Minus Tom Cruise, John Grisham Brings Back ‘The Firm’

Josh Lucas in "The Firm." (NBC)

Tom Cruise might be gone. But “The Firm” is back.

And that fact — the latter, anyway — wasn’t something John Grisham expected.

“I’ve never been one to go back and think about sequels,” said Grisham, the renowned writer of legal thrillers whose hugely successful 1991 book spawned the 1993 box-office hit. “When I was finished with [the main characters], as a creator I was done with them.”

Plus, the only other series based on Grisham’s work — “The Client,” which debuted in 1995 — lasted just one season and didn’t exactly leave a positive impression on the author.

“[It was] a painful experience,” Grisham said of his writing’s television debut. “I didn’t want to do it again for a long time.”

But Grisham — along with main characters Mitch McDeere (Josh Lucas), Abby McDeere (Molly Parker) and several others — is back, on NBC, with a two-hour season premiere on Sunday, Jan. 8, followed by a regular one-hour Thursday slot starting Jan. 12.

So why now? Why “The Firm”? And whither Tom Cruise?

That’s what Grisham and showrunner Lukas Reiter, discussed on a Wednesday conference call.

Watch Grisham Discuss “The Firm”:

[iframe http://xfinitytv.comcast.net/tv/The-Firm/143144/1926270139/The-Firm%3A-John-Grisham//embed 580 476]

On returning to “The Firm”:

He doesn’t need the money; “I’ve had my share of success from the original story,” he said. And surprise: He wasn’t into the whole TV idea — ” until Luke Reiter appeared on the scene and showed me a script,” the author said.

Suddenly, Grisham was excited about the new story — which picks up 10 years after the initial ending, with former Memphis attorney McDeere, who once crossed some dangerous people, emerging from the Witness Protection Program and moving to Washington D.C. thinking things are safe (hint: they’re not).

On the season premiere:

We learn that whole it’s-not-safe thing right away, in an opening chase scene that still has Grisham buzzing. Especially the part where a cell-less McDeere frantically gets to a pay phone, calls his wife, and says, “Abby, it’s happening again.”

“At that moment, they’re in really hot water,” Grisham said. “It really sets the tone.”


On ever considering Tom Cruise:

To Reiter — whose legal expertise also has shown on series like “The Practice” and “Law & Order” — that was never in play, even though “I love Tom Cruise’s work,” he said. Part of it was about simple math; the film hit theaters 18 years ago, but in this show only a decade has passed. Also, witness protection really changed the on-the-run lawyer.

“It’s a very different character,” Reiter said. “It’s a very different place that we find Mitch McDeere in his life.”

On Josh Lucas:

Grisham is impressed with the actor, known for a wide array of roles from “Sweet Home Alabama” to “Glory Road” to the recent “J. Edgar” (where he plays Charles Lindbergh).

“Josh Lucas is terrific,” Grisham said. “He’s got all the makings and mannerisms and charisma of a real star, and he’s very very good in the role.”

On Grisham’s involvement:

Reiter said the two coordinated on the “central conspiracy” that informs the first season. And of course, Grisham had to give the go-ahead to turn his top-selling novel into a TV show.

He also talks big ideas, sees some cuts, and has watched the pilot. But the writer doesn’t approve every script, nor does he inspect every show beforehand. Really, he’s just like us. (If we were renowned writers of legal thrillers, anyway.)

“I want to sit back on Thursday night with everybody else,” Grisham said, “and watch the show.”

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