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TV Interview: Lie To Me‘s Tim Roth Talks About the Show’s Early Return on October 4th

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Changes are afoot on FOX’s Monday night schedule. The network’s new drama Lone Star failed to attract enough viewers to make it past two episodes, but it’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good: the show’s quick cancellation left room for FOX to move Lie To Me‘s third season premiere up to Monday, October 4th. Star Tim Roth took time out from his busy schedule to talk to the media about coming back early, different dynamics for the third season and what’s around the corner for Lightman’s and Foster’s complicated relationship.

Tim Roth as Cal Lightman  ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Mathieu Young/FOX Roth first addressed the news that Lone Star‘s cancellation means Lie To Me will begin its third season a month earlier than expected. He said, “It’s a bit of a shock, really, but a good thing for us. Obviously, a very sad thing for the Lone Star guys . . . anyone who does this kind of job knows how much is put into it. So, we know that some people over there will be very, very sad about what’s happened. But, we just got shoved into that slot. We were kind of ready for it . . . We just finished episode six last night and started episode seven, yesterday, as well. So, we should be okay, I think.”

Despite the show’s busy production schedule, Roth, to his fans’ delight, has recently enthusiastically embraced Twitter. The actor’s sense of humour is often on display as he posts behind the scenes photos of the cast and crew. He explained, “We work very, very hard . . . but we make sure that we laugh a lot . . . So, the pictures that you see on the Twitter thing would kind of reflect that, too. It reflects that, yes, we may be working hard, but we’re also enjoying ourselves and hopefully that kind of fun comes across in the show itself.”

Despite the good working environment, Lie To Me has had some growing pains behind the scenes as the writers searched for the right combination of science and character-driven plots. Series creator and original show runner Samuel Baum brought in Shawn Ryan (Terriers, The Shield) in season two to help find the balance, but with two shows of his own both picked up to go to series this year, Ryan eventually handed over the reins to two of his writers: Alexander Cary and David Graziano.

Asked about his relationship with the writers through all the changes, Roth replied, “My relationship with them in the first season was quite stormy. My ambition for the show is that it’s wild and fun—and it being a procedural but still quite different and mischievous and interesting for the audience. I didn’t feel that that was the case in season one. Although, I think I may have been wrong because I think [the audience] did enjoy it, but that was our experiment. That was the beginnings of the show.”

Roth felt season two was mixed bag, but by the end of the run he had connected with many of the writers, particularly Cary and Graziano, both of whom had received promotions. The actor explained, “Both of these guys are show runners. What they bring to the show is my peace of mind as much as anything. I have an incredible connection with them and we talk every day.”

Roth hopes the audience will reap the benefits of his strong relationship with the writers’ room and believes the show has now hit its stride.  He noted, “I am very, very involved in how this show presents itself and what you guys get to see. And I think we’re finally getting to a place where we are happy with what the show is. I hope you guys are going to be, too.”

Finding that stride has involved making some changes, both in terms of story structure and cast. At the end of last season, Ben Reynold’s (Mekhi Pfifer) conflict between working for both The Lightman Group and the FBI ended with a bullet in his chest. Season three opens with the Lightman Group having severed its ties with FBI. Roth said, “The reason for that was the writers felt — and I think it had nothing to do with Mekhi because Mekhi is fantastic and completely loony and really funny — but they felt that if the doors were opened too easily for Lightman, then we don’t have this mischief and the craziness of him trying to open these doors.”

The audience may have to say goodbye to Agent Reynolds, but the season premiere will bring back a character first introduced in last season’s finale.  Monique Curnen played a crooked cop and she will be Lightman’s connection to the law in a recurring role for season three.  According to the actor, the relationship is “not an easy one and it’s a very, very fun one.”

Without the pressure of having to conform to the FBI’s code of ethics, Lightman will be much freer this season to bend the law in pursuit of what he sees as the truth. Roth is delighted at being able to play with this aspect of the character. He said, “I like that he’s an absolute troublemaker. I like that’s he’s the guy that was in school at the back of the classroom causing trouble. He has a really, really difficult time of it with authority. He doesn’t take authority too seriously or lightly and I like that aspect of him and it’s something that the writers now have embraced.”

Tim Roth and Kelli Williams  ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Greg Gayne/FOX  This new relationship with the law will allow the writers to explore Lightman’s moral code in more detail, which will bring the character into a little more conflict with Foster (Kelli Williams). Roth explained, “She calls him on his crap and that’s good. Their relationship is less one way. Whereas, in the past, he was doing his thing and getting away with it, now he gets caught in it and there is an element of confrontation that is there. ”

Confrontations of any kind between Lightman and Foster highlight the chemistry between the two, something the writers will not shy away from this season. Roth teased that the show “might be playing with the area in a much more direct way over the next season.” 

Asked about the increasing focus on the romantic tension, he said, “I think a lot of it, to be honest with you, comes out the fact that me and Kelli get along so well.”  Their chemistry was noticed in the writers’ room as far back as season one and now, Roth says, “Alexander Cary and David Graziano insist that we write to those characters. So, you’re going to see a lot more of their relationship and some of it isn’t going to be pretty. But I think people [will] be pleasantly surprised. I am. If I can get to work with Kelli during the day then I’m pretty happy.”

Roth singled out Lightman’s relationships with Foster and his daughter Emily as his favourite story arcs. In regard to Emily, he noted, “The thing that’s interesting for me – I don’t have a daughter, I’ve got three sons and so I have a surrogate daughter in Hayley, or in Emily, I should say – so, I kind of play around with the notion of it as me, Tim, and also with the Lightman thing.”

Lightman’s bond with his daughter is one of the delights of the series, striking a wonderful balance between sweet and realistic.  And though most of Cal’s relationships tend toward the tempestuous, he is very focused on his role as parent.  Roth said, “I think [Emily] is the one person, even more so than the Foster character, that he truly, truly loves and that he tries to understand. And I think he’s quite a good parent, really. Despite being completely bonkers I think that his parenting skills with her are very adult whereas, most I think are quite juvenile.”

Hayley McFarland as Emily ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. CR: Mathieu Young/FOX  Hayley McFarland

Last season, the show ended with Lightman having been served notice that his daughter was growing up.  Season three will continue to explore their changing relationship.  The actor explained, “She’s a young woman. He can no longer think of her as a child. But it’s pretty tough for him to think of her as a young woman. So we’re getting into that realm now. I like that character very much. And I love the actress. I think she’s fantastic, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Asked if any upcoming episodes stand out for him, the actor said, “We did a really interesting and fun Thomas Crown Affair thing with Tricia Helfer, which I really enjoyed. She was a complete surprise to me. I didn’t know who she was because I don’t watch television very much. But she was terrific.” He also enjoyed the bank heist in the opening episode “In The Red.” Tune in on Monday, October 4th at 9:00 PM (ET/PT) to check out the season three premiere of Lie To Me.

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