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Manuel Garcia-Rulfo: Personal problems make 'Lincoln Lawyer' a better defense attorney

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Manuel Garcia-Rulfo: Personal problems make 'Lincoln Lawyer' a better defense attorney
Manuel Garcia-Rulfo's legal drama, "The Lincoln Lawyer," debuts Friday. Photo courtesy of Netflix

NEW YORK, May 13 (UPI) -- The Magnificent Seven and From Dusk Till Dawn alum Manuel Garcia-Rulfo says his Lincoln Lawyer character, Mickey Haller, becomes a better defense attorney after he battles his personal demons.

"When you touch bottom or you are an addict or you deal with depression, it makes you more sensitive to other people," Garcia-Rulfo told UPI in a recent Zoom interview. "It makes him understand and connect with other people, as well, so that helps him in his cases."

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Debuting Friday on Netflix, the legal drama was created by The Practice writer-producer David E. Kelley, based on Michael Connelly's best-selling novel series. It follows Mickey as he heads back into the courtroom after taking a year break to deal with a painkiller addiction that stemmed from injuries sustained in a surfing mishap.

"It's like the hero's journey. There is something very pleasant to see a character at his lowest trying to climb his way back, struggling with so many things," Garcia-Rulfo said.

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The 41-year-old actor said he focused on bringing the vulnerability, heaviness of being an addict and being out of practice for so many months to the role.

To save time in-between appointments, Mickey works wherever he can, often preparing his cases in the back seat of the show's titular vehicle, which is driven by Izzy (Jazz Raycole), a defendant Mickey helps exonerate in the pilot episode.

Although Mickey may be known as the "Lincoln Lawyer," his portrayer isn't at all comfortable reading in a moving car.

"I enjoyed the old car when I was driving [myself in the first episode.] I loved that. I was driving and I was feeling it, and everybody looks at you," he laughed.

"But reading in the back of the car, no, because I get car sick. It wasn't really fun, no. But the idea of it, I find fascinating -- a man that works out of his car and always has to be moving."

Neve Campbell plays prosecutor Maggie, Mickey's first ex-wife and mother of his teen daughter, Hayley (Krista Warner), while Becki Newton plays Lorna, Mickey's second ex-wife, and Angus Sampson plays private investigator Cisco. The latter characters, who are engaged to be married, are integral in helping Mickey with the day-to-day operations of his practice.

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Garcia-Rulfo knows Mickey is lucky that several strong, smart, funny women have his back.

"Without them, I don't think there would be a Mickey Haller. I think he would have stayed there for the rest of his life on that beach, watching the ocean, being alone and depressed all day," the actor acknowledged.

"Lorna is like a motor and, because of her, he keeps going. And Maggie, she's everything for him. She grounds him, makes him a better person," he explained. "With Izzy, he has this great connection. There is this intimacy between two addicts. The empathy between two characters like that is very strong because she knows what he has been going through, and vice versa."

Raycole agrees with Garcia-Rulfo's assessment of the Mickey-Izzy dynamic.

"Izzy's whole journey with addiction is something that really drew me to her. It's such a complex thing, recovering from addiction. [Writer Ted Humphrey] and David do such a good job of navigating that and letting that be the grounding point for her and Mickey to connect on," the actress said.

"It evolves over the season, which I think is really, really cool."

Lorna's strength of character and courage is what made Newton want to portray her.

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"She's not afraid to march into a room, even a room full of lawyers or a courtroom, and be her fabulous, fierce self," Newton noted.

"I really felt she had a certain confidence and a certain fearlessness. The way she dresses and the way she composes herself, she's not afraid to be unconventional. She is not what you would typically see in a legal environment and I really liked that."

Sampson described Cisco as a colorful guy who "skirts both sides of the law."

"I've always had a fascination for any character, regardless of gender, who has the confidence to do that and how they justify those actions to themselves. Certainly, not having to dress in a suit and speak in a courtroom [was appealing,]" Sampson said. "I felt like I was the uncle here, with no responsibility."

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