Sebastian Koch, Al Munteanu on adapting “Your Honor” for the German market
In the thriller series “Euer Ehren”, a German-Austrian adaptation of the Israeli series “Your Honor” (“Kvodo”), Sebastian Koch (“The Lives of Others”, “Fatherland”) plays Michael Jacobi, a judge caught up in his own web of deception as he struggles to protect his son. The project was introduced to Koch by Al Munteanu, producer and founder of SquareOne Entertainment, and the duo worked together to bring the project to the screen.
Munteanu and Koch proved a convincing combo, earning the interest of producer Christoph Pellander at ARD Degeto. “‘Euer Ehren’ is thrilling entertainment at its best,” Pellander said. “Scriptwriter Al Munteanu and lead actor Sebastian Koch thrilled us from the first moment; so we absolutely wanted to produce the thriller series collectively. In our version, co-produced with ORF and produced by SquareOne Productions and Mona Film, we moved the story to Austria to bring it closer to the environment of our viewers and thus managed to produce something truly unique.
The project was distributed through Starz, with Jeff Cooke, senior vice president of international programming, becoming a quick ally. “We were already big fans of the original Israeli series as well as the American version, so when Al called and let us know he was doing the German version, we were immediately interested,” he said. .
Cooke added: “Once we read the scripts and he confirmed Sebastian Koch was cast, the decision was easy. This show aligns perfectly with our brand of bringing bold, forward-thinking content. to our subscribers.
Variety spoke with Munteanu and Koch ahead of the German Television Awards.
What was the genesis of this project? And how did Sébastien arrive?
Al Munteanu: I spent Passover in Tel Aviv and saw a poster and an article and called my friend Donna Stern, who ran Yes Studios. And I said “What is this?” And she gave me the pitch. And it was written by Schlomo Moshiah who is a brilliant writer. And literally over this vacation, in the space of three days, she sent me some links with subtitles, and I was incredibly hooked because the premise is so universal and yet has, at its core, such a fundamental question. And shortly after, because Sebastian and I were working on another movie together, I called him and said, ‘Whatever you’re doing, stop it. I have what you need.
Sebastien Koch: When I heard the story, I felt…it strikes a chord in our time, this shortness of breath, being in a corner, everything you do is wrong. You made a wrong, wrong decision, and it’s screwing everything up. You get lost in trouble, in lies. And I think we, as human beings, somehow know that. It is a kind of atmosphere, in which we find ourselves in the middle of the whole world. So I thought, okay. Let’s do it. There is something unique, something important in this story. So I said yes, right away, which I rarely do on the phone, you know.
Can you discuss your decision to approach the format with a darker tone?
Munteanu: When we started the process, we had only seen the Israeli version. Then we found out that Showtime and Brian Cranson were working on the US version, and we deliberately didn’t. We really wanted to be in a tunnel to focus on our own development. When we cast David Nawrath as director, he immediately felt visually, with Tobias as DP, that they wanted to lean into movies like “Sicario” or “Prisoner” to have that kind of oppressive look and feel. Then when we moved to Innsbruck, which is not a big city, nestled between two mountain ridges… There is something very oppressive and claustrophobic about it, and it was also very important for Sebastian to have that feeling. And like in the Israeli version, we were looking for a place where theoretically the characters know each other, and there is a kind of familiarity between the characters that then turns into a kind of total and utter distrust.
Did you shape the story specifically for the German market?
Munteanu: We said, “Let’s tell this story in the best way we can while being culturally specific.” Which clans are fighting each other? You know, when we originally designed it, I thought, you know, let’s do it in the big city of Berlin. And then it became absolutely cliché. So when we focused on Innsbruck it became very specific. And in some very specific cases, we remove people who, in the other versions, were not supplanted, and at different times. Thus, the story takes different roots.
Sebastian, can you tell us how you approached playing a character with so many internal struggles? How did you bring it to life on screen?
Koch: For me, the relationship with his son was particularly fascinating, you know, because Judge is career-focused – he doesn’t spend a lot of time with his family. But there is a deep love, even if it is not on the surface. For me, it was important to show it. And all these values that we have as a society, these morals, the judge lives them. He is like a perfect judge. And then a lie led him almost into a labyrinth, and he is losing, little by little, everything he believes in. It was very important to me to make his story absolutely logical. That’s why I wanted to work on the screenplay and write the latest versions with the authors. I had to know everything. For me, it was such an important thing not to cheat with the stories. If I can explain it to myself, I can explain it to everyone. So that was one of the hardest things, to get rid of all the lies.