From seeking inspiration from To Kill A Mockingbird to drafting an underdog story inspired by the pandemic, here’s all you need to know about the Netflix series The Lincoln Lawyer
Avinash Mudaliar, Kunal Guha
Last Updated: 12.40 PM, Jun 01, 2022
“I smelled Los Angeles before I got to it,” Raymond Chandler said about his city of joy in The Little Sister. “It smelled stale and old like a living room that had been closed too long. But the coloured light fooled you.” Not surprisingly, the 1949 classic featuring Philip Marlowe turns out to be Michael Connelly’s favourite piece of crime fiction. It’s interesting because the book came out of sheer disdain for the way the writers were treated in Hollywood at the time. It came from Chandler’s own experiences whilst working as a screenwriter for Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity. It was not that Connelly read all Of Chandler’s works and took to crime writing both as a reporter or novelist. It was more happenstance that he first came to experience Chandler’s hardboiled artistry whence he chanced upon Robert Altman’s version of “The Long Goodbye” at a student movie night. He was smitten. Both by the genre and by Chandler. He then went on to gorge on all of Raymond Chandler’s works. He was a small towner, residing in a mofussil town 25 km north of Miami with a population of 30,000, who got obsessed with Chandler, his works and Chandler’s city of love, Los Angeles. However, he then made it his own. The years he spent toiling as a crime reporter in LA Times taught him well and also put him on the list for a Pulitzer for his reportage on a plane crash. He did the grunt work, covered cocaine trafficking, then tagged along with homicide detectives, wrote and thrashed two novels before ending up with one he thought was worth publishing. It was called The Black Echo. It was not only Raymond Chandler that fascinated him. He was intrigued by the works of a Flemish painter who hailed from the capital of the province of North Brabant in the Netherlands. A duke called Henry the 1st owned a large forest there and the city came to be named after a contraction of that fact - “ the forest of the duke”. In Dutch, that would be ‘des Hertogen bosch’.
The painter who was born Jerome or Jheronimus, signed off with the name of the place he came from. Hence Hieronymus Bosch. Michael was fascinated by this man’s rather abstract depictions of humans, their fears, their hedonistic pleasures, and the true nature of their desires. His moralist attitude and deep insight into the true nature of humans' contorted complex laid base to his large imaginative and complicated pieces of art that depicted temptations, ensnarements, allures and punishment with much gusto. He thus named his detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. Harry Bosch was the son of a prostitute who was murdered and a prominent defence attorney born in no garden of earthly delights. He met his dad much later in life. His name was Mickey Haller Sr and he was Lincoln Lawyer's father. Here is a look at the two web series about two half-brothers and one creator, streaming successfully on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
The praise and critical acclaim garnered by the Netflix series The Lincoln Lawyer is an acknowledgement of the literary works of Michael Connelly. The show is based on his 2008 novel The Brass Verdict. Created for television by David E. Kelley and developed by Ted Humphrey, the legal drama stars Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles-based defence attorney who works exclusively out of a chauffeur-driven Lincoln Town Car instead of a regular office. The critically-acclaimed show that premiered on Netflix on May 13, 2022, also stars Neve Campbell, Becki Newton, Jazz Raycole, Angus Sampson, and Christopher Gorham. Kelley’s popular series borrows the treatment adopted by many 90s procedurals along with the emotional exchanges that reveal the perceptive and empathetic man wrapped in the creaseless suits. So one can even call it L.A. Law meets Ally McBeal with a dash of The Mentalist tossed in for good measure and to take the edge off the grisly murders.
One of the reasons for The Lincoln Lawyer’s unprecedented success is the fact that it reminds us of the fleeting approach taken by procedurals of the 90s. Those shows where less time is expended to rationalise events or decisions taken by the show’s lead and we breeze through each episode with minimum reflection. Many would argue that The Lincoln Lawyer is hardly an examination of the failings or strengths of the legal system. It also isn’t one where we delve deep into the character’s mind or are profoundly sensitised to their circumstances. But there’s a certain comfort in the familiar and a hero who always delivers even when he’s unprepared but somehow manages to yank out a loophole that helps him crack cases in the very last minute. And that’s just the magic potion that Micky Haller is made of.
