Manuel García-Rulfo, star of Netflix’s “The Lincoln Lawyer,” is no Mickey Haller offscreen.
Charismatic, yes. Flashy and arrogant? Not quite, he insists. “I don’t think I’m like Mickey at all.”
Which is why it’s so fun to play the role, he tells USA TODAY. “I’m kind of shy, and this character allows me to use a part of me that is not (like) that.”
The actor (“From Dusk Till Dawn,” “A Man Called Otto”) 42, portrays the big shot Los Angeles lawyer running a law practice out of the backseat of a sleek Lincoln, taking on cases big and small from all over the city.
Season 2 of Netflix’s “The Lincoln Lawyer” (first five episodes now streaming; five more due Aug. 3) picks up after Mickey’s comeback case: defending a high-profile tech billionaire accused of murdering his wife, a client left to him after the defense attorney he worked for was also murdered.
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García-Rulfo says Season 2 ― loosely based on author Michael Connelly’s 2011 novel “The Fifth Witness,” the fourth book of “The Lincoln Lawyer” series ― is “funny, intense and exciting. You find Mickey at the top of the world on magazine covers; he’s the hottest lawyer in L.A. at the moment. Season 2 will have viewers on the edge of their seats.”
Mickey’s at the peak of his career and in a good place mentally after a surfing accident that left him with an opioid addiction. He and his ex-wife Maggie (Neve Campbell) and daughter Hayley (Krista Warner) are working through complicated familial dynamics, and Mickey may have even met a new love interest in Lisa (Lana Parrilla), a chef who wins his heart with her sweet flan dessert.
But it’s not long until the gavel strikes again.
“Success sometimes is really bad and it blinds you, and I think that’s what happens to him,” García-Rulfo says. “He just feels powerful,” letting it cloud his judgment in the courtroom and miss clues he wouldn’t have otherwise.
Despite Mickey’s “cockiness” in taking up another murder case after vowing he wouldn’t, García-Rulfo admires the vulnerable and “humane” aspects of his character. “It just feels very real,” he says. “With a character like that, you start learning so much from them or from their mistakes, in this case.”
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The backdrop of Los Angeles’ melting pot, and the organic way Mickey’s Mexican American identity is portrayed, explains why “The Lincoln Lawyer,” created by David E. Kelley, has “been very well received, and not just with the Latino community but with everybody.” (Season 1 premiered in May 2022, and held a firm spot on Netflix’s Global Top 10 with a cumulative 260.53 million hours viewed within a few weeks.)
In Connelly’s books, Mickey was born and raised in L.A. by his trial lawyer father and his mother, who was a Mexican actress. García-Rulfo was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and has lived in L.A. for more than a decade.
Netflix’s return to the books’ roots following Matthew McConaughey’s unconventional take in the 2011 “Lincoln Lawyer” film, and the challenge of embodying the role, were important for García-Rulfo.
“He can go to Beverly Hills and be around rich people or be around cholos and bikers, and he blends in really, really well. And I love that aspect,” he says, quoting McConaughey, who called Mickey “a guy that dances in the rain without getting wet.”
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