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Series Mania: Shlomo Mashiach, Roni Ninio on ‘Your Honor,’ What Parents Do for Their Children (EXCLUSIVE)

Israel’s Yes confirms U.S. format deal with King Size Productions, Scripted World, CBS Studios, Peter Moffat

PARIS — New Israeli TV series ”Your Honor” begins with Micah Alkobi, a brilliant and upstanding magistrate-judge on the cusp of promotion, when his feckless son commits a hit-and-run crime, which leaves the son of a notorious crime lord in coma.

Half-way through Episode 2: In an increasingly desperate attempt to protect his son, Alkobi is now an accomplice to crime, false complaint, obstruction of justice, collaboration with a felon, persuading an army officer to break the law and, quite possibly, condemning an innocent boy to die so as to save his guilty son. But, as Alkobi’s life sons out of ethical and any control, most spectators will be wondering as a parent if they might have behaved differently.

Fully-financed by Israel’s Yes, the Israeli broadcaster and leading pay TV platform whose hit series “Fauda” is a worldwide Netflix pick-up, “Your Honor” proves a showcase of Israeli’s talent to deliver tightly-wound, character-driven thrillers.

U.S. format rights have been optioned for a North America-based remake, with King Size Productions and Scripted World producing the remake with CBS Studios. Peter Moffat (“The Night Of,” “Undercover”) is attached to write, Yes’ Danna Stern confirmed on the opening night of Series Mania, where “Your Honor” world premieres before its broadcast debut on Yes, which handles international distribution rights. Shalom and Ninio fielded questions from Variety on “Your Honor:

What effect or impact on the spectator did you aim to achieve with the story of the judge’s ethical descent?

Mashiach: It is a common thing that a father [or mother] is supposed to do anything for their son or daughter. I try to question this convention, and ask what is “anything” – anything? Is there no human or moral legal boundary? However, the sequence of events in the following episodes shows that Micha Alkobi has lost control of what is happening, and then he raises the question: If I knew where this will lead, would I have made the same decision I did in the first episode? And he himself does not have the answer.

The classic conception of the anti-hero as someone with a dark past who performs heroically finding some kind of salvation. Increasingly, in recent TV dramas, we have characters with a bright past who commit despicable if comprehensible acts finding some kind of damnation. And these are figures in authority. I wonder if you would agree or see “Your Honor” as part of a larger questioning of authority.

Mashiach: I don’t think that the series deals with the power of authorities. A judge is supposed to be a moral marker for society. He serves the law, and within the framework of the law he tries to do justice. I tried to deal more with what happens when the clear and written law, and justice, which is a much more subjective matter, collide with a figure who is supposed to serve both.

How, Shlomo, did you work as head writer? And what were your objectives when writing?

Mashiach: I wrote the first two episodes by myself, and Roni Ninio served as a script editor, but as the plot expanded and entangled I felt the need for additional “brains” to help especially with the development of the plot. In most of the episodes, the additional writers contributed mainly by suggesting plot points and moves of the main characters, when I took upon myself the essence of the actual writing. I admit that when it comes to a series that I’m one of its creators, it’s hard for me to delegate.

A question for Ron. The direction seems to me to be versatile, with an aim of pointing up both the dramatic and psychological import of scenes. That said, did you have any general aims, Ron, regarding the direction of “Your Honor”?

Ninio: My intention was to create a series in which the visual expression would be cinematic. That is, to tell the dramatic-psychological story as greater than the immediate aspects of the plot. A dark, desert world in which the concepts of justice and morality are blurred. A world of lonely people and a wandering dog who sees everything.

Can you both give some brief biographical details? 

Mashiach: The truth is most of my writing is comedic. I have written for quite a few satire programs in Israel, comedy series, and comedies for theater. Every now and then, I write dramas. The most prominent dramas I have written are a play staged at the Cameri Theater, and a dramatic television series about a secular family in Israel where the husband decides to become newly religious. Both of them, incidentally, were directed by Roni Ninio.

Ron?

Ninio: I’m a film, television and theater director. Feature films: “The Quarry”, “Auditions”, “There Were Nights” (Shanghai Film Festival, Best Actress; Haifa Film Festival, Best Actress, Critics Award; nominated for eight Ophir awards, including Best Film and Best Director). Co-creator and director of  numerous TV dramas, among them the series:  “Arab Labour” (Haifa Film Festival; Jerusalem Film Festival-Best Drama; Los Angeles’ Accolade Competition-Best Drama Series); “A Touch Away” (Haifa Film Festival- Best Drama; Israeli Academy Awards, including best director and best drama series); and “Catching the Sky,” prized at the Israeli Academy Awards. I’ve directed theatre productions in most of the major theaters in Israel.

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