Connelly is no stranger to fiction and The Lincoln Lawyer is a reboot of the 2005 film starring Matthew McConaughey (also based on the same book). In fact, his 1997 mystery novel Blood Work was also adapted by Clint Eastwood as the 2002 action thriller of the same name. And most notably, the popular Amazon Prime series Bosch (2014) is also adapted from his novels The Concrete Blonde (1994) City of Bones (2002), and Echo Park (2006). The taut police procedural follows LAPD detective Harry Bosch as he investigates challenging cases with a relentless streak. Bosch made its debut in the 1992 novel The Black Echo, the first in a best-selling police procedural series that has now pulled through 24 novels.
Network to streamer
The Lincoln Lawyer TV series was initially a CBS project until the plug was pulled on the project in the early months of the pandemic in May 2020. When Netflix acquired the project, they retained the show’s original producer David E. Kelley along with Ted Humphrey, Ross Fineman, and Connelly. That the streamer was able to allocate a substantially higher budget for the show meant the makers now had more creative freedom and could turn the story in any direction they deemed suitable. Connelly shared in an interview that he was thankful that his story had now moved from a network show to Netflix as the adaptation would not need to be retrofitted to meet the demands of crime dramas on TV. “For CBS, we were expecting to make 22 episodes, with every episode a case-of-the-week storyline. It would have lost a lot of the reality of the books – and I’ve always prided myself on writing an honest and accurate look at how the legal system works or doesn’t work. So going with Netflix gave us the opportunity to return to that reality, and I really embraced that. It was a little bit of a tortuous path, but ultimately very worth it,” said the bestselling author in an interview.
Once the show was locked with Netflix, the first call was to close on the lead. While Connelly is billed as the show’s executive producer, he wasn’t involved in casting. That said, the makers keenly considered his inputs in all aspects of the show’s development. And when Manuel Garcia-Rulfo was eventually cast, he got Connelly’s vote too. In fact, the author felt that Rulfo extended “a powerful dynamic and dimension to the role”. And as fans would agree that apart from channelling a relentless litigator, Rulfo laces his Mickey Haller with just the right amount of conviction and brood. To ensure the script was water-tight and realistic, the makers also assembled a team of writers which comprised a few actual lawyers to ensure factual and legal accuracy was maintained across the script.
The show’s creator David E. Kelley was introduced to Connelly’s The Lincoln Lawyer, the first book in the series, in the mid-2000s and was instantly drawn to it. At the time, Kelley had already been the showrunner for hit TV shows such as Ally McBeal and The Practice and had found a certain niche in courtroom dramas. Perhaps, that explains why he was keen to adapt Connelly’s novel too. But when he approached Connelly with the offer, the author had already signed the rights for the book to the studio that produced the 2011 Matthew McConaughey-starrer of the same name. The film was a runaway hit and also served as a shot in the arm for McConaughey’s career. The actor had become synonymous with forgettable romcoms and none of his screen turns had received much critical acclaim in years. Slipping into the role of a charismatic legal figure allowed him to be perceived as an actor who could pull off more nuanced characters on screen.
Two decades later, when Kelley finally got to offer his iteration of Connelly’s work, he also managed to get the author’s nod on his interpretation. The Netflix series finds Mickey (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo) tasked with defending a high-profile double-murder case. After a brief sabbatical following a surfing accident, Mickey gets his big break when a murdered defence attorney nominates him to take over his practice. His first big case: a tech entrepreneur Trevor Elliott (Christopher Gorham) is accused of murdering his wife and her lover who happens to be a yoga instructor. How he grapples with the surmounting evidence pointing towards his client makes the show worth a watch.
Haller of fame
A lot rests on Haller in this show and the character’s ability to lift the narrative was equally challenging for the actor and screenwriters involved. Haller’s amiable personality explains why he’s managed to keep cordial terms with both his exes (who are both strong individual characters with their own graph). But it’s difficult to picture him as an addict even though he has recovered from his painkiller addiction. He’s all but modest and in the very first episode, claims that there there’s no better criminal defence attorney in Los Angelos than him.
