John Grisham gives a positive brief on new series 'The Firm'

Jan. 6, 2012 at 10:25 AM ET

John Grisham is helping bring his book, "The Firm," to TV.

Those who remember the 1993 film adaptation of John Grisham's thriller "The Firm" may remember Tom Cruise's beleaguered character Mitch McDeere doing a lot of running around and hiding out from his fellow lawyers and bosses -- who wanted to make sure he wasn't sharing his company's criminal activities with the Feds. He was, and it changed his life.

"The Firm" also changed the life of its author, John Grisham, who spoke with TODAY's Matt Lauer Friday about the upcoming TV series adaptation on NBC, with independent film vet Josh Lucas in the Cruise role. At first, Grisham told Lauer, he couldn't get a book deal for his novel, but someone bootlegged the manuscript and started passing it around Hollywood.

"The first phone call I got for 'The Firm' was in January of 1990 and my agent said, 'Hey, we just sold the film rights.' I said, 'What about the book rights?'" recalled the author.

Naturally, with a film in the making, a book contract was quickly forthcoming; now, "The Firm" is a TV series that picks up where the story left off. The McDeere family has been in witness protection for ten years, and wants to resume living a normal life. If they could, there wouldn't be much fodder for a series so ... things start to go wrong.

"I would not be here if I didn't like it," said Grisham, giving his stamp of approval on the book and calling Lucas "a movie star. This guy's got the presence, charisma, talent."

And he would know if a series isn't going to go well: His novel, "The Client," was made into a film in 1994 and a TV series that only ran for a season in 1995.

"I've had a bad experience on television," said Grisham. "'The Firm' is another story. This is going to be a hit."

The two-hour premiere of "The Firm" airs on NBC on Sunday, Jan. 8 at 9 p.m.

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