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Lie To Me‘s Tim Roth Talks About New Seasons and New Showrunners!

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On Monday, June 7, FOX's drama Lie To Me returns for the second half of its second season. Show runner Shawn Ryan has just departed the show to shepherd two of his own projects onto the air, but star Tim Roth has confidence in the team now in place to move the show forward. He recently spoke to the media on what's going on in front of and behind the camera and how much input he has in the writers' room.

Tim Roth, Mekhi Phifer, and Jason Dohring  ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Adam Rose/FOXMonday's episode is titled "Beat The Devil" and guest stars Jason Dohring as a possible psychopath Lightman is determined to out. "But," Roth explained, "He’s in the unfortunate position of having had an affair with the professor who’s also having an affair with the guy he doesn’t trust and then Foster thinks it’s just a jealousy issue." This is not the only time this season jealousy will rear its head between these two. The actor noted, "There is a boyfriend that [rises up for Foster] and there’s the odd fling for me in the second season."

Overall, Roth said, "We’ll be looking at Foster and Lightman’s relationship; we look at how they met. There is my relationship with my ex-wife and also with my daughter. The daughter starts to feature more and more heavily I think. She’s such a good character and the actress is so very good that we are writing to that. The cases are strange and [there's] a little bit more adrenaline floating around this season."

Shawn Ryan will not be with the show for the third season and neither will frequent guest star Jennifer Beals, as she will be starring in Ryan's new show Ride Along. Beals plays Lightman's ex-wife and Roth was asked if her exit allowed for the possibility of her returning for more guest star spots. He replied, "Oh yeah, definitely. I don’t know how they quite handle things like that, to be honest with you, because it’s fairly new to me, the television thing. But I know that door is always going to be left open. And so there will be discussion about her when she’s absent and maybe she can come back and do something."

Ryan's departure has not left the writers' room in disarray. Roth explained, "There are two [writers] that are running this now, Alexander Cary and David Graziano. Alex was a guy that was brought on by Shawn Ryan when he was watching the show last year. He’s an English writer, very, very good. We had an instant connection, the two of us, aided by the fact that we both come from the same part of London. Then Alex brought on this writer from Brooklyn, this guy David Graziano who is also superb. The two of them had worked together before and now they are running the show. I have a very good relationship with them indeed."

Tim Roth ©2009 FOX Broadcasting Co. CR: Gregg DeGuire/FOXThat good relationship includes Roth being able to give his input on story ideas. Asked whether he's involved in the production end of the show, the actor replied, "I'm not officially. I talk to the writers all the time . . . I'll be meeting with them for the first time on Tuesday. We will be running ideas by each other and I will be part of that. I’m heavily involved in the making of the show, which I think is a good thing. I think you should be if you are central to it."

The actor was asked what he found most challenging about taking on the lead in a television series. He answered, "I didn’t want to know this science. I didn’t want to have the ability [to spot lies], so one of the biggest challenges was trying not to learn this stuff. I don’t like taking my work home. But as you’re around it, it does kind of seep in a bit. The challenge really for me was always trying to get the material to be better. Once you’ve sort of established the character you can play around with it and you can change him and I did do that. But once I was allowed the flexibility, the next question was trying to get the material to be better and better. By that, I meant I want to know the background of these guys; I want to know how they relate to each other. I want some kind of background history that I can sprinkle into the scripts, so that was the challenge, really."

With Lie To Me being Roth's foray into a television series, he was asked how he approached playing the character. He explained, "I treat it like a play, as though we’re in a long run of a play and every time we come to a new episode, I tweak him, I play around with him a little bit and change him. And I think if you look, obviously, from the beginning of the first season through to the first half of the second, you'll see a difference. Even within the second season with this guy . . . you do have room to play and maneuver and kick and scream a bit with the character. As the writers have developed the character, they’ve given me more and more to play with."

The actor also got some advice from Dr. Paul Ekman, the man who developed the lie detection science the show is based upon. Roth said, "I asked him if he was ever aware of his body language and did he get to be too self-aware? And he said, 'Absolutely not, I’m not on stage, they are. Everybody else is on stage.' And I took that and ran with that notion of the character, that he truly doesn’t care how he behaves as long as he gets the reaction that he’s looking for from the characters across from him. I found [Dr. Ekman] to be a very charming man, very cool guy."

