Lie To Me – Return Review Plus Interview With Tim Roth

I should probably recuse myself from judging Lie to Me, because I’m too solidly in the show’s theoretical demographic, and I’ve long been a huge fan of Tim Roth, but such is probably not an option.

Lie to Me returns tonight for the continuation of its second season, and Tim Roth was recently available for a conference call interview. Before I share that with you, I want to give you a peek at the two episodes you’ll be getting next.

Tonight’s episode, “Beat the Devil”, finds Cal stumbling onto a graduate student he quickly comes to believe is a murderer when said student shows up Cal’s detection abilities. Not only is Foster not behind his snap judgement, but Cal’s old mentor isn’t on board either, especially since she knows this particular student very well.

It’s an intense episode, and a good one to bring us back into the show, but it isn’t the best effort we’ve seen.  The resolution is a little too much, and unnecessarily so. Still, we get a good feel for the direction the show is heading, especially considering the last three or four episodes. I wouldn’t want to be the one who had to answer a lot of questions about this one, but it works well enough.

Next week, on June 14th, the episode is “Sweet Sixteen” and it’s a more solid effort. Cal’s past finally catches up to him, and we get a lot of backstory, including the first time Lightman and Foster met. There are terrorists, shady dealings at the Pentagon, and Lightman’s disturbing past all in one episode.

While I didn’t particularly love tonight’s episode, it leads into the continuation of the show pretty well, and “Sweet Sixteen” definitely leaves me anxious for future episodes.

There was some doubt about a third season not long ago, but the show seems to be getting stronger as it goes. Cal, as Roth mentioned in the interview, is getting a fuller, more complex examination, and the character continues to be intriguing and entertaining. Once in a while, such as in the “Beat the Devil” episode, it gets a little House-ish, what with people not believing him, but the ongoing effort to dissect everyone, especially Cal himself, is quality television in my book.

 

Interview with Tim Roth

Fred Topel with Hollywood News.

F. Topel The Fight Club … promos that you’ve been doing are pretty awesome.  How does that reflect what’s going on this season?

T. Roth What happened was we did one where Lightman goes along to an illegal kind of on the ground fights, that kind of world, gets involved in that.  While we were there, we shot a promo, which we thought would be funny and they stuck with it.  I quite like it because, and it looks to me like Lightman should get bashed up a lot because I don’t think he’d survive without that.

F. Topel Yes, it’s really cool, so that’s coming up later.

T. Roth Yes, it’s actually a very good episode.

Jim Halterman with JimHalterman.com.

J. Halterman I just wanted to know, now that you have so many episodes under your belt, have you gotten used to the machine that is producing this show?

T. Roth At the beginning I found it difficult and I think that a lot of that had to do with the scripts.  They were trying to find the show.  The writers were firstly trying to find the show as much as we all were.  Gradually, I think we started to find our feet.  The second season has been much easier in that respect.

Once again, the two writers that rose to the surface in the second season have now gone on to run the writers for the third.  So it’s gotten progressively smoother, which makes the job of acting in it much easier.  So gradually, I think, yes, it’s become a much better experience.  It’s a lot of fun now, actually.

J. Halterman And the will they, won’t they romance between Cal and Julian, is that something we’re going to see gel a little bit more this season?

T. Roth Yes, in the second season you do.  There’s a boyfriend that rolls up for her and there’s the odd fling for me in the second season.  But in the third, they’re actually sitting down to determine how the character is going to progress right now, so.  I’ll find out before you guys do.

Taisha Garby with TV Week.

T. Garby You met Dr. Ekman to play your role.  What was he like?

T. Roth He’s really the sweetest fellow.  He’s a very cool guy.  It’s very different from my character, but the science is his.  One of the best things he said to me, I was quite nervous being around him because I felt that he was reading me all the time, which, in fact,  he is.  He can’t just stop doing it once you learn how to do it.

But one of the best pieces of advice he gave me, I asked him if he was ever aware of his body language and did he get to be too self aware.  He said actually not.  He said, “I’m not on stage, they are.  Everybody else is on stage.”  I took that and ran with that notion with the character because he truly doesn’t care how he … as long as he gets a reaction that he’s looking for from the characters that are across from him.  I found him to be a very charming man, a very cool guy.

