Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s TCA coverage.
After a dismal fall, NBC is pinning its hopes for a ratings turnaround on a slew of midseason series. One of them is legal drama The Firm, based on the John Grisham bestseller, which the network acquired in the spring. The series, premiering Sunday, continues the story of attorney Mitchell McDeere a decade later.
Writer-executive producer Lukas Reiter said that author Grisham was on board from the very beginning, liking the idea of doing a new chapter in the McDeere story. “He really didn’t (have reservations),” said Reiter, a former co-executive producer of NBC’s Law & Order. “I have been writing legal drama for most of my career, and The Firm has always been at the top of my list. Why didn’t John Grisham continue the story? I had a thought about how we might do that.” He added that writers and lawyers have one thing in common: “The ability to think about the same thing for an irrational amount of time.”
Asked by Deadline after the session for his thoughts on being part of NBC’s “complete rebuilding mode,” as chairman Bob Greenblatt called it earlier today, Reiter said: “It’s exciting that anyone would think of the show as getting to contribute to the next phase of what NBC is up to.”
In 1993, Grisham’s novel was adapted into a feature starring Tom Cruise. On the series, the role is being played by Josh Lucas, who appeared in the recent feature The Lincoln Lawyer, also based on a legal thriller novel, this one by Michael Connelly. Lucas said he plans to “homage Tom Cruise’s performance” by re-creating details from the film that may be recognized by the film’s fans. As an example, he described a scene from the movie in which Cruise is at a copying machine, making illegal copes, and has a spot of blood on his face where he has nicked himself shaving. “That little detail harks to the sense of not just paranoia, but self-destruction,” Lucas said.
In comparing TV to his movie roles, Lucas added that the main difference is the speed of production. But the reason he took the role was Grisham. “Everyone is moving into television right now, Spielberg and Scorsese,” Lucas said. “I haven’t seen a John Grisham thriller on TV.”
As for Connelly, he has a series version of Lincoln Lawyer in contention at ABC with writer John Romano. The script has been delivered and “they are deciding right now whether to shoot it,” Connelly told Deadline via email. “Will probably know next week. Fingers crossed. I’m hoping The Firm is successful, and it is contagious.”