Connelly admittedly sought inspiration from Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird in drafting his Haller and feels the two have much in common. Attius, for instance, is compelled to do the right thing even if it may affect those close to him which Connelly found to be heroic and wanted his Haller to be placed in a similar position in both, the books and the show as well. “Ultimately, Mickey has to make a very difficult decision to do the right thing, knowing it will cost him dearly too, and that’s inspirational to me,” Connelly shared in an interview.
As the series unfolds, it becomes apparent that Connelly and Kelley sought inspiration from various sources to create fictional events in and around Haller’s life. In fact, Connelly also shared that he even drew inspiration from the pandemic which has wrought havoc in our lives and compelled us to reinvent and struggle to get by even when the forces seemed to constantly pull us down. “The defense attorney is the lone guy against the well-funded and populated police departments and prosecutors. It’s a classic underdog story about a guy getting back on his horse and that’s what we’re doing in society. That makes it the right moment. Did we know that when we were going to make it? No. I think we really got lucky.” So in many ways, Haller is just someone who’s trying to find his bearings and rise above his circumstances like any of us who’ve endured the onslaught of the pandemic.
Lawyer on wheels
For a lawyer who operates exclusively on the move and is perenially shuttling between cases in a certain vehicle, it’s natural that the automobile in question is significant. The ones carting our hero include the 1962 Lincoln Continental Convertable and the roomier Lincoln Navigator SUV. It’s also noteworthy to mention the rather cocky plates that both cars have on them – NTGUILTY (Lincoln Continental Convertable) and DISMISSD and IWALKEM (Lincoln Navigator). Kramer’s ASSMAN number plate (Seinfeld) is clearly not a patch on these. Perhaps, this seemingly insignificant touch is yet another hark back to the 90s when plates of vehicles were said to be a reflection/extension of the owner’s personality.
Lincoln Lawyer x Bosch?
Both Bosch and Haller, who happen to be half-brothers, are part of Connelly’s crime universe and have featured prominently in many of his novels. According to Connelly’s books, Haller is much younger than Bosch and both have the same father, Michael Haller Sr, a celebrated LA-based attorney. While the shows have remained faithful adaptations, often leaning heavily on the author’s original text, creative liberties have been taken in both shows. The most blatant page-to-screen change is the absence of Harry Bosch in The Lincoln Lawyer. In several books, the LAPD homicide detective, named after the 15th-century Dutch artist Hieronymus Bosch, features prominently in Haller’s stories and helps him crack cases by lending his investigative skills. In the novel, Bosch investigates the death of Elliott’s original defence attorney and the story also folds up with the revelation that the two are half brothers.
An obvious reason for this strategic substitution is that The Lincoln Lawyer is a Netflix series and Bosch is an Amazon Original Series. In an interview, Michael Connelly clarified the reason why a crossover is unlikely, saying, “Since we have competing studios, that’s not going to be a thing in the shows.” He also joked, “if we got Amazon and Netflix working together, we could also solve world peace.”
Conversely, even Haller doesn’t appear in Amazon’s Bosch or its spinoff series, Bosch: Legacy. In Netflix’s The Lincoln Lawyer, the role essayed by Bosch in the story has been assigned to LAPD Detective Griggs (Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine), a character that didn’t exist in Connelly’s novels, and Haller’s staffer and private investigator Cisco (Angus Sampson). While Cisco finds mention in the books, in the series he also substitutes for Bosch, particularly helming a few plot points from The Brass Verdict. Replacing Bosch in this story was a challenge, considering the integral role he played in investigating a certain murder but Connelly felt confident about the substitution. “We knew there would be a challenge because we really had to invent a new character and it wouldn’t have that added emotional connection of family. And so we came up with Detective Griggs.” Connelly worked with Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine who also plays Griggs in a few episodes of Bosch and was confident he could pull it off. “I knew what a good actor he was. When we went down that road with him, it was like, ‘This is not Bosch, but this is going to be pretty good’.”
Another challenge that the makers faced in adaptation was to translate the first-person narrative of the novels which would naturally seem off-kilter in a live-action retelling. The solution came in the form of the character of Haller’s chauffer Izzy (Jazz Raycole) and it was an addition that Connelly entirely approved of. “I love that character. The whole idea that he’s been talking to her [in the car throughout the season], and then it pays off in the last episode — that they’ve been heading to the prison to get an innocent guy out — I love that.”
