Tim Roth Gets Truthful with Lie to Me

The iconic actor talks about finishing season two this summer and returning for season three in the fall

Acclaimed Fox series Lie to Me returns to finish off its second season starting June 7th with the all-new Episode 2.11: Wish You Were Here. It will be followed by eight more episodes before returning in the fall for season three. Season Two continues with new lies and life-changing situations for The Lightman Group as they encounter new cases, including a woman with multiple-personality disorder (Erika Christensen, (Swimfan) whose lies as one personality may be true for another personality. Additionally, Lightman (Tim Roth) will work to solve a homicide while held at gunpoint during a hostage situation. He will also struggle with his rival, who stirs up trouble and creates tension among Lightman's employees. These cases require the team to look further and search deeper, not only to determine who is lying but why. In their personal lives, (Kelli Williams) explores the possibilities of life as a single woman, while Lightman tries to come to terms with his own mysterious past.

We recently caught up with Tim Roth to chat about the final nine episodes of season two, as well as his return in the fall for season three. Here is our conversation:

More and more great actors, such as yourself, continue to migrate from film to television. In your opinion, why do you think this is happening? Do you all know something we don't about the evolution of media, and where entertainment is headed?

Tim Roth: A lot of it has to do with cable. Shows like the The Wire, which were very popular internationally. Dramatically, they all have something to offer. The stigma that used to surround television actors, in that it wasn't for film actors? That is gone. That is a recent invention. I've done television drama since I started. But that was a different beast. Network television is a long haul job. Film actors sliding into that is a fairly new occurrence. A few years ago, the film actors had a built-in snobbery. The stuff happening on TV just didn't seem interesting enough to them. It was a good steady job, but it wasn't something that could challenge you. The advent of these long running shows on cable, and a few of the ones on network, proved different. It is all about the writing, which keeps getting better and better. They are able to write to the actor's strengths. The first few are a bit shaky, because it's an experiment. The film actors are starting to see that they can have a full time job where they can experiment and play around. It can be a challenge. It's a different thing, being on an episodic television show. If you can wrap your head around it, it's quite a lot of fun. I think.

Having been on the show for two season, and now heading into a third, what does this job offer you as an actor that your previous work in film didn't quite provide?

Tim Roth: I don't look at it like that. On an economic front, I get paid a damn good wage. We have regular employment. That is a good thing during a recession. Independent film is going through a tough time. There's that. For me, it's a lot like theater. If you are playing just the one character? It's like going on every night that you are doing a play. You tweak it a little bit each night. Once you establish who this guy is, you have to be solid. You have to be respectful of that. It's like long form theater for a broader audience. That's how the bit seems to me. Initially, I didn't enjoy it. I found it very difficult. A lot of that was because we were trying to find our feet. It's a difficult show to establish, really. The writing wasn't as good in the first season as it was in the second. And I believe it will get better in the third season.

Lie to Me is a very fun show. Though it may be hard to get into if you haven't seen some of the previous episodes. Do you ever have anyone voice that concern to you on the street?

Tim Roth: The response to me when I am doing the shopping is very good. But I wonder how many people out there would honestly come up to you and say, "That's crap!" I have had that in film. I've had people take me aside in regards to some of my performances in film. But the response to the show has been very good.

I want to know who these people are that come up to Tim Roth and say, "Dude, you kind of sucked!"

Tim Roth: (Laughs) I was up in Manhattan one time. I was shooting pool. There was this lovely little bar that I would sneak off to during shooting, over in Alphabet City. There were these two girls in there. They were drunk. They said, "Oye! Everything you've done is crap!" I said, "Okay." They were quite persistent about it. I was like, "Alright." I bought them both a drink. I said, "You have half an hour. Go!" They proceeded to run down every film of mine that they'd seen, and be very specific about why they thought it was crap. Which I thought was very good. I mean, they at least thought about it.

Of course it was two drunk girls. Do you ever get that from guys? I personally find you a bit intimidating on film.

Tim Roth: They were up for it. (Laughs)

You've been in some really great films. They had reasons to pick you apart for that as well?

Tim Roth: Oh, yeah! They also had the reasons why other actors were better than me. And they started to list them off. Which I thought was brilliant. A lot of fun. You can get a lot of actors in a half an hour. I wasn't intimidating to them, because those particular roles weren't working for them. (Laughs)

Actors are essentially professional liars. Do you think being an actor gives you a built-in lie detector in your own life? And are you more susceptible to someone's insincerity coming from that background?

Tim Roth: I do think that the original scientist's work, what he was on about, is something that an actor can grasp. You can see it. There's also a ton of stuff you have no idea is going on. I stay away from the science of the show as much as I can. Like any character, you don't want to bring it home. I try not to learn too much of that stuff. But we've done a year and a half of filming. It sinks in. Its there.

On June 7th, we're seeing the continuation of season two, which will take us through August. Then you return in the Fall, which will be September or October. What do you feel the strategy is in setting up the show to run in this matter? And what sort of production schedule does that put you on?

Tim Roth: I am not quite sure. The second part of the second season starts in June. These are new episodes. We only shot those just a few weeks ago. And they are going to air them straight through. Then we start filming again in July on the third season. We'll have to wait and see if we get picked up for the back nine, and we'll shoot those next April. (Laughs) The summer seems like a market that they are interested in cornering. You know? They know that the ratings are going to be lower this summer, because everyone is away doing whatever it is they do. The ratings are a different game now. We have DVRs and computers. They're saying that the way they look at numbers now is going to change. It seems that the summer thing is something they are looking at, and will continue looking at. But they also have this option to continue airing us in the fall. So I don't know the strategy. During the summer, we will get a little break. Then we will continue on.