Roth was asked how he liked living with his character for so long. He said, "I think it would be tricky if I didn’t like him. I actually like him. I like what he’s turning into, especially. He interests me; he’s an interesting guy. He’s trouble, which I like. The science is kind of intriguing. All in all, it’s okay. It really is like doing a long run of a play, a very long run of a play, I presume, hopefully. That was actually one of the things I thought might be difficult for me, but I’ve actually enjoyed it."

As the main character on the show, Lightman is generally right when he calls people on lies. Roth was asked if it ever occurs to the character he may be wrong. He answered, "It does and we have an interesting episode where he is wrong. And I think we should do that more, by the way, so that’s one thing we’re going to talk about. If someone’s lying, yes, you can be right about that, but why they’re lying — you can be completely wrong about that. And he is wrong quite often." In terms of character development, Roth also said, "I think we’re looking at developing the kind of rogue element of [Lightman] even more in the third season and certainly it’s happened in the second season."

Asked what he's enjoyed this season in terms of guest stars, the actor said he loves it when he makes one of them laugh. He noted that on most sets, there's a "tendency to assume when the guest actors come on, you’re usually required to hit your marks and say your lines exactly the way they are on the page. We have an atmosphere in which you can play around and improvise which I think is quite unusual in television. When they come on and find out they can do that, it makes for a very, very fun time. So I usually am trying to make them laugh during a take. Those are my good times."

Some of the most memorable scenes in Lie To Me occur when Lightman squares off against a tricky adversary, as Roth is able to unleash his intense and very physical style of acting. Asked whether he had a wish list of people he would like to go up against, he answered, "I think his daughter would be interesting and we do a bit of that in the remaining episodes. My interest we’re exploring in the third season is somebody who is way better than him at what he does . . . If [Lightman] keeps not being able to read him and [his] face gets rubbed in it time and time again, how would he deal with it? That would be kind of fun."

Tim Roth as Cal Lightman  ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Patrick Ecclesine/FOXThe actor has kept his hand in the world of films as well as television. He said, "I’ve got a film called Pete Smalls Is Dead, which is a very strange film I did with Steve Buscemi and [Peter] Dinklage. … That will be on the festival circuit. It’s very, very low budget, but a lot of fun. That’s coming out. I always have a backup plan. I have a couple of things I’d like to direct."

In the meantime, however, fans of the actor have most likely been enjoying the ads for his returning show, one of the most amusing being Lightman looking like he's gone a few rounds in the ring. Asked about the promo, the actor chuckled and explained, "What happened was we did one where Lightman goes along to an illegal underground fight, that kind of world. He gets involved in that and while we were there, we shot a promo which we thought was kind of funny and they stuck with it. I quite like it because it looks to me like Lightman should get bashed up a lot. I don’t think he’d survive without that."

Lie To Me's marketing department is on a roll, and I'll end this interview with one of the new promos on Youtube's FOXBroadcasting channel which investigates "The Lightman Lean." Tune in on Monday at 8 PM ET (7 Central) as the series returns with "Beat The Devil."

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About Gerry Weaver

  • Alan Brooks

    I must say that I truly love this show!
    The science of it has definitely opened up my eyes to how people around me react to their environment. My favorite parts are when they show world leaders exhibiting the behaviors they talk about in the show. It does make me second guess what I’ve been told.
    I just wish that they could get a definitive time-slot. It seems like they were more of a fill in show during season one.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/olga-parera/ Olga Parera

    Excellent article!! I started to watch Lie To Me recently and it’s so great! I truly love Lightman as a character, so well written. Can’t wait for the new season!

  • Jair

    Thanks, Olga! I really like Lightman as well and I think Tim Roth has only just begun to explore what can be done with the character. I just love The Lightman Lean, heh.

    Alan, the science is fascinating. It’s amazing the work being done with facial expressions. On the timeslot, I’m afraid the show will move again in the fall to Wednesday and then isn’t on the spring schedule at all as of yet. But at least it has good slots, whenever they are. It’s when a show gets moved to Friday you really have to worry.

  • Dan Jones

    Tim Roth is such a good actor. I can always forget his name when he acts. He always portrays his character in its best!