How Isiah Whitlock Jr. deals with Bryan Cranston in ‘Your Honor’


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Season 2 of Showtime’s “Your Honor” finds newly elected mayor Charlie Figaro (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) being pulled in several different (and potentially dangerous) directions.

His best friend Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston), the New Orleans judge who broke bad, is now out of prison and working with a US Attorney (Olivia Delmont, played by Rosie Perez) to bring down the Baxter crime family — while implicating Charlie in his Season 1 coverup of son Adam’s hit-and-run that killed Rocco Baxter.

Meanwhile, Rocco’s father, steely crime boss Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg), is threatening Charlie over a waterfront development project — and Charlie has his hands full with Big Mo (Andrene Ward-Hammond), head of the Desire drug syndicate, who wants to buy a bar directly across from the plush, Baxter-owned hotel where Michael cradled his dying son in the Season 1 finale.

It’s complicated.

Charlie Figaro (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and his best friend, Michael Desiato (Bryan Cranston), meet after Michael’s release from prison.
Andrew Cooper/SHOWTIME

“Charlie is definitely walking a tightrope in a city where you’re going to have to walk a tightrope,” Whitlock, 68, told The Post. “Charlie is a really skilled politician and he’s not one to just give away everything. He’s willing to sit down and listen and to be honest — as he was with the Baxters — about not only the fact that he’s got to do what the people who put him there want … but he schools the Baxters saying, in a way, ‘I’m not stupid here — I know how you ran this [land development scheme] and we’re going to go back and try to do it in a very honest way.’

“He’s definitely on shaky ground but, up to this point [in Season 2], he’s doing pretty good,” Whitlock said. “But when you put all these things together you’re a little surprised that Charlie is able to keep it together as well as he does.”

At the core of Charlie’s story arc is his relationship with Michael, which is being severely tested. “Charlie is the kind of guy we all wish we had — somebody who has Michael’s back, believes in him and is very forgiving to Michael, who’s kind of like a family member you can’t cut loose so you find ways to deal with them,” he said. “So when Charlie sees Michael early on in Season 2 [after he’s released from prison], it’s kind of like a reset, like let’s find a way to pick up the relationship where we left off. Charlie is willing to forgive, even though he was a little complicit in the setup in Season 1.

Charlie and Jimmy Baxter at a memorial for Adam Desiato. Jimmy has his hands crossed in front of him and is looking down; Charlie is looking at Jimmy with a disdainful demeanor.
Charlie and nemesis Jimmy Baxter (Michael Stuhlbarg) at a memorial for Adam Desiato.

“The problem is that while Michael is still that really good friend he can allow himself to trust, it can be dangerous because Michael is not being honest with Charlie early on … and that becomes a little disturbing.”

“Your Honor” was envisioned as a one-season, close-ended series, but its popularity and ratings success — it was the highest-rated new series in Showtime history — merited its return which, as Whitlock pointed out, allowed viewers the opportunity to learn so much more about Charlie’s personal and professional lives.

“I always found Charlie to be a very complicated character; nothing is ever cut-and-dried with him,” Whitlock said. “In Season 1, you really don’t know much about Charlie — where he lives, if he’s dating anybody or if he’s married. He’s sort of like a presence.

“But I find the character about as complicated as the city of New Orleans and that excites me,” he said. “There’s a mystery there at some point that … hopefully gets fleshed out and to me it adds to the show, to the mystique of Charlie and it adds to the city of New Orleans.”

Charlie Figaro holding a press conference. He's wearing a blue suit, pinkish shirt and dark bowtie and hat and is standing in front of a microphone.
New Orleans mayor Charlie Figaro addresses the people of his city in a press conference.

Whitlock said he based Charlie’s look — ever-present bowtie and hat — on Willie Brown, a Northern California politician who was mayor of San Francisco from 1996-2004.

“I figure [Charlie] is in New Orleans with things like Mardi Gras and bright colors and all the flashiness of that,” he said. “Willie Brown wore the same kind of stuff as Charlie Figaro — he was impeccably dressed and … was the flashiest, coolest guy.

“So when I got the job [as Charlie] I wanted him to look like Willie Brown … not so much flashy, I just wanted him to be clean, for people to know that when he walks into a room he’s going to stand out … and by being in New Orleans it works — you know where Charlie Figaro is.

“It speaks volumes as to who he is and what he does.”

Your Honor” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.

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