Lie to Me's Tim Roth Loves Crappy Movies

Thanks to the oh-so-snappy cancellation of Lone Star, we'll soon be seeing a lot more of Tim Roth and the Lie to Me crew: Even though the show's second season just ended on September 13, it'll be returning to FOX for Season 3 this Monday, October 4. I spoke to the surprisingly giggly Roth about his whirlwind week, what's coming up in the third season, and tweeting from the set. What was the first thing that popped into your head when you heard that Lone Star had gotten the axe?
Well, I had been told that we would be possibly one of the things that could replace it... When they told us, I had mixed emotions about it, because we were planning to come back on the tenth of November. So we had a cushion and then suddenly we had to go into overdrive!

But you have to feel bad for the guys that are working on [Lone Star]. For anybody who gets involved in a show like this, it’s a huge commitment, and you really throw yourself at it. I mean, if you’re smart, you do. And I hear it was a good show and it got good reviews, but didn’t connect with the audience for some reason.

So I felt very sad for them. We were just the guys that were slated to come in and fill that slot, which is a good thing for us, but you don’t want to do that at the expense of somebody else’s upset. I know it’s a very talented group over there and hopefully they’ll find a home for that show. There... have been shows that haven’t quite connected on the networks that move into cable and connect there. Maybe that’s what they can do.

Season 2 of Lie to Me just ended just two weeks ago. Do you think that such a short amount of time between seasons will have any effect on the show?
The worry really would be that people don’t know we’re coming back. We’re doing our best to get it out there. But we’re ready to put the shows out. We have enough shows to air—we’re finishing episode six and starting seven today. We’ll see how that goes. [laughs]

You look pretty beat up in the new promo poster for Season 3. Why is that?
Well, it could be because Lightman is such a troublemaker. Actually, last season we were trying to think of a good concept, and Joe Earley, who’s the top dog guy there—very good on the promotional front—threw that concept at me. And I’d actually thought... it looked like he got the shit kicked out of him, because with the kinds of things that he does, that would happen. And so we came up with the Truth Hurts campaign. This is just going further down that road. We’ve done a lot of different ideas for that, and they’ll crop up during the season. It’s a nod in the direction of Night of the Hunter, you know, the Robert Mitchum character with the tattoos “love and hate” on his hands. I like that.

Does that poster set the tone for the rest of the season? What's coming up?
There’s some wild stuff coming! The guys that are running the show and the writers' room now, Alex Cary and Dave Graziano—one’s from London and the other’s from Brooklyn—the two of them know the kind of world that Lightman comes from and they write to that. For the first time, we're solidly in a place where the scripts really reflect the characters and the stories are fun and quite unusual. And as different as they may be from each other, one episode to the next, they have a consistency about them. They’re very, very character-driven and a lot of fun to play.

What's going on with Lightman and Foster (Kelli Williams) this season? Will they continue the "will they, won't they" dance?
There’s plenty of room for all kinds of play between Foster and Lightman. There’s a lot more conflict, a lot more character stuff for Kelli to play as Foster. They butt heads occasionally as well, but there’s also just the love that they have for each other. So you’re going to get a lot of different stuff coming up there, as you are with Hayley MacFarland’s character, Emily. We get into that relationship a lot more. And then there’s other women that come through Lightman’s life as well.

Will Lightman's ex-wife, Zoe Landau, make an appearance? Or is Jennifer Beals busy with her new show, Ride-Along?
My ex-wife has recently been hired on as a commissioner of police in Chicago, so she’s not available for comment. [laughs] You never know, actually, she might come back and do a guest spot. That would be a fun thing to do. I would keep that one open.

Speaking of the women in his life, Lightman was remarkably calm when Emily told him she had lost her virginity. Do you think their relationship has changed because of it?
I liked that scene a lot. I think they have a very grown-up relationship. I mean, I’ve got boys. So, you know, you have to have the talk and it’s a lot about respect for women and all of that stuff. But Hayley's my surrogate daughter, really, and we’re very close. She’s a fabulous actor and such a great woman. And it feeds into the writing, the writers pick up on the way we are and write to it. Lightman is scared for her and worried about her, and he’s overprotective and ridiculous and loving and all of those things. But as mischievous and crazy as he is, he’s sensible with her. He also can’t read his daughter, really. So, you know, there’ll be some trouble. Actually, in the episode that we’re shooting tomorrow, I’ll meet the new boyfriend.