Magali Levet with Series.nu.

M. Levet I was wondering since you’re on FOX and the show is based on this fascinating character, just like House is, do you have any input on the script like he does and maybe are you involved in the executive production of the show?

T. Roth I’m not officially, but yes I do.  I talk to the writers all the time.  They run ideas by me and so on.  We have now a completely revamped writer’s room, which is now going to be run by an English writer, Alexander Cary and a guy from Brooklyn, Dave Graziano.  Those two have taken over.  They were my two favorite writers from last season.  They have a very interesting group, new group around them.  And I’ll be meeting with them, actually, for the first time on Tuesday and we will be running ideas by each other and I will be part of that.  I’m very heavily involved in the making of the show, which I think is a good thing.  I think you should be if you’re central to it.

M. Levet Can I just ask you would you like to go back to directing …?

T. Roth Yes, very much.  I’d love to.

Marc Eastman with AreYouScreening.com.

M. Eastman I was actually wondering, we all heard that it was a little difficult to get you involved at the beginning. (Tim chuckled… I swear)  I wondered now that you’re far into it, is it what you expected, and how do you keep a character fresh for so long when you are used to movies?

T. Roth I think of it as… am I used to it first off, not really.  I like it because I like being busy and this keeps you incredibly busy.  But it’s a very, very different kind of world from films.  With regards to the character thing, I treat it like a play as if I were in the long run of a play. Every time I come to a new episode, I tweak him.  I play around with him a little bit and change him.  I think if you look, obviously, from the beginnings of the first season through to the first … second, you’ll see a different—even within the second season with this guy.

Although its foundations are strong and will remain the same, you do have room to play and maneuver and kick and scream a bit with the character.  So as they’ve developed that character as the writers have developed that characters, it’s given me more and more to play with.

Steve Eramo with Sci-Fi and TV Talk.

S. Eramo I wanted to find out if you could tell us, what were some of the initial acting challenges you found for stepping into this role would you say?

T. Roth I didn’t want to know this science.  I didn’t want to have that ability.  So one of the biggest challenges was trying not to learn this stuff because I don’t like taking my work home, but as you were around it, it does seep in a bit.  The challenge really for me was always to try and get the material to be better.  Once you have 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 this material to be better and better.  By that I felt I meant really was 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 and so on.  So that was the challenge really. It’s a day to day challenge.  It’s a tough job, but it’s a very, very enjoyable job or can be anyway.

S. Eramo Just as a follow-up, I wanted to find out, a general question for you, did you always want to work in this industry while you were growing up?  Or did you have other professions in mind?

T. Roth I wanted to be a painter.  One thing from when I was a kid, I remember acting walking down the street just in case someone driving by would say that kid is exactly the walk I want and then whisk you off to Hollywood or something.  There’s always that dream in your mind when you’re a kid or it was in mine.  But I was painter and I went to art school and studied sculpture and stuff and got bitten by the bug.

Fred Topel with Hollywood News.

F. Topel Relating to Cal pushing the limits of his business, what drives you to succeed?

T. Roth I think I’m a workaholic.  Being out of work is probably what drives me, really.  Unemployment is a great leveler.

F. Topel And then as a literal follow-up, what kind of car do you actually drive?

T. Roth What do I drive?  I drive an Audi.  I used to drive a Prius, which is why he drives a Prius and now I drive an Audi because I needed the station wagon thing because I have the kids and all of that.  So maybe Lightman will be driving an Audi next year.

F. Topel That’s cool.  That’s bled into the character.  I happened to see the first episode back with that college student and it’s very intense.  Could you talk about shooting that episode and why Cal takes such a leap to stay on this guy?

T. Roth I think he sees it, but I think he sees it immediately.  And there are traits, by the way, that Ekman, the guy … is based on, he does point that out, there are some things you want to watch for.  And Lightman does see this, but he’s in the unfortunate position of having had an affair with the professor, who’s also having an affair with the guy that he doesn’t trust.  In fact, it’s just a jealousy issue or that kind of problem.

