Fans of FOX’s Lie To Me, starring the wonderful Tim Roth as a man who takes lie detection to a whole new level, will be delighted to hear that not only is the show renewed for next season, the second half of this year’s season returns on Monday, June 7 at 8 PM ET (7 PM Central). However, this good news is somewhat tempered by the news that Shawn Ryan, the show runner brought in so successfully last year to tweak the show, will be leaving. Ryan spoke to the media about what’s coming up next, both for Lie To Me and himself.
In the past, FOX’s dramas have not usually been part of its summer schedule and Ryan was asked what his reaction was to the news the show would return in June. He replied, “My first reaction was grateful that they were picking us up for a back nine, because we were told at the same time, okay, we want nine more episodes but because our schedule is looking pretty full right now, we’re going to save them until summer. It’s mixed feelings because traditionally, in the past, that’s been a burn-off spot, but when I was told that they were pairing us up with The Good Guys, which I knew was an important element in their schedule, and they had been talking for a while about really making a true commitment to year-round programming, I chose to look at the glass half full and say, well I guess they want us to be pioneers for them in that regard and see if we can get an audience there.”
"Also, it was a very tough time slot that we were in on Mondays at 9 p.m. in the fall. We had Dancing with the Stars and Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory and Monday Night Football and we were holding our own and doing okay in the ratings. But now we have a chance to hopefully attract some audience attention and get some eyeballs that maybe were tuning into other things during the fall. So I'm definitely looking at it as an opportunity more than a punishment."
Ryan confirmed that he and his writing team used the time before June to plan the best way to air the back nine installments and the summer season will end with some really strong episodes to launch the show into its third season in the fall. Asked whether one of those episodes involves Cal (Tim Roth) committing himself to a mental institution, he said, "That is true, that is true, and that is during our very special Shield reunion episode, where I brought back six of our actors from The Shield and had them co-star in it. I don't have the schedule in front of me but I have a feeling that’s like the fourth of fifth episode to air. [The show is called "Pied Piper" and will air on August 16th.] … Yes, for a good reason. He has his motivations, but he does check himself into a psych ward and maybe fits in a little too well."
Of course, the interview would not have been complete without a question about the developing relationships on the show, both between Cal and Gillian (Kelli Williams) and between Loker (Brendan Hines) and Torres (Monica Raymund). Ryan said, "What I would say on the Cal/Gillian front is that the relationship deepens and gets explored, but there is a character that comes in between them, played by Melissa George, for a few episodes. We have a back nine but it's actually 12 episodes that we still have to air, that we've made, so in those 12 summer episodes, we’re going to learn a lot more about Cal and Gillian and how they came together. We’ve got an episode that shows in flashback how they first met and what they mean to each other. I don't necessarily want to label it 'romance,' but their relationship deepens in a way that I think the audience will find satisfying. As for the Loker/Torres relationship, we definitely get some advancement on that front.”
Asked whether he enjoyed playing with the audience, Ryan noted the question he and his writers ask is: what would these characters actually do in this situation? He said, "On the Lightman/Foster front, Cal/Gillian, there’s just a really, really deep bond, and we were very interested in finding out where that came from. That’s something that was written from the beginning of the series but I also think it’s just something that naturally plays between Kelli Williams and Tim Roth. They really like each other a lot in real life and have a lot of respect for each other, and there’s something on screen that plays. As a writer, when you see that playing in the editing room, it’s a great inspiration for stories going forward. It’s less to do with sort of playing with the audience, dangling it out and pulling it back, and more just trying to be realistic to the situations."
Series star Tim Roth has an impressive resume with some iconic characters to his credit. Ryan was asked whether his star’s talent and distinctive style of acting allow the writers to take the series places they otherwise might decide were too difficult or risky. He answered, “Tim is a real live wire, a very, very smart actor, a very instinctual actor, and someone who really likes to be challenged on a scene-by-scene basis. I would say that his instincts fall in line with an audience. He doesn’t like to play just straight ahead procedural scenes. He likes to find a different new angle in the scenes which is a real challenge to write, but it’s very satisfying once you meet that challenge."
"He’s someone who has a range that not a lot of other actors have, so [we have] an unspoken contest in the writers’ room. What kind of fun situation can we put Tim into, whether it’s role playing, whether it’s acting more outraged than he really is, whether it’s going to be spy in a certain scene trying to detect something while flying under someone’s radar, or as was previously mentioned, checking himself into a mental ward to get access to someone there but knowing exactly the right buttons to push with the doctor to get himself admitted. Those are the kinds of things that are our challenge.”
