HBO's new drama "The Night Of" is earning rave reviews from critics and viewers for its dark, twisted journey through the criminal justice system as Naz (Riz Ahmed), a college student, is accused of murdering a woman he just met. It's an emotional, powerful look at our society today, especially for those caught up in legal quandaries.
And then there's a matter of John Turturro's character's feet.
Turturro plays John Stone, an unsuccessful lawyer who miraculously stumbles upon Naz's case and is completely out of his depth. When he sits down with Naz at the jail, he crosses his legs and his feet are revealed: They're red, covered in dry skin and he's wearing the most unfashionable velcro sandals.
"It's eczema. My dermatologist says to keep them aerated — like that's going to cure anything. I don't know. Maybe it helps, I really can't tell," John says breezily when he notices Naz's look of vague horror. "Don't worry about my feet, it's not contagious."
In the second episode, which aired Sunday, John's feet are showcased in multiple scenes, as he deals with his nearly debilitating discomfort while trying to keep up with the biggest case of his life. Plus, everyone from courthouse security to people on the subway look disgusted when they see his feet, still showcased in sandals. His very visible ailment only underscores how much he's the sad-sack underdog in this situation. Even the judge at Naz's first hearing can't believe he's Naz's lawyer: "Friend of the family, or right place right time?"
The saga of John's eczema continues throughout the eight episode series, to the point where we had to ask: How did a skin condition become a subplot?
"In Peter Moffat's 'Criminal Justice,' [the character] does have eczema, but we took that to a much further degree in our story," said co-creator Steve Zaillian in an interview, referring to the original BBC series on which "The Night Of" is based. "It really became a part of his character and bedevils his life. It's something that became — I guess you could call it a subplot – essential to his character."
As for Turturro, he diligently sat for hours with the makeup artist to make his feet look just right, and didn't even mind wearing sandals throughout filming, even though it was freezing in New York at the time. Turturro calls John "one of those guys with every malady known to humankind."
"It made the character great," Turturro said, adding that you don't usually get to see those types of physical ailments (such as eczema) on screen, even though they're things people go through every day. "All those problems affect you… and can really wear you out in a big way."
And not only does the subplot continue over the course of the episodes, but it appears to be building toward something.
"It actually becomes even more important in the last episode," Zaillian added.