Manuel Garcia-Rulfo is the ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ in Netflix show based on the movie
Mickey Haller will tell you that everybody lies. He’ll tell you repeatedly, until you believe it. But he doesn’t really believe it himself.
The criminal defense lawyer, based on Michael Connelly’s character and originated on screen by Matthew McConaughey in the 2011 movie “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is back in a new Netflix series of the same name with Mexican actor Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in the title role — the character is half-Mexican in the bestselling novels, a detail that was glossed over in the movie.
After almost a year off from work while he recovered from a drug and alcohol addiction, Mickey finds himself dumped with a full caseload when a colleague is found dead. Among the cases is a high-profile murder in which a millionaire video game designer allegedly killed his wife and her lover after finding them in bed together.
At the same time, Mickey is juggling his own problems, particularly two ex-wives: Maggie (Neve Campbell), a deputy district attorney who has full custody of their daughter, and Lorna (Becki Newton), who still works for him. And he does it all from his Lincoln town car, driven across Los Angeles with his vanity license plates touting his “not guilty” verdicts.
Garcia-Rulfo, staring at a character who made decisions he couldn’t comprehend, turned to Connelly for advice, who in turn passed along a quote from McConaughey: “Mickey Haller is a guy that dances in the rain without getting wet.”
“He’s always living at the edge and he has to to survive,” Garcia-Rulfo said. “He has to feel that fire in him.”
Sometimes that means cavorting with people who aren’t quite on the up-and-up (his private investigator used to belong to a violent, drug-dealing biker gang). Sometimes it’s recklessly chasing down leads. It always means doing whatever he needs to do to win the case, no matter how innocent or guilty his client is.
“You have to be a true believer in the constitutional rightness of what you’re doing,” showrunner Ted Humphrey said, “but you also have to have the cynical streak that enables you to get through your day knowing that, in many cases, you’re hoping people get out of their just punishment, whatever that may be.”
Humphrey, who went to law school and practiced “for a hot minute” as a corporate lawyer, said he was drawn to the “gray area” of criminal defense lawyers, particularly those who know their clients are guilty. For Mickey, defending Trevor Elliot, the video game designer, isn’t about helping someone who needs it. Trevor could hire any lawyer in L.A. he wanted. But, like Garcia-Rulfo said, Mickey’s chasing that fire.
He’s also outrunning his one truly innocent client, a man who got sent away for 15 years because Mickey couldn’t get the job done.
“They all have the story about the one who got away,” Humphrey said. “The 50 guilty clients they got off and the one innocent person is the one who haunts them. The murderer who got off doesn’t keep them up at night; the innocent person who didn’t does.”
So while Mickey’s biggest professional mistake rots away behind bars, he fights for everyone else to make sure it doesn’t happen again. He hires his clients for odd jobs, including driving him from courthouse to courthouse so he can work in the backseat.
“He sees the good in people,” said Garcia-Rulfo, who co-starred in “From Dusk till Dawn: The Series” and was one of “The Magnificent Seven” in the 2016 remake. “If Lorna is good at X, he won’t judge her as his ex-wife; he just sees her as good at X.”
But Mickey would never admit that, because he has to maintain that cynical streak. He has to convince himself that he is so jaded that representing a man who almost definitely murdered his wife doesn’t keep him up, that a successful day for him is getting that man back out on the street.
“Everybody lies is one of the core concepts from the book and it’s something that Mickey lives by, and yet he just can’t help himself from wanting to believe. Maybe that’s part of what keeps him going,” Humphrey said.
“How you sleep at night or how you turn your brain off is that at the end of the day, you never stop believing.”
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