“One thing I’ve found in all the shows I’ve worked on is the better you know your actors in real life, the better you’re able to write for them. So one of the keys to writing for Tim is just spending a lot of time with him, on set, just hanging out, having meals, talking to him, getting that voice in your head. It's interesting because obviously I’m an American and obviously he’s English, so my natural speech rhythms are not the same as his. It was a challenge for a lot of the writers to write him authentically British. But I think we managed to do that and we also had a ringer British guy on staff that helped with that.”
Roth is often joined by wonderful guest stars on Lie To Me, and Jason Dohring will be guest starring as a psychopathic grad student in the June 7 episode of “Beat The Devil.” Ryan noted, “We have in that very same episode Howard Hesseman guest starring as a teacher who’s gotten himself into a jam because he claims to have seen a UFO. He’s a teacher in the school and the school certainly doesn’t want a crazy, delusional person teaching their children. The firm is employed to try to figure out if he’s telling the truth about this.”
“I think I mentioned that we have Melissa George for a few episodes and she did great for us. Jennifer Beals is back for a couple more episodes before I hijack her to my new FOX show … Max Martini, who was a series regular for us on The Unit, plays a recurring role as someone who, in the same way that Melissa George comes in between Cal and Gillian on Cal’s side, Max Martini plays someone who comes a little bit between Cal and Gillian on Gillian’s side. And he’s in three or four episodes, I believe.”
"I think we did a pretty good job guest casting the show. Enver Gjokaj, who was on Dollhouse, also has a really, really great guest performance in an episode about an Iraq war soldier who comes back and is having some mental problems from that experience that threaten his family, and Cal takes it upon himself to try to solve these problems. Those are the ones that are off the top of my head, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a couple big ones. But one of the fun things to do on this show that I didn’t always get to do on The Shield or The Unit was to really bring in a guest star and just give them some really chewy, fun stuff to do in just one episode.”
Winding up the interview, Ryan addressed how the show will handle his leaving to shepherd two of his own projects on to the air. He said, “When I came in, Sam Baum, who created the show, had asked me to join up and try to help with some internal leaks on the ship and get the ship righted, and I feel that I, with a lot of help, did my part in doing that. At the time, I had some things in development but nothing was a go, and as you all know, it’s very difficult to get something on the air. After we started working on the show, I was lucky enough to get two shows on the air: the show Terriers for FX that’s going to premiere in the fall and we’ve been making episodes for, and then just recently my pilot, Ride Along, [which] got picked up, first the pilot and then the series.”
"It became obvious in the last couple months that it was going to be too much work for me and I really do care a lot about Lie to Me and its future and its success. I realized that it would be better if I went to the studio and said I can’t finish this, but let’s work out a transition together. We had developed what I thought was a very good team and a team that really picked up a lot of slack for me when I was in Chicago making my pilot. They proved to me that they were ready to accept a lot more responsibility."
"There are a few writers from last year that are staying on and taking over the reins of the show. I really have complete faith in them. I’m in the position that I’m in now because Kevin Reilly and Peter Liguori … had a lot of faith in me to make The Shield when I had no experience to indicate that really I was capable of it. So I feel like it’s a situation where there are a couple of writers, Alex Cary and David Graziano on the show, who certainly have more experience that I had when I started The Shield [and] I think have a really great grasp of the show, who have a lot of fantastic ideas for season three."
"They went and pitched the network on how they saw season three and it was an impressive enough meeting that I think it had an impact on the show getting picked up for a third season. I’ve been trying to help them, sort of grandfatherly-advice style along the way. They drop in my office two or three times each week and update me on what’s going on with the transition and what’s going on with staffing and hiring and ask me some questions and I give them some advice, some of which they take and other of which they ignore. It’s really nice to see guys I like who I think are really talented writers getting this opportunity. I think they’re going to do a really, really great job.”
Cary and Graziano will have help. Lie To Me’s publicist explained to me the show will be collaboratively helmed by returning executive producers Vahan Moosekian and Dan Sackheim, along with Cary and Graziano, who are also executive producers. Despite the loss of Ryan, who clearly has the showrunning touch, the show looks to be in good hands. Tune in on Monday, June 7 at 8:00 PM ET (7 PM Central) to remind yourself of how much fun it is to see Roth push people’s buttons as he tries to determine who is lying and perhaps more importantly, why.