This interview includes spoilers for the second season of “The Lincoln Lawyer.”
Ted Humphrey has learned a few things about what it takes to keep a successful series going. A former lawyer, Humphrey worked on 135 episodes of the critically acclaimed CBS show “The Good Wife,” with writing credits on 19 of them and titles that included executive producer.
He’s now trying to apply some of the same magic to “The Lincoln Lawyer,” the legal thriller he created with David E. Kelley last year, based on the Michael Connelly book series.
The inaugural season, starring Manuel Garcia-Rulfo in the title role, was a hit for Netflix. “Higher expectations are a mixed bag,” said Humphrey, 53, who shared showrunning duties in Season 2 with Dailyn Rodriguez. “I’m not always thrilled about them, to be honest,” he continued, laughing.
He needn’t worry. Season 2 — which Netflix rolled out in two batches of five episodes each, with the second half premiering on Thursday — confirmed that the streamer has a global hit on its hands. “The Lincoln Lawyer” has been among its most-watched shows worldwide since the first new episodes were released on July 6.
Each season is inspired by one of Connelly’s books about Mickey Haller, a Los Angeles defense lawyer working out of his car — hence his nickname. (Different Connelly novels have inspired the Amazon series “Bosch” and “Bosch: Legacy.”) The new installment is based on “The Fifth Witness,” published in 2011, and tracks Haller’s efforts on behalf of a woman he’d just started seeing, Lisa Trammell (Lana Parilla), after she is accused of killing a developer whose plans were threatening her restaurant.
Devoted Connelly readers will have spotted four deviations from the book in the previous sentence alone: In the novel, Trammell’s name is spelled differently, she doesn’t have a relationship with Haller, and both she and the victim have other occupations. The author himself has embraced changes to his work.
“What I am most pleased and proud of with ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ is that Ted has overseen the updating of 10-to-15-year-old novels to very contemporary stories without sacrificing one bit of the character of Mickey Haller and his cohorts,” Connelly wrote in an email.
In a video chat from Los Angeles, where the series is set and shot, Humphrey discussed such divergences as well as the secrets to a good legal show. These are edited excerpts from the conversation and a follow-up email exchange.
Why did you make Lisa a restaurateur instead of teacher?
In “The Fifth Witness,” the client is a woman who is having her home foreclosed upon by a mortgage banker in the wake of the 2008 mortgage crisis. We updated that to something that felt more relevant to Los Angeles in 2023, which was, first of all, the ongoing gentrification debates and then the world of foodie culture and celebrity chefs.
Is it also a good way to anchor the show in Los Angeles without the obligatory shots of the Hollywood sign?
We love to showcase different communities, different neighborhoods of L.A. The restaurant is in a neighborhood called Frogtown, where some of these gentrification concerns are being played out in real time. Mickey is a criminal defense lawyer who works out of his car so you just have a natural vehicle, no pun intended, for him to go anywhere in any neighborhood in the city.
But doesn’t he work more out of an office in your version?
He still spends at least half his time in that car. For him to have an office was an important thing for the show: You need places to have scenes, places for other characters to be when he is not there.
The other thing is the car itself. While we love it and it is literally like a mobile set that goes around L.A., after a while it gets a bit claustrophobic to shoot in.
Mickey had just started sleeping with Lisa — which he didn’t do in the book — when she is accused of murder, and yet he takes on her case. The nature of her guilt is also different in the show. Why make those changes?
In part because we did not want Season 2 to feel too much like Season 1 — the ending felt a little too similar. The moral quandary of whether your client is guilty or not is a quandary that every defense lawyer faces, but at the same time every defense lawyer will tell you it doesn’t matter — you just have to defend to the best of your ability. That kind of goes out the window when it’s somebody you have a relationship with. So it was all in the furtherance of thickening this stew and making this as juicy and as interesting as possible.
Season 2 introduces Mickey’s mother, played by Angélica María. What does the character add to the show?
I saw a sign on the [Writers Guild of America] picket line the other day that said “A.I. didn’t grow up with my mother. Good luck writing that story.” I think difficult mothers are universal and relatable. The mother in the show is exactly the mother in the books, except that you never really meet her in the books. She was this actress from Mexico who met [Mickey’s] father and it was kind of a May-September relationship that didn’t go so well. We just decided to take that and run with it.
Angélica María is essentially this character in real life: She is the grande dame of telenovelas in Mexico, an icon. I think you do get the sense watching these two people that there is a lived history, and you understand the upbringing and what this person dealt with and what Mickey dealt with.
New this season is prosecutor Andrea Freeman, who has a smoking chemistry with Mickey. Can you please tell me that Yaya DaCosta will be back in future seasons?
She is if we’re fortunate enough to keep doing it. Andrea as a character does not continue in the books, but we loved Yaya’s performance so we just came up with ways to keep that character alive.
Between “The Good Wife” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” you know your way around a TV courtroom. What makes a good legal show?
One, there has to be a gray area where this lawyer is wrestling with moral choices. Robert King, who created “The Good Wife” with Michelle King, used to say that the show was about the education of Alicia Florrick [played by Julianna Margulies]. She got back to work later in life, so you were watching her grow up and realize all the different moral compromises she would have to make.
Two is authenticity: You have to take some liberties because your first job is to tell a dramatic, interesting story. But trials take a year to happen, and things are really fought out as much in motions, witness prep and depositions as they are in the court case.
The third thing is that lawyers are people who have jobs, and their day is consumed with the minor nonsense of day-to-day life. For Mickey, the life of the criminal defense lawyer is one long search for income.
If “The Good Wife” was about the education of Alicia Florrick, what’s the overarching concept for “The Lincoln Lawyer”?
I think it’s a redemption story. You meet Mickey Haller in Season 1 and he is a broken man who’s lost everything, who has been humbled by a drug addiction. The show, to some extent, is about his journey not just back but beyond, and it’s also about him coming to terms with who he is: this child of privilege on one side and an immigrant mother on the other side.
What’s next for the show?
Right now it depends not only on how Season 2 does, but also on the resolution of the strikes. We had to shut down our writers’ room for Season 3 when the Writers Guild contract expired. We’ve done Michael Connelly picket events where Michael and the staff from “The Lincoln Lawyer” and “Bosch” have picketed together. We’re out there because the issues are real and have to be resolved, and the only way that’s going to happen is by the companies sitting back down with us to make a fair deal. Hopefully that happens soon, and once it does, we will be back to work on a third season.
Content Source: www.nytimes.com