I love those characters. I love being able to play those different levels, and I like to have things to do. If I get a character that is pretty much just one-dimensional – if it’s one-dimensional, I’m going to find a way to make it two-dimensional, because the one-dimensional is just not going to work for me. So, I love those types of characters.
AX: Had either of you worked in New Orleans before?
WHITLOCK: I never had, no.
DAVIS: I actually did a week on a Jason Statham movie, where I played a blackjack dealer. So, I spent a week in a casino down in New Orleans. But [on YOUR HONOR] we were there for months. It’s an incredible city. I’m madly in love with it, and I think the show will reveal New Orleans in a way that people haven’t seen it on screen before.
AX: Was it at all jarring to return to shooting YOUR HONOR after a multi-months-long break due to COVID, and also with the COVID protocols in place when you came back?
WHITLOCK: For me, it wasn’t jarring. It was a bit of a relief, because when I went down the second time, I sort of had a feeling like I was going home, or I had been there before. I knew where to go, what to do, how to plan the day. So that wasn’t jarring. The COVID stuff was a little jarring. It took a little getting used to. But everybody had to man up, so to speak, because we had to get this done, and thank God no one was sick or affected by it, or we had to shut down, or anything of that nature.
DAVIS: It’s proof that if people wear their masks and stay distant from one another, which is what we all did, we were all masked and face-shielded until the second the camera rolled, and then just a few actors took off their masks, that you can get back to some sort of way of life. I mean, they ran our set incredibly carefully, and like Isiah said, we all got through it. It was very odd to be in New Orleans where there were no tourists, though. Nobody was drinking, and nobody was out and about in the streets, and the city was eerily quiet, for sure.
AX: If it’s not too spoilery, can you say if the two of you get to work together at all?
DAVIS: Not in Season 1 [laughs]. We see one another in a courtroom, I’ll just say that.
AX: Okay. You’re saying Season 1. Is there a possibility that it could go for a second season?
DAVIS: Calling Mr. Cranston …
WHITLOCK: I’ll be sitting in the café, waiting for the call.
DAVIS: Yes [laughs].
AX: And what would both of you most like people to know about YOUR HONOR?
DAVIS: That if you’d like to escape the day and really just be swept away, this show is going to take you on a crazy ride.
WHITLOCK: And I want people to know that the show is honest. It’s a real good look, a metaphor for society. The show is just set in New Orleans, but you can take it and put it in a bunch of other different places. Those universal themes are going to remain the same. And it’s a very honest show, it’s a very heartfelt show, there’s a lot of love, there’s a lot of humor, I think. It is really packed, and you’re going to enjoy it.
Article Source: Assignment X
Article: Exclusive Interview with YOUR HONOR actors Hope Davis and Isiah Whitlock Jr. on their multi-layered roles on the Showtime limited series