‘The Lincoln Lawyer’: Christopher Gorham on the ‘Satisfaction’ of Trevor’s Ending

Christopher Gorham as Trevor Elliot in The Lincoln Lawyer
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[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for all of The Lincoln Lawyer Season 1.]

If you’ve read The Brass Verdict, Michael Connelly’s book on which the Netflix series’ first season is based, you have a pretty good idea of what happens and how it ends. But that doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining to watch.

Manuel Garcia-Rulfo plays Mickey Haller, who prefers to run his law practice out of the back seat of his Lincoln instead of the office he inherits following a colleague’s death. Mickey also ends up with the other lawyer’s clients, including video game mogul Trevor Elliott (Christopher Gorham), who’s accused of murdering his wife and her lover. (He’s guilty.) The jury finds him not guilty — there is some tampering involved — but Trevor makes the mistake of thinking that means he’s free and not thinking about those he hurt by killing his wife’s lover, which leads to his own death.

Gorham discusses taking on this role and Trevor’s fate.

Coming into the series, we know from the book that Trevor’s guilty. Did you know from when you signed on that the series would follow the book in that regard?

Christopher Gorham: I did, yeah. They were updating the character from the book, but the bones are still the same.

What appealed to you about playing that kind of character? It’s very different from what people are used to seeing you as from say, Covert Affairs.

That’s part of it, right? It’s a different guy than I’ve been playing recently, and it’s complicated because for me anyway, I played this guy that did love his wife. He’s never lying when he talks about his feelings for her. It’s just at the end of the day, he loved the company. Mickey talks about it: He’s an addict, and at the end of the day, he chose his drug over his love. What that did is it gives me the ability to play the emotional stuff honestly because I think it is honest for him and what makes his story believable is that he’s not faking the emotion behind him. He’s just not telling you the whole story.

Christopher Gorham as Trevor Elliot, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer

Lara Solanki/Netflix

Do you think he ever could have been a guy who would choose love over everything else?

Maybe at some point in the past, but at this point in his life, no, because he is in denial about all that. Like an addict, it’s incredibly difficult to overcome it in the best of circumstances and this is not a guy who’s really allowed to hit rock bottom. He just keeps moving upward. So yeah, I think maybe when he was younger but at this point in his life, he’s kind of broken in that way, I think.

You also came into the show knowing his fate, which had to happen, given the meaning of “the brass verdict.”

It’s a great story, right? This is a guy who, if you haven’t read the book, it looks like he is going to get away with at the end, not just in a court of law, but in life, and so there’s a satisfaction, I think, for the audience in that ending that you want that payoff. And like you said, the title of the whole thing doesn’t make any sense if he doesn’t get killed in the end. But for me, the only sad part is it means I can’t come back in Season 2, because I had such a great time working with everybody over there. I would’ve loved to keep going with them, but sadly Trevor’s story has come to an end.

You just need Trevor to become a ghost and haunt Mickey.

Yes, exactly. It’d be a different show, but sure, why not? [Laughs]

Christopher Gorham as Trevor Elliot, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo as Mickey Haller in The Lincoln Lawyer

Lara Solanki/Netflix

You can see that he thinks he’s getting away with murder in the press conference at the end.

Yeah, and in almost every way, he is. He’s been found not guilty. He can’t be charged again for this crime, no matter what happens. And Mickey’s bound by attorney-client privilege, so Mickey’s not going to tell anybody, not just, I think, for professional reasons, but for — well also for professional reasons, it’s going to make him look terrible if it comes out. So it doesn’t do anybody any good at that point for the truth to come out, as far as Mickey and Trevor is concerned. So yeah, he’s feeling himself at the end there. That’s one of my favorite scenes just because it just allows me to play with just being such a prick.

That was his biggest mistake: All season, he didn’t even think about Carol, and then she shoots him.

Yeah, exactly right. For Trevor, she’s inconsequential. She’s not on his radar. She’s never really a threat because he would never have predicted that she was going to behave that way. That comes from completely out of left field.

Christopher Gorham as Trevor Elliot in The Lincoln Lawyer

Lara Solanki/Netflix

Talk about filming that death scene.

I think it was the first time that I’ve had squibs, that I’ve used squibs, which are little explosives that they tape onto your body and then they blow up on cue. So that was kind of interesting because I had this trail of wires coming out the bottom of my pants for the takes where we were using those. Also, I think I was deluding myself through much of the filming — you forget that your character dies in the end, because you’re just kind of playing each episode and each scene as it comes. So on that day it was like, “No, I guess they’re really going to do it. They’re really going to kill me off.” [Laughs]

Speaking of that conference, something that strikes me all season but especially during it is just how charming Trevor is and how that’s who he has to be. Talk about leaning into that aspect of the character.

It’s an interesting thing because I feel like he’s struggling through most of the season to keep a lid on a lot of that. He’s very purposeful about what he shows to whom and when. When he first meets Mickey, he’s pretty cold and he’s up in his quiet space where he goes to get away and think, up on top of the building, shooting free throws. But he’s also establishing that he’s the boss in that scene. And then when Mickey forces him to show him some vulnerability, then he shows him the vulnerability that he needs to show in that moment to get what he wants.

It’s the same thing when he gets on the stand. He shows the jury what the jury needs to see so that Trevor can get what he wants. And so for me, we don’t really see his full charisma until that last scene. The audience sees a different thing than what the people in that room see, right? The people in that room see a great guy, he’s charming, he’s energetic, he’s full of life, he’s bigger than life, and they all love him. But that’s just because they haven’t seen what the audience and Mickey has seen throughout the whole thing, which is that he’s been, in many ways, putting on an act and putting on masks for the whole thing and lying to get what he wants. And so for the audience and Mickey, he’s full asshole. He’s just awful.

The Mickey-Trevor dynamic was so much fun to watch all season. Talk about building that with Manuel and working with him on the season.

We had a great time. First episode, those were the scenes I auditioned with. So it was great to finally be able to do them with somebody, but it wasn’t new to me. So the first scene where I really felt like we got a chance to play off of each other was in the second episode, when he takes me out of the judge’s chambers into the courtroom to yell at me and then I end up yelling at him and it’s really the first time where we butt heads while we’re working together. Manuel’s such a talented actor and so just open and available that we were able to really play with that scene.

We did a few different versions of how much we were getting in each other’s faces. The version they chose I think is the right balance because you get the conflict and you see how Mickey has to suck it up and lose the argument, and he’s a guy who’s not used to losing these types of arguments. He’s a guy who’s used to being fully in charge of his cases and his clients and having the clients rely on him and listen to him and do what he says, like you see in all the other little cases throughout the season. And so he’s really struggling having to swallow whatever Trevor tells him to do.

Because at the end of the day, Trevor’s right, that he needs this just as much as Trevor does, and so he’s gotta take it. And so, for me, just as an actor, that’s fun to play. It’s fun to win all these arguments. And also just a little fun to watch Manuel have to take it. But in real life, we got on great. So that was a relief because on screen it was pretty tense sometimes.

The Lincoln Lawyer, Season 1, Streaming Now, Netflix