While Connelly’s crime-verse is essentially a world of fiction, having been a LA Times crime reporter much of his work draws inspiration (if not anecdotal references) from true events and those he encountered. His most significant tribute has to be the taut page-turner Blood Work (1992) which was adapted into the 2002 thriller of the same name starring Clint Eastwood. Blood Work’s plot revolves around a retired FBI agent and heart transplant recipient who is compelled to investigate when his own blood analysis offers clues to heinous acts committed by a serial killer. Connelly was admittedly inspired to write Blood Work by Terrell Hansen, an Orange County-based heart patient who had to give up his career as a mechanical engineer to resign to the job of a book dealer on account of his condition. The two met at the book signing and a friendship was forged. Connelly was a crime reporter with the LA Times at the time and Hansen was on the list for a heart transplant. When Connelly’s Black Echo won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, Hansen was the first person he called as he had predicted the win. When Hansen received a heart transplant on February 14, 1993, Connelly was among the few visitors allowed to meet him at the hospital.
In an interview, Connelly had mentioned that he had noticed Hansen experience classic symptoms of survivor’s guilt. He had noted that Hansen displayed “a sense of feeling bad that someone died in order for him to live”. And this triggered the idea for a character in Connelly’s mind. “I thought if I could write a story about someone going through this, it could be a character that would live in people’s imaginations.” Once he shared this vision with Hansen, the writer was allowed complete access to his life and thoughts and even visited the doctor along with him. He wanted to closely trace Hansen’s physical and medical journey and how he was processing his situation spiritually as well. Blood Work was the result of his extensive research and commitment to the subject and went on to become his first New York Times bestseller.
Excited to dive into Connellys’s world of crime fiction? Here are the best adaptations of his novels and where you can watch them:
Retired FBI agent Terry McCaleb, who underwent a heart transplant is hired by a woman to probe the death of her sister, Gloria. It turns out that Gloria is the one who donated him her heart, and McCaleb decides to track down the murderer. Produced, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, the film is based on Michael Connelly’s novel of the same name. It also features Jeff Daniels, Wanda De Jesús, Tina Lifford, Paul Rodriguez, Dylan Walsh, and Anjelica Huston.
You can watch Blood Work
The Lincoln Lawyer ( 2011 Film)
Matthew McConaughey plays Mickey Haller, a lawyer who works out of a Lincoln Town Car. He is hired by a wealthy businesswoman to defend her son who is accused of assaulting a prostitute. Haller soon realises that the case is similar to a former case wherein his client was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering a woman. Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillippe, Josh Lucas, John Leguizamo, Michael Peña, and Frances Fisher complete the cast of the film directed by Brad Furman.
The Lincoln Lawyer (2022 TV series)
The TV series based on Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict features Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller. Haller, a lawyer and recovering addict, is forced to take up defence attorney Jerry Vincent’s cases after he is shot dead by an unidentified assailant. One of the cases he’s tasked with involves defending Trevor Elliot, a game developer who is accused of killing his wife and her yoga instructor. Haller must prove Elliot’s innocence and win the case in order to revive his career. Neve Campbell, Becki Newton, Jazz Raycole, Angus Sampson, and Christopher Gorham also star in the series.
You can watch The Lincoln Lawyer
The police procedural crime drama series created by Eric Overmyer stars Titus Welliver in the lead as Detective Harry Bosch. The series is based on three novels by Michael Connelly titled, The Concrete Blonde (1994), City of Bones (2002), and Echo Park (2006). The series chronicles the life of LAPD homicide detective, Bosch, in his pursuit of justice. Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Madison Lintz, and Lance Reddick essay other important roles in the series.
Bosch: Legacy (2022 - )
Titus Welliver returns as the former LAPD detective Harry Bosch, in the spin-off to the acclaimed TV series Bosch. Michael Connelly, the author of the original novels, joins Tom Bernardo and Eric Overmyer as showrunners for the sequel series. The plot revolves around Bosch who embarks on a new phase in his life and he is forced to team up with his former nemesis Honey Handler (Mimi Rogers). Madison Lintz, who essays the role of Maddie Bosch, will also reprise her role as a rookie LAPD officer.