When we interviewed Manuel Garcia-Rulfo about his performance as Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer, we really just wanted to know…how. How did he manage to give us this character, with all his “quieter kind of charisma,” in such a way that was so entirely his own?
And no, we weren’t really looking for a long treatise on acting or anything. Just…the simpler, more human side of it. And Garcia-Rulfo gave us exactly that. Completely.
Sometimes, crafting a titular character who viewers will love, especially one that comes from such well-known source material, starts with an actor who has that same love. Garcia-Rulfo shared with us that he’d read the first two books in Michael Connelly’s Mickey Haller series. And to say he lit up when he talked about how well-written Mickey is…Well. Let’s just say that would be almost as much of an understatement as us saying we love his version of Mickey.
“He’s such a great author, you know. The way…the details on the characters that he writes…He throws you a lot of things that—you really feel them. You really feel the atmosphere that the characters are going through.”
And yes, he’s also seen the the 2011 film adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer: “I remember really liking it, really liking what Matthew McConaughey did. Especially that character.”
He even credited something McConaughey said about Haller with being “the backbone of [his] preparation,” but that was only after saying—and demonstrating—the quote itself: “This is great. I mean, I’m telling you…It made my research very easy. But he said, ‘Mickey Haller is a man that dances in the rain without getting wet.’ And that was such a beautiful image for me…It’s an image that spoke so much to me, to see this guy dancing in the rain but still not getting wet…” Manuel Garcia-Rulfo remembers thinking, “of course! That’s what the guy is.”
So, as you can see…Yeah. Maybe we can’t help but love Mickey Haller because Garcia-Rulfo clearly brought that love to the character.
Why is this Mickey Haller different from all other Mickey Hallers?
That’s not to say that you should, at all, expect the Mickey in Netflix’s adaptation of The Lincoln Lawyer to be a carbon copy of the past. Garcia-Rulfo told us explicitly, “I wanted to do my own thing.”
Part of that meant making sure his version of Mickey was true to his roots. In the book, the character’s mom is Mexican. And navigating Los Angeles, which is almost “another character in this series,” as a Mexican-American—being a lawyer, while being Mexican, while being in LA—takes on a life of its own.
Manuel is Mexican, so, “since they decided to cast me as Mickey Haller,” he said he told producers, “let’s just explore that side of him.” After all, “the Mexican culture here [in LA] is so big.” So, there were plenty of opportunities to visibly and authentically provide that representation. “I think…It just makes it richer.”
All it took were seemingly-small changes in the details—because really, those wind up being the biggest things. For example, maybe instead of visiting “famous burger place,” or somewhere else that could easily be given to any character, in any place, on any series, as written in the script, Garcia-Rulfo would suggest a change. Something like, “‘no, no. Let’s make it tacos. To explore that side, you know?” And he’s “really happy that they gave me the freedom” to insert those little things, “to say some word in Spanish, or have that taco thing.”
“I like seeing new things,” Garcia-Rulfo told us, including “films or TV shows if they’re from other culture.”
So, basically, he gets us.