“We’d have popcorn and he’d project the movies he did when my dad and my aunts were kids,” Garcia-Rulfo said of his grandfather’s home movies. “My aunts started making their own films – I was usually the main character – and I think that’s what gave me an obsession with cinema.”
When he was 13, his parents sent young Manuel to Vermont for a year so he could improve his English (learning to ski was an added bonus). Because the Stella Adler Studio of Acting, in New York, and a clown school in France — “Even actors in Mexico who aren’t clowns have done it,” he said — were too expensive, so he studied acting in Los Angeles and Mexico. His career took off pretty quickly after that, even if his American roles were somewhat repetitive: an assassin here, an outlaw there, a smuggler for a change of pace.
So when asked to read for “The Lincoln Lawyer” while still in Mexico, Garcia-Rulfo jumped at the chance and sent a tape.
“I was very happy and very grateful to the showrunners and producers, to Netflix to bet on that,” he said, adding that he was grateful to be playing a lead role who wasn’t a drug dealer. (The tide may have turned: A few days before our chat, he had wrapped up the Tom Hanks drama “A Man Called Otto,” in which he plays an IT guy he described as “a nice guy, funny, and silly.”)
Garcia-Rulfo landed the part of Mickey, his first starring role in a TV series, after a casting process that took place entirely online—something that gave him another excuse to fret. “You’re under pressure if you think, ‘Maybe when they see me in person, they’ll say, ‘No, this isn’t it,'” he said.
Neve Campbell, who plays Mickey’s first wife, Maggie, said she’d reached out to her new co-star and they took a walk to get to know each other before work started last year.