‘Your Honor’ Star Bryan Cranston Says He’s Too

Norman Ray

Global Courant

In the second and final season of the Showtime series Your Honor, Bryan Cranston reprises the role of disgraced judge Michael Desiato. At the end of Season 1, Desiato’s son was murdered by the Baxter crime family, and fresh out of prison himself, Desiato not only seeks to avenge his son’s death but to rediscover his own moral compass and find some kind of redemption. It’s another nuanced performance in a storied career that includes such roles as the inimitable Walter White in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, the titular character in Trumbo, Hal in Malcolm in the Middle and Stan in Little Miss Sunshine. Here, Cranston muses on his French country retirement plans, explains the glaring absence of karaoke in his life, and reveals his dreams of making a Broadway musical and why his desert island TV picks definitely won’t include Breaking Bad.

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My First Film Lesson

Don’t be late. Be on time. Know your work. Be respectful. I remember I got a job on Days of Our Lives. This was one of my first jobs, so it was 1979, I think, or 1980. And back in those days, you set an alarm clock, and apparently I forgot to pull out the pin of the clock, and slept through it. I just had the worst day. And I panicked and ran to the studio. I lied that I got a flat tire. I was so embarrassed. And every moment that I was on the set, I felt like I was behind, and even though I was apologizing profusely, it just felt terrible. Being late is just not a good thing. That’s happened again because of other circumstances. So, that, being friendly, being kind, and knowing your work, going in prepared, coming in with ideas, that’s the thing I would tell young actors.

From left: James Kiberd and Bryan Cranston in Loving.

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The Best Advice I Ever Received

The thing that comes to mind now is how to live. Forty years ago, I was doing another soap opera in New York (Loving), and I worked with a dear friend of mine, James Kiberd. He studied the Alexander Technique, which is a way of breathing and stance and presence. It’s very, very intense, but a curious and interesting discipline. And (creator Frederick) Alexander had a quote: “If you only do what you know, you will never do what you don’t know.” And I think that’s really good.

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The Part I Always Wanted

I want to do a Broadway musical, because it scares the daylights out of me. I need to take chances to go into something that is not my comfort zone and see what happens. And it may be that I don’t like it. I remember, I was asked to do a narration of a book called The Things They Carried. Tim O’Brien is the author. This is during the Breaking Bad years, and I’m getting into the booth to read the entire book. And I realized, I’m not really that good at this. This is much more difficult than I thought. I don’t have the talent to do this, or the ability. and perhaps, I think I have a learning issue, and I invert lines — Dyslexia. The engineer would say, “OK, can we read that sentence again?” I’d go, “Oh, OK. Why? Is there an emphasis you wanted?” “No, you just inverted this. You left out this word. You changed that word.” And I was like, “I did?” And I wouldn’t even know.

From left: Cranston, Megan Mullally and James Franco in Why Him?

Scott Garfield/20th Century Fox/Everett Collection

The Most Fun I’ve Had On Set

On a movie called Why Him? With James Franco, Zoe Deutch, Keegan-Michael Key and Megan Mullally. We just had a blast every day. It was already a funny script, and every day we’d go and we’d say the funny lines, and then we’d improvise and make things up trying to crack each other up. Every day was just a joy, and I loved those people I worked with. I look back at a lot of the things I’ve done, and while I have tremendous respect and gratitude for doing them, it wasn’t necessarily the most fun on the set. It could be so physically demanding or so intense and heartbreaking, and your body goes through that — and I truly believe that your body doesn’t know if you’re pretending. There is this emotional damage happening, and fear and anger and rage — you have that exhaustion afterwards.

Billy Dee Williams and James Caan in Brian’s Song.

The Films That Make Me Cry

I think the first one that made me cry back when I was a boy was a movie called Brian’s Song, which got every man to watch it because it was about football. It was about Brian Piccolo, a football player with the Chicago Bears, and he had a terminal illness. It was about his friendship with another player on the Bears called Gale Sayers, and men bonding. So, it’s James Caan and Billy Dee Williams, these two grown men, athletes, who were like brothers. One was Black, one was white, and they bonded, and it was the turbulent ’60s and the race riots. After James Caan’s character dies — spoiler alert — Billy Dee Williams, as Gale Sayers, goes up to the microphone and in his own beautiful way, says these words: “I loved Brian Piccolo.” To see grown men, athletes, all machismo, say, “I love another man,” and nobody was making fun of that. Just, your tears came out. And I realized at that moment, relationships are different in all different kinds of ways.

The Character That’s Most Like Me

In Why Him? I carried something like that, because it was about the father of a daughter and being overly protective. There was some cadence to that. Isn’t that funny? I think probably someone more objective… I mean, I wonder what my wife would say would be the character most like me?

Not even Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Ursula Coyote/AMC/Everett Collection

My Most Quoted Role

It’s definitely Walter White (in Breaking Bad). There are several different iconic phrases,
I guess. “I am the danger,” and “Say my name,” are the two most common ones.

My Toughest Challenge

I think it’s always been finding balance. Honestly, I write, I direct, I produce and I act, and I have no other time to do anything else. So, if someone says, “Well, what do you do?” What’s your hobby?” I go, “Oh, I don’t have a hobby.” “Do you collect things?” “Nope.” “Do you make sure you play golf?” “No, don’t play golf.” Nope, nope, nope, nope. I’ll go to the gym and I’ll run, but that’s because I need to maintain and all that. And I don’t know how to cook.

My Bucket List

One of the things that I’m going to do with my wife, after I turn 70, which is only three years from now, is I’m going to push the pause button on my career and go away to a foreign country for about six to eight months, minimum. Immerse myself in the language, the culture and the life. It’s not a vacation, it’s living. And we’re going to rent a house and we’re going to go on bike rides and we’re going to make new friends, and I’m going to learn how to cook, and I’m going to learn the language, and I want to read at least some of the classic books that I’ve always threatened to read. I think somewhere in France.

Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Emmy drama issue here.

My Guilty Pleasure

It’s not guilty at all but I’m a big baseball fan. I don’t go to that many games anymore, but I’ll watch it on television. I’m a Los Angeles Dodgers fan and always have been. So, I’ll watch the occasional baseball or football game, or basketball game, but I’m always doing something else. I’m answering emails and looking up. It’s like, I feel like I have to be productive in some way while watching a sporting event.

Who’d Play Me In My Biopic

Maybe Domhnall Gleeson or someone Irish-y and fair-haired. I’d be honored. He’s such a good actor.

My Karaoke Playlist

I’ve never done karaoke. Remember I said I don’t have a hobby? I’m too busy, so I’ve never done it. Isn’t that something? I think, if I were to do it, I would choose something that could be comical, that would make people laugh, as opposed to, “Hey, let’s listen to him and see how his voice is.” I would probably just try to do something funny.

My Desert Island Film & TV Shows

The requisite Godfathers have to be involved. It’s just superb filmmaking. Scorsese films. Tarantino films. And then, also going back and looking at Altman and Truffaut. Kurosawa is another filmmaker I love. And then, hopeful films, because you’re on a deserted island, like It’s a Wonderful Life. A television series? I watch my own stuff once and then I don’t really watch it ever again. I’ve only seen every episode of Breaking Bad once, but that’s it. Same thing with Malcolm in the Middle.

‘Your Honor’ Star Bryan Cranston Says He’s Too

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