In general, actors are supposed to be charming. It’s in the job description. But there’s the kind of charming that creates a compelling character, and the kind of charming that makes you root for them, personally. Manuel Garcia Rulfo, who headlines The Lincoln Lawyer, available now on Netflix, is the rare actor who can easily do both.
Garcia Rulfo talked to Remezcla about embodying Mickey Haller, a character previously played by Matthew McConaughey in the 2011 movie of the same name, bringing his identity into the role, and making sure the character was a balance of vulnerability and swagger. And we, of course, had to start with the source material. Because Mickey Haller was always Latine in the books, even if the books and the movie didn’t really delve deep into his background.
“We tried to explore that side of Mickey Haller,” Garcia Rulfo shared. It was on the page, but Garcia Rulfo wanted to explore it in an authentic way. For example, whereas the script called for Haller to take Izzy, his driver, for burgers after a day in court, the actor insisted it is tacos instead. “I love doing that every chance,” he continued, “if the story allows, I love putting my heritage in there.”
This was especially true in Mickey’s interactions with his daughter, where the show dabbles in the kind of Spanglish that feels very natural. “My friends that are Mexican American and have kids, sometimes they’ll throw words like English, and then in right away,” Garcia Rulfo told us, sharing that for him, it was just a very organic thing to portray Mickey this way.
It was also different. The TV landscape isn’t really filled with many shows featuring characters from our communities, and even fewer shows where the entire point isn’t that identity. This is, in a way, something Garcia Rulfo was excited to bring to the screen because the little things that make Mickey Haller who he is also makes him feel more real – and relatable.
At its core, though, The Lincoln Lawyer is a law thriller, filled with twists, courtroom scenes, and a case that doesn’t really go the way you expect it. Garcia Rulfo, who prepared by reading the first two books, wasn’t as surprised as non-book readers will be about where the show was going. Not that the script gave him that much. “The scripts, they don’t give you the whole thing,” he shared, telling us that even though he knew where it was going, it was still exciting to discover the ways the writers would make it all work for TV.
“It’s just such a cool story,” he continued. “I really fell in love with the character and everything that’s around him.”
One of the things that makes Mickey Haller so different from the Harvey Specter type is that yes, there is swagger, a lot of it, but there’s also a softness that was wholly intentional. “I really wanted to focus on that on the vulnerability,” Garcia Rulfo was clear. “Because he (Mickey) is an addict, and he’s coming from not practicing, and then he’s got issues with his ex-wife, and his daughter who is a teenager, and then there’s a case, and then another case.” So, in the midst of all that, the idea was true to home on the things that make Mickey Haller like the rest of us.
He’s lost sometimes. He’s broken. He struggles. And yet, he’s also “a cool guy. He has swagger. He’s a man of the people. He feels comfortable estresado (stressed), that’s where he gets his fuel, that’s where he thrives.”
And that’s why The Lincoln Lawyer thrives. That’s what makes the show more than just another law thriller. It’s Manuel García Rulfo. It’s Mickey Haller. And it’s how the actor became the character, in the best way possible.
The Lincoln Lawyer is available to stream on Netflix.