Based on the best-selling novel by John Grisham, which was made into a successful movie starring Tom Cruise, Fox’s new series The Firm stars Josh Lucas (The Lincoln Lawyer, J Edgar) as attorney Mitchell McDeere, who as a young associate 10 years earlier, had brought down the prestigious Memphis law firm of Bendini, Lambert & Locke, which had been operating as a front for the Chicago mob.
After a decade in the Federal Witness Protection Program, McDeere and his family now emerge from isolation to reclaim their lives, only to find that dangers still are everywhere present.
Josh Lucas spoke about the series at the TV Critics tour.
You’re a movie star, so why would you want to do a TV series?
Simply put, it was John Grisham. The reality is that everyone is moving to television right now. Television has some of the best writing that’s going on. I put John Grisham up there in terms of really being in the popular zeitgeist in the hugest way.
I felt that the pilot was such a page-turner and that sense of what I got from the ideas of speaking about where it was going to be going was thrilling.
I hadn’t seen a John Grisham thriller yet on TV. I know what 24 was, but the idea of this sort of hybrid of making a hopefully, extremely well-written, thrilling series that dealt with the law.
To be honest with you, from a more detailed personal standpoint, I had been involved in a very serious, scary trial as a jury member last year including putting a man away for life, and it deeply fascinated me.
I then spent a lot of time in preparing for The Lincoln Lawyer, going to courtrooms because I was so fascinated by the drama of the law, and there’s nothing on television that really captures it.
I felt like if someone could really capture this and also make a thrilling John Grisham element out of it as well, it could be really interesting.
How did the trial happen?
I had missed jury duty multiple times because I’d been on movies and so when I went to do The Lincoln Lawyer I went to the courthouse and said I would like to do research and incorporate it with my jury duty.
They said, ‘No, we don’t care. You have to do jury duty based on our timeframe, it has nothing to do when it works for you.’
I showed up for jury duty and I was chosen to go down [to the courtroom] with 60 people, and the second I walked in I saw that the defendant recognized me and he talked to his legal counsel.
I went immediately to the judge, who said, ‘If we released everyone who came here because they had conflicts of interest like yours, we would not be able to get juries, so we’ve stopped doing that. It doesn’t matter if you’re famous anymore.’
Weirdly I then got chosen for the case, and it was such a severe and violent case involving his spouse, that they had to hold him down in the courtroom during the testimonies. We convicted him for life.
What did you learn about the court system from doing the trial?
He was involved in multiple crimes before that which we were not actually allowed to know, and that’s when I fell in love with the legal elements because there was so much I found out after the fact that would have colored my thoughts.
I thought if it’s done right it makes for very interesting television, if you can do something that isn’t a normal procedural, and I hope that’s where this show goes more and more.
There are a lot of anti-heroes on TV now. What was the draw in playing an old-school hero?
Is he a typical straightforward hero? I have worked with Anthony Edwards, who had a similar kind of character in ER, that he’s a very good man trying to do the right thing all the time.
Yet the reality with Mitch McDeere is that he’s flawed, and hopefully as you see the episodes develop you’ll see why he’s flawed, because he’s so driven to do the right thing that he’s willing to make terrible mistakes, including putting his family at risk to do so.
Did you have any apprehension about stepping into a role that is so totally identified with Tom Cruise?
You know, I did and I also then didn’t want to shy away from that. I wanted to homage these little things that he does, because I think it’s one of his many excellent performances. It’s a really damned good one. That’s a great film.
Tom Cruise does this beautiful thing in the movie, not just with the paranoia and the ambition and the drive that he obviously exhibits throughout with the character, but little details that I hope one day to actual incorporate into the series. I didn’t feel like I necessarily had to take over in any way.
Otherwise, I felt really like this is 10 years later, and these are very different people. They’re much more damaged. They’ve been through a very rough time. At the beginning of the movie and the book, there’s a sense of drive and ambition that I think is very different now.
It’s very much survival, fear and paranoia, and the lifestyle that happens after 10 years of being on the run is so damaging. So hopefully, there’s a lot more of an adult complexity to the family at this point.
When is Tom guesting on the show?
If you can get to Tom Cruise and tell him, I’ll personally make him the offer!
What does this show mean in the context of what’s going on in the world today?
I’ve been very surprised how often people ask me about the presence of Occupy Wall Street and whether or not this show responded to that in any way. And I said the truth of the matter is Mitch McDeere is not a man who would be probably camped out, but he would be their lawyer.
This is a guy who is fighting against the system.
The Firm episodes 1 and 2 aired on Sunday January 8th, 2012 and episode 3 will air Sunday January 15th, 2012.