F. Topel Of course, since he’s the star of the show, he turns out to be right.  But do you think it ever occurs to him that he could be wrong on something?

T. Roth It does and we have one.  We have an interesting episode where he is wrong.  I think we should do that more, by the way.   So that’s something we’re going to talk about.  So the thing is if someone is 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 about that.

Jim Halterman with JimHalterman.com.

J. Halterman I wanted to know what you thought about airing in the summer.  Summer TV has definitely changed now.  It’s actually a good place to be, but what are your thoughts on it?

T. Roth To be honest with you, I don’t know any of this stuff.  That side of it I leave to the professionals, the people that are supposed to know.  It seems to me with people watching TV on air, people with DVRs now the way that television is watched has changed a lot.

Where we are is wherever we happen to be, so I don’t think it’s going to affect the viewer.  If you’re on vacation, you just hit the record button and you can pick up your episodes when you get back, which is pretty much what people do now anyway.  I know that people watch like three episodes back to back, so they just store them.  Stuff like that goes on.  So it’s quite a good idea I thought, but I don’t know.  And then I know that we carry on filming in July and they can put us I think back in on the fall, which they may well do as they’re talking about.  We just plow on because we’ll have another 13 episodes.

J. Halterman Since you started the show, are you getting recognized more?  Do you feel a difference in people recognizing you on the street?

T. Roth No, it’s not more necessarily.  It also depends on the city you’re in.  If you’re in a pedestrian city because you come into contact with people more.  If you’re in a car place like LA, then you see people down at the supermarket or whatever or in a restaurant.

People are different about the TV world.  The fan is different and it makes sense really in that you’re in their room.  You’re in their house wherever it is that they’re watching you once a week if they’re fans of the show.  And you’re part of the family.  You become part of the family.  And so they tend to be a little more comfortable in coming up to you in any … situation because they feel like they know you.  Whereas if you go to the movies, you see a movie and go home and you discuss it.  And if you happen to see that person, you go, I liked your movie.  I hate your movie or whatever.

But there seems to be you’re part of the family thing.  There’s a thing with TV, it’s their show.  Oh, that’s my show.  I love that show.  So they come out of the woodwork more, that’s for sure.  I’m not against it.  I’m fine with it unless I’m in the middle of something.

Magali Levet with Series.nu.

M. Levet I was wondering was Cal Lightman intended to be British from the get go or did they change that once you were cast and how do you think being British influences the show?

T. Roth The reason he’s British is because when I was doing the deal with these guys at FOX, I said I’m not doing an accent because I figured that I will be working very, very long hours and seven days a week pretty much because you’re preparing the next script on the weekends any time you have off.

So if I have to do an accent on top of that, that would have been a workload that would have been a 20 hour day.  So I said no and there was a lot of back and forth about it, but not really from me because when I was talking to them about it, I can always just go back and do movies.  So I had that going for me, I suppose and then they agreed and they were worried about it and … worried about it.

But after a while, they realized it’s quite refreshing.  It’s different sound on American television than you normally get in a television show.  They embraced it wholeheartedly.  They’ve been very, very cool with it, actually.  I’m glad it’s happened.  I think it makes the character a little more interesting for me to play.  We have one of the show runners that is from London as well, so he really understands that world.

Marc Eastman from AreYouScreening.com.

M. Eastman I was actually just wondering, we’ve had some interesting episodes where Cal goes up against like poker players, battling the liars.  I wonder if there’s anybody that you would really like to see him go against as a challenge, or if there’s anything that stands out as somebody he might square off against.

T. Roth I think his daughter would be interesting.  We do a bit of that in the remaining episodes.  My aim is and I think we’re exploring that for the third season is somebody that is way better than him at what he does and how do you deal with it.  How do you deal with that?  If you keep not being able to read them and your face gets rubbed in at time and time again, how would he deal with that, I think might be fun.

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Marc Eastman is the owner and operator of Are You Screening? and has been writing film reviews for over a decade, and several branches of the internet's film review world have seen his name. He is also a member of The Broadcast Film Critics Association and The Broadcast Television Journalists Association.