The six-episode drama series Liar (already picked up for a second season), currently airing on SundanceTV, follows Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt), a dedicated teacher, and Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd), a renowned surgeon, who entire each other’s lives with a seemingly innocent date. But once a series of accusations starts to unravel secrets and lies in both of their lives, the truth will surely be painful for everyone.
During this interview with Collider, co-stars Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd talked about what made them want to sign on for Liar, why they needed to know the truth about what happened between their characters, how intense the mood on set was, whether viewers will feel satisfied at the end of the season, and what they’re each doing next.
Collider: This is such difficult subject matter to delve into. Do you sign on for something like this because it’s a story worth telling, as opposed to something you think you’d have fun doing?
JOANNE FROGGATT: Well, yeah. Some jobs, you say, “This could be really fun. It would be lovely to do.” And some jobs, are about the work. I like a challenge. I think I work better with a challenge, and there can be a challenge, in so many different ways. We both thought it was just a brilliant thriller. It’s a story and subject matter that I feel is really tackled, in such an original way, and opened up so many questions when I read the script. The viewers are going to sit there going, what about this? What do I think about this? Why am I thinking this? What do I think about him and her, and everybody around them? I just found it a fascinating project.
IOAN GRUFFUDD: It was the same for me. The scripts, the story and what you saw in the first three episodes was exactly what we read. What’s on the page is exactly what’s on the screen, and that’s what I fell in love with. I think we handle the subject matter quite sensitively and respectfully. It’s not an issue series. It’s a drama and a psychological thriller.
FROGGATT: As all thrillers go, there’s an event that’s a catalyst for the story.
Did you find yourselves needing to know what the truth was about what happened, before you signed on?
GRUFFUDD: Yes. There was that definitive twist in Episode 3, so that you know what happened, and that was important for me to know. If there’s any ambiguity, then it would be a strange story to tell. I needed to know that I had perpetrated this. It was very clear, after the first three episodes.
FROGGATT: Also, Laura doesn’t always behave in the most intelligent way. She’s an incredibly intelligent woman, but she’s blinded by her blinkered vision of what she feels is right. So, although she’s tough, she makes the wrong decision, numerous times and you go, “Why are you doing that?! That’s a really silly thing to do!” All of the characters are embroiled in someone’s lie, if not their own. The complex relationships among all of the characters play themselves out, over the last three episodes.
Ioan, how did you approach this guy?
GRUFFUDD: It was clear on the page. To be honest, based on my previous work is why they came to me, so we could set up the show in such a way that you can’t quite fathom that this guy would have done this.
FROGGATT: The whole thing is that you go, “He wouldn’t have done that, so obviously he’s lying.”
GRUFFUDD: Exactly! The interesting aspect for me was, how do you represent that without doing Jack Nicholson in The Shining. How do you represent a real person that walks among us and that’s capable of this? The thing that unlocked it for me was not to do anything. I didn’t want to change that charming exterior, at any time. It’s very rare that he lets the anger boil over. Even though he has an aggressive nature towards being accused of all of this, he’s in denial and protecting mode, for the rest of the [season]. It’s about control for him. The physical aspect of what he does is not necessarily the motivating factor. It’s control of the circumstance, of the people, and of the narrative. He’s a pillar of the community, so when he’s accused, that angers him tremendously. And he wants to protect his son because the accusation affects his son, as well. He has to keep those plates spinning.
FROGGATT: Liars walk amongst us, every day, and we never really know what’s behind the mask. It poses a lot of questions about day-to-day life that are quite relevant to lots of things that are happening at the moment. It’s about the terrible hidden depths that people have, but they hide so well.
With as intense as this story is, what was the environment and vibe like on set, during the shoot?
FROGGATT: It was one of the most miserable jobs! No, it wasn’t, at all.
GRUFFUDD: The intensity that one needs, on a daily basis, especially for Jo because she was front and center every day, there is an escape valve that happens, at the end of the day. We did socialize together a lot, and on the weekends. We were a family. Interestingly, you hear actors who talk about having a lot of fun, even though it’s a heavy shoot. Ours was pretty intense. There was a lot of concentration and determination to get this right, and we had to do it several ways, so that they had things to play with in the edit room. There wasn’t enough time to have fun. We had to get it done, and then move somewhere else, so we wanted to get it right. And then, we could have fun, later that night or on the weekend.
FROGGATT: It was an enjoyable way to work, and it was so lovely. I loved working with Ioan and the rest of the cast. We’ve all become really good friends. The process on set was intense, and it had to be, and we all had to be in that headspace. We were all in the same place. And then, when we got towards the end, we’d be like, “Oh, great, we can all go out to dinner now. It’s Friday, and we don’t have to work tomorrow.” It was a nice mixture.
Do you think viewers will be left feeling satisfied, by the end of this season?
GRUFFUDD: Yes, and that’s the beauty of the show. It was not intended to leave it open-ended, so that we would get a second season. It’s got a beginning, middle and end. There was no option for us, under contract. This is the story that we were going to tell. For viewers, it will ultimately be quite satisfying. There’s always an opportunity, with these shows, if it’s a success, networks want to go back and revisit it, and there’s certainly a way of going back to our show, but there is a conclusion to it that is ultimately a relief.
FROGGATT: People won’t invest six hours and be disappointed it. They’ll invest six hours and go, “Right, we got our ending!”
Will viewers have a very different opinion of these two, by the end of the season?
FROGGATT: Yeah, you’ll have a different opinion of most people in the show, by the end of the season, especially Ioan and my characters.
GRUFFUDD: In Episode 4, what’s going on becomes definitive. Episode 4 is a bridging episode because there’s no doubt what’s happened. And then, it becomes a bit to catch a thief and it gets really exciting. The drama really ramps up the adrenalin, to end in a very satisfying conclusion.
When you do something like this, do you look for a nice, light comedy to follow it up with?
FROGGATT: I’m actually doing a comedy next! I can’t say what it is, but I’m doing a couple of episodes of a comedy here, and I’m really excited about it. That will be fun to do. I do a lot of dark things, within my work, not as myself. I’m very much drawn to drama. I have done some comedy before, but it’s been awhile. We always want to do different things and prove our versatility, but it’s also just really interesting and fun to change it up and do something completely different. So, I’m really excited! And then, when a drama comes along next, I’ll be like, “Great, I’m ready for that!”
GRUFFUDD: I’m heading in to do another drama, that’s a 10-part series in Australia, called Harrow, for ABC in Australia and ABC International. I’m playing a medical examiner who has an interesting past. There’s a case every week and it’s definitely a procedural, but it’s a serialized drama. It’s about his relationship with his ex-wife and his daughter, who ran away from home, and all of the players in his world. The hope is that you forget that you’re watching a procedural.
Liar airs on Wednesday nights on SundanceTV.