What are we going to see when Dr. Lightman returns on June 7th, and how does that work in setting up the next eight episodes? And how will that set us up for season three?

Tim Roth: I'm not sure. I don't know what episode they are going to show on June 7th. There was an episode we shot where there is a lecture at a college for a woman Lightman had an affair with when he was a student in England. There is a little bit of that history. She is a professor. Me and Foster give a talk in front of a group of students, and one of them turns out to be a very naughty boy. There is a one-on-one game that takes place. I think that is our first episode coming back. If so, it's a pretty good one, in fact. Then I don't know which one they are going to put in after that. The aim of the show in the third season is to show all of the characters dealing with this rogue element in terms of Lightman. How he dances around the law, and how he also dances around the edge of relationships when it comes to women. It is going to have much more of a rogue element to it. We will play around in the red and the grey area of what is and what is not.

It's interesting that you're not sure which episodes will be shown in what order. Most shows follow a very strict storyline, where each episode falls in line with the next. Is that hard for you, as an actor, to know where your character is in terms of his life when the episodes are aired out of order?

Tim Roth: Our episodes have been fairly insistent on running in order up until this point. These new episodes will be able to stand-alone. Though there are some things that you can't help but link to another episode. And it gets a little weird when they take and air them out of shooting order. I have to say, with my job, I am just shooting them and getting them in the can. All of the continuity is left to the guy that knows what is going on.

So you're not concerned if there is a small character moment that you would play off in one show, and then followed through in another, even though they are shown out of context?

Tim Roth: I am concerned about that. But they generally write to that. The network will take that on board. Hopefully, in the third season, we will have story arcs that go across two or three episodes. Which will be interesting to do. They were pretty insistent during the first and second seasons that the episodes being shot could be shown in any order.

With Lie To Me, you can actually skip an episode or two, and then come back, and its not such a big deal.

Tim Roth: Yes! You can go back and pick up from the ones you didn't see. That was the sense of it. That's the way they thought of it initially. We would like to do story arcs that stretch over two episodes, for example. That would be fun for us as actors. As well as for the writers. We will see what they have in mind. With the third season, we have a whole new group of writers. Except for the two veterans who have taken over the show running as well as the writing. All of the meetings about how we are going to proceed have just begun. I had my first meeting with those guys the other night. We'll see what we feel is the creative way to go. We'll also find out what the Network wants to see. We'll mix it all up.

Have you gotten a chance to see the show Justified that is on FX?

Tim Roth: I haven't seen anything. When I am working, I am working twelve to fourteen hour days. Then I get up and start all over again. The last thing I want to do is sit in front of the TV. If I am sitting in front of the TV, I am watching an old video on TCM. That is what I like to do. I don't know anything about what is going on in the world of TV at all.

I just brought up that particular show because they bookend each episode with beats that tie the whole series together, while the meat in the middle is a stand-alone story. And it is interesting to watch episodic TV go in this direction, where it is trying to satisfy two audiences at once.

Tim Roth: That is a fun idea. That sounds like it would be a good idea. The two runners that are running our show right now will probably have ideas about that. But that sounds like a good idea. It does satisfy both camps. The ones that want that stand alone episode. And the ones that want continuation.

How will Foster's dissolution of marriage continue to improve or change her relationship with Dr. Lightman leading up to the season finale, and how do you see it changing or affecting the dynamic within the rest of the group?

Tim Roth: You are going to get a couple episodes that involve a boyfriend Forster now has. You'll see Lightman's response to that. That is coming up. You've also got Lightman's ex-wife. And we'll see how that plays in and out. Then there is the daughter. So you have all of those characters coming up. As we head towards the third season, we are going to be looking at Foster's place as the overseer of the Lightman Group. How that aspect will change, and how she will get more power in that area. Then, of course, there is this romantic notion between Foster and Lightman, that will have to be resolved at some point. We are looking at it. You will see some of that in the remaining episodes of the second season. Then well be kicking it out in the third. We also have some new characters that we are bringing in, too.

Do you have an upcoming episode that you are particularly proud of or excited for the fans to see?

Tim Roth: Yes. There are a couple of really good ones. In fact, there is one where we show how Foster and Lightman met. That is a good one. It was really fun to shoot that. Then the last one we shot was a good one too. But again, I don't have any idea if that will be shown last. We'll see.

The end of season two and the beginning of season three are being shot so close to one another, do you have any time to go and work on another big film project? Like The Hulk?

Tim Roth: I was going to do that this time during my short break, but I backed down. (Laughs) Between the first and second season, I did a film that you will see soon. It was an independant movie with Steve Buscemi and Seymour Cassel. Those are some interesting guys. They are in this thing playing some very odd characters. I have that one. Then I am aiming on going off to do a film whenever we finish shooting the third season. They drop us off at thirteen, then we'll come back for the back nine. Then I will go straight into a film during those bookends. I want to keep it up. I like mixing it all up. That is why I am doing TV now. You should never be too set in your ways. Otherwise you will get bored. I have been doing this for thirty years. You should never get too set in your ways. I had never done network TV. That was the big reason why I decided to do this. I thought, "Let me see if I can do this!" Maybe I can. Maybe I can't. Its still up in the air.

I think it's a great show. I watch it with my girlfriend whenever it comes on. We enjoy it quite a bit. I think it is working out.

Tim Roth: Couples tend to watch it. That is kind of funny that you mention that. They sit and watch it, and they will start to look at each other funny.

Yes, exactly.

Tim Roth: I like that. Boyfriend and girlfriend. Husband and wife. Teams.