Talking truth with Tim Roth of Lie to Me
Lie to Me is not a show that grew on me last season. When it first premiered earlier this year, I didn't even bother watching it. I tend to shy away from mid-season replacements to begin with and something about seeing Tim Roth speaking in his normal British accent in promos for the show seemed weird to me.
Then summer arrived, TV viewing options started to dwindle, and suddenly Lie to Me became a viable option. I watched the pilot, was mildly amused, and then dropped it for over a month before I looked at another episode. At first, it wasn't that great, and now that I've had the opportunity to speak to Roth about it, it's good to know that I wasn't alone in thinking that.
Of course, things changed as the season progressed. Mekhi Phifer was added to the cast and most importantly, Shawn Ryan's stewardship over the show began when he and a few of his Shield cohorts stepped in for episode 12, "Blinded." Arguably the best ep to come out of the freshman batch, "Blinded" featured Rescue Me's Daniel Sunjata as a serial rapist and that episode alone sold me on the potential of the show. By then, I had gotten used to Roth's Dr. Cal Lightman calling everyone "love" too.
When I spoke with Roth last week (a handful of other writers and I got to pick his brain on a conference call), he made it clear that while right now he's loving it, he said that "last year was a struggle." But with Ryan's installation as executive producer, Roth said that the show has now really found its stride - the way the writing takes place has changed and the types of scripts that the writer's room are generating have improved as well.
The season two premiere, "The Core of It" (airs on Fox tonight, 9/28, at 9PM ET) is a perfect example. It feels like nothing we saw in season one. Guest-staring Traffic's (and NBC's upcoming Parenthood) Erika Christensen as a woman with disassociative identity disorder (see United States of Tara only less funny and more bloody here), the episode plays out as a much darker endeavor for The Lightman Group.
Taking on Christensen's multiple personalities as a case is not something we would have seen Lightman consider in season one and Roth was happy to say that since the scripts are so much better (edgier?), they're having more fun - "There's one we just completed shooting, which was very good, a lot of fun about a guy who shows up from my past [played by Jericho's Lennie James], 22 years ago, he rolls up in my office and a lot of trouble ensues." Another upcoming episode features Lightman and his daughter Emily (Hayley McFarland) on a Mexican vacation.
I wanted to know if we'd be seeing more serialized elements this season (last season only featured Foster's [Kelli Williams] marital issues as the one ongoing plot) and while Roth did say that the network mandate was for stand-alone eps, and he had this to say:
"I think you're going to see [some serialized elements] – yes, I think you are. For example, my relationship with Jennifer Beals' character is there and it has a growth and builds. But I think with the characters overall you'll be seeing – there will be connections between episodes."
Back to the premiere, that plot with Beals' Zoe Landau (Lightman's ex-wife) kicks right off as she's presented with an interesting job dilemma that initially threatens their family dynamic and ends up actually threatening The Lightman Group's future. It's an interesting twist that, if we're lucky, will see Lightman finally make that trip to Vegas we've all been hoping for. And speaking of Vegas, that was clearly the theme for the playing-card press-kit Fox sent out - "pack of lies" anyone?
The sub-plot with Zoe involves Lightman taking a big chance and that seems to be the trend for the season as well - at least based on the premiere. When I said it was a much darker endeavor for The Lightman Group, it ends up bringing out a much darker "do what it takes to win" mentality in Cal. At one point, he finds himself in a rather comprising situation with Christensen's character and despite Roth saying that he doesn't always agree with Cal's choices, he said "you're going to see a lot more of that too, that kind of behavior."
Last season's heavy focus on the procedural elements of his job (based on the real life work of Dr. Paul Ekman, who offers insight on each episode after it airs) weren't Roth's favorite and he admitted that he "was desperate to get some character stuff to play and some drama to play and not just be doing procedural work." It seems that Roth is getting his wish. Don't believe me? Am I lying? Watch the premiere and judge for yourself because Lie to Me is a lot more believable than it used to be.