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Ron Ninio: How “Your Honor” Conquered the World

Season two of the Showtime series Your Honor, starring Golden Globe winner  Bryan Cranston, has just begun. Based on the Israeli series Kvodo, the story centers on a respected judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run accident, leading to difficult choices and terrible consequences as he attempts to keep the crime a secret

The show returns to follow ex-judge Michael Desiato (Cranston), now a man forced to face the wreckage of his former life. Disbarred, disgraced and all but destroyed, nothing can bring him back from the brink until a federal agent coerces him into a scheme to take down the Baxter family. Revenge can’t return all he’s lost, but redemption offers a ray of hope. He has a chance to strike a blow against the empire of corruption and vengeance that runs New Orleans, but will it be enough to lay his ghosts to rest?

What is unique about this second arc of the story is that it wasn’t meant to happen. Sitting down recently with the original co-creator of the show Ron Ninio, the origins of the show were laid out, as well as its worldwide appeal, and just how Cranston came back.

Can you take us back to the genesis of how this show came about?

I sat for about six months with my partner Shlomo Mashiach, meeting once or twice a week and telling ourselves in a year we are going to come up with a story that will grasp not only local audiences, we didn’t know what. And then we started thinking about detectives and a judge.  This went on for a few months, until one day it clicked.  And then it was a lot easier to bring the story around that core of an idea.

The show has quite the Shakespearean tone to it. How did you decide to combine the first two seasons of the Israeli show into just one for the American version?

Well in our show, the Israeli show, we have two seasons and Season Two ends like Season One ends here, the Israeli one ends like Season Two. One of the reasons is that in the Showtime production, they weren’t sure that there would be a second season. Bryan Cranston wasn’t sure that he would want to go for another season. So actually, they wrote it in a way where it would be a really tragic ending and a cliffhanger and then they decided after Cranston said yes to continue to the second season.

How involved are you in the various international versions of the show?

Well in the case of Your Honor, there are ten remakes, I wasn’t involved at all.  Each country, I offered it, but each country they said ‘okay, we have the story, or we have the scripts’.  And just the message is ‘let us do it our way’, which is perfectly okay. I think the strength of the story is such that even if you take it to a different country, a different culture, the bad guys are different but still hold the core and the DNA of the Israeli version. So, I wasn’t involved, aside for the Cranston Your Honor. I was in the writer’s room for a whole day, which was interesting. I got involved just because they were very open and they liked the fact that one of the original co-creators came and Moffat said because of this guy, you all have work, you are all getting paid.  And then I visited the set, but there was no creative involvement in the remakes.

What have been your impressions of the worldwide versions?

I watched of course the American one, I have watched a few episodes of the French one and the German I haven’t seen. I saw some of the Indian ones, which is really, really very interesting.  And yeah, you do see the nuances.  I mean take Turkey for instance, we have two seasons of ten episodes each season and they have like 30 episodes per season of the same story.  It’s longer, it’s slower, it’s very, very interesting.

Each series focuses on various criminal elements of the local communities. Why do they make good antagonists?

I want to say something in general that I really believe in, I think that the more the original production, the more local it is, the more we get to the Israeli characters and their conflicts, etc, with their judicial system and with the bad guys there, the more we are locally. If the story has this international exposure, then the other remakes will also take it really, really locally and then each country, each remake you have the antagonist of that specific country and its problems and the conflict between him and a judge.

(Continuing the success of “Your Honor”, Noor Lawson, one of the series associate producers, was selected as one of 12 2022 Fellows of the Sundance Institute Producers Intensive)