It was mid-April when HitFix joined a small group of journalists on the set of FOX’s “Lie to Me.”
At the time, the second year prevarication procedural had been off the air for four months, with two more months of down-time in the cards before a relaunch. That relaunch was scheduled for after upfronts season, meaning that the show’s future was very much in limbo. We sat in the plush offices of the Lightman Group between scenes of the season finale which, for all the stars knew, could also be the series finale.
Now, weeks later, we all know that the story had a happy ending for “Lie to Me.” Not only will the series return with a run of new episodes starting on Monday, June 7, but FOX has picked up a third season of “Lie to Me” for the fall. At the time, of course, the stars could only profess that they’d been doing good work, albeit in an odd vacuum.
“We haven’t taken much of a break in the filming process,” Monica Raymund says. “It’s just the airing process that’s been a break. We’ve been going since July of 2009. That’s great for us, because we can continue to work on those stories and continue the arcs of the characters.”
Adds co-star Brendan Hines, “I have sort of forgotten a lot of the stuff that we did and I have to be reminded of it and when I’m reminded of it, I’m like ‘Oh right! That was really good. I look forward to see that. One day.’ We’ve been shooting a lot of really good episodes and then they’ve been sort of drifting off into the ether. They’ll be back and they’ll be good.”
It’s not a typical way of doing business. “Lie to Me” premiered in January 2009 and delivered strong ratings with its “American Idol” lead-in, only to see those figures drop without “Idol” assistance. FOX brought “Lie to Me” back for the fall and, buoyed by new showrunner Shawn Ryan, the show had a new confidence.
“The writers that [Shawn] brought on, a couple of them are very very strong, they deal with character stuff,” explains star Tim Roth. “They try and deal with emotionally where the character is at and build the story around that, from the inside out. That’s been something that has really helped us. Although the stuff he’s worked on in the past has been procedural, as is this, it’s always been character-driven. We can’t do, necessarily, what they did on “The Shield,” because it’s network, but we get as close to the edge as we can, as we’ve gone through the season.”
Increased creative strength, though, didn’t necessarily yield a big audience and “Lie to Me” found itself without a place in FOX’s spring schedule and although the network always insisted that the drama would return, its absence still led to awkward questions.
“People, I don’t think, got a good understanding that the show was not going off the air,” Hines notes. “I would get e-mails and phone calls being like, ‘Why isn’t the show on anymore?!?’ I don’t respond to those, by the way. If I did, I would have said, ‘No, no, no. Just taking a little break. It’s not actually off the air.’ Hopefully people will be informed.”
Adds Kelli Williams, “I see little snippets and the show looks good and I feel good enough about what I see and we get feedback from the producers and what the network and studio say they like about it. And it feels good. We have fun on-set. I’m excited to see them. I’m going to watch them. I don’t watch that many of them, because we’re so busy doing it for 15 hours a day, it’s hard to go home and then watch it.”
Starting on Monday, “Lie to Me” returns with a full summer slate of episodes, paired with the cop action-comedy “The Good Guys.” The summer installments feature a diverse assortment of guest stars including Jason Dohring, Howard Hesseman and a bevy of supporting players from “The Shield.”
Roth, finally grown accustomed to the working pace of American series television, sounds pleased.
“I’m actually enjoying it. I hope it goes on,” Roth explains. “I think we found our feet in the stuff that hasn’t even been broadcast yet. They’re very interesting stories and well-told and fun to act in, which was really the element that was missing last season. I found the stuff to be very dry and you really didn’t get much of an opportunity to experiment and play around, because the writers we had last year were also trying to find their find and find out what the show was about and we clung on there. Now, since Shawn brought his guys on, it has a different feel to it and even there, we’ve been expanding that toward the end of the season. It’s been a real challenge. We barely get a day off. But actors generally bitch and moan when they’re on film sets that they don’t do anything. Well, here’s the answer…”
“Lie to Me” returns on Monday, June 7 on FOX.