I've noticed that you and Hayley have been tweeting back and forth and posting photos from the set.
[When I joined Twitter,] I didn’t really know what to do with it. So I just started taking behind-the-scenes pictures. I thought people would be interested to see what our day is. Working on this show, I had a real tough time with it in the first season. It got better in the second season, but I really like it now, I’m really enjoying it. And what I like about it is how hard you work. It's long hours and it’s tiring, but you’re satisfied when you come away from it at the end of the day or, you know, first thing in the morning. So I wanted to show the Twitter guys, who are completely crazy and quite wonderful, what we do all day, which can be boring or fun and exciting. And so I’ve been doing that and I’ve been really enjoying it and then Brendan [Hines] got on, Monica [Raymund] got on and Hayley, I don’t know in which order. They do their thing. Kelli doesn’t do it, she’s way too elegant, so we do it for her. [laughs]

And yesterday when we got the news that we were going to be coming back on Monday, I got hold of the artwork from Joe Earley and gave it to the Twitter guys first... So you do that for them and they do that for you. They help you spread the word. I think it’s a good thing!

What was it like to film the Season 2 finale, knowing that it was Agent Reynolds' (Mekhi Phifer) last episode?
I didn’t know it was his exit at the time. That was a decision that was made later. The reason I think it was made was not because of the character—he’s fantastic, he’s so charismatic—but because having a connection with the FBI meant that doors were opened too easily. Access to tricky situations was too easy and so, if you take that FBI connection away, then you have a problem and it’s interesting to see how Lightman operates where there’s a problem. If he can’t get through a door, then it opens up the stories more. And, sad as I am seeing Mekhi go, it makes sense in opening up the writing and making it more intriguing and mischievous and crazy.

So will you guys add a new series regular to the cast?
Yeah, we actually have a crooked cop (Curnen) who was in that season finale, the one that I maced in my house. She’s somebody I use and cause trouble with. She comes back in the season premiere and she’ll be back [after that]. We did a big episode for her, I think it’s number three. You’ll see, it’s a very, very good episode, with her in the middle of something that’s very bad and that I get involved in.

When do you think Lie to Me will finally get the Emmy nods that it deserves?
What’s an Emmy? [laughs]

Good answer.
I’ve been around prizes all my life. I’ve had nominations for most of them and I’ve had some of them, too. You don’t want to be thinking down that road as an actor. I know that people do and I know that they’d like them all on the seat of their toilets or whatever. I mean, I don’t mean to be rude but, you know, it’s a nice ornament. When you get an award, you’re proud of it because it means that your peers respond to what you’re doing. But you can’t go about your business looking for something like that. If it arrives, it arrives, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. You can’t be thinking that that is the best review you’ll ever get. But in answer to your question, how about one next year?

What TV shows do you watch in your free time?
I tend to go on TCM and watch old movies. That’s the thing that I like to do. I’ll go to cable with my boys and we have crap movie night where we try and find the worst movies we can possibly find and we all sit around and celebrate them. Crap movie night is a really big tradition in our house. I actually project them up on the wall sometimes and we have a good laugh. I’ve been in some very, very bad movies, so I have a lot of respect for crap movies.

And then there are things that I did really, really enjoy. One of them would be The Wire. Right now I’m working with one of the actors from The Wire, and this would be my third from The Wire that I’ve worked with. Seith Mann, who is directing me right now, also directed an episode of The Wire. I think that something special happened there for American television. I know it’s cable, but still, it was something. It was a turning point and you can see it. Incredible.

There’s also a wonderful British TV series, I think there’s only six parts, called State of Play. They tried to make a movie out of it with Russell Crowe that didn’t quite work, but the original television series is something to watch. Very good stuff.

Follow writer Stefanie Lee on Twitter: @StefAtTVDotCom

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