'Lie to Me' Tim Roth and Samuel Baum interview
By April MacIntyre Jan 21, 2009, 13:59 GMT
Tim Roth - Foxís new drama ďLie To MeĒ is a series about the science of lying. © Albert L. Ortega / PR Photos
Foxís new drama ďLie To MeĒ is a series about the science of lying.
The series, starring Tim Roth, focuses on a team of deception experts who have a private agency thatís contracted by law enforcement, every government agency, corporations and private individuals when theyíve hit a roadblock in their search for the truth.
Rothís team work on the most difficult cases where thereís a web of lies that needs to be untangled.
The science of deception detection is based on the work of Dr. Paul Ekman who is the worldís leading deception expert.
"Lie To MeĒ creator and executive producer, Samuel Baum, has enlisted the consulting help of Dr. Ekman, who has contracted himself with the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security as well as every government agency to consult in deception-related fields.
This series will premier on Wednesday, January 21st at 9:00 p.m./8:00 p.m. CST after American Idol
Monsters and Critics joined some other online journalists and spoke to Samuel Baum and Tim Roth of ďLie to Me.Ē
Samuel, where you happy with the time slot FOX gave the show?
S. Baum: Iím incredibly excited by the time slot, because, as I was saying before, in a way I feel like this subject matter is perfect for reaching a broad audience, because lying is such a part of the fabric of our every day life. And also the fact that the whole focus of the science is that itís universal; that we all look the same when we lie and we all look the same when we conceal emotions. That anxiety on me looks exactly like anxiety on you. So thereís something really, really exciting about knowing that thereís going to be a wide, wide demographic of people watching.
I feel like this is a show that has interest for a wide, wide audience because itís about something that affects our everyday life, which is lying.
The average person statistically tells three lies per ten minutes of conversation is what the research shows. And so itís such an integral part of everyday life for everyone, but the issue of lying and the science of emotion of learning to recognize how do people in your life really feel and really think that itís very exciting to have the possibility of reaching a broad audience.
Tim, how much of this character would you say you take home with you?
T. Roth: I try to take absolutely none of it home with me. I make a very strong attempt not to get to know too much of the science and not to practice it at home or any of that stuff because the real guy, Paul, he canít switch it off.
He canít unlearn it. He knows so much about this stuff that he can see, in everybody, what theyíre maybe thinking. He watches their bodies betray them. I donít really want to do that.
Sam, what is your opinion of the lie detector test?
S. Baum The thing about the polygraph is that itís very reliable at telling you if someone is anxious, but what itís not telling you is why that person is anxious.
And the real reason why, thereís a strong psychological mystery at the heart of every episode is that determining if someone is lying is just the beginning of our story.
The real question is why is someone lying? Is someone lying because they committed the crime theyíre being accused of? Is someone lying to protect someone else? Is there a secret thatís unrelated to the crime that theyíre so ashamed of that will come out if they tell the truth that theyíre forced to lie? So the human element of our team of deception experts creates a whole other level from just simply a machine that tells you if someone is feeling an increase in emotion, which is what the polygraph does.
How much research did you and your writers delve into with Dr. Paul Ekman and Albert Morabian, the people who studied microexpressions and body language, especially facial expressions?
S. Baum Dr. Ekman is the scientific consultant for the show and heíll be with us all year. Iíve spent close to a year with Paul now.
The amazing thing about Paulís work, it focuses on four areas, which youíll learn about in the show, which is the study of the human face, the body, the voice and speech.
And just focusing on the face for a moment, the remarkable thing about this work is that we all show emotion the same way.
There are seven basic emotions of anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, we show them all identically, whether youíre a suburban housewife in the OC or youíre a Saudi sheik in Saudi Arabia. So itís a universal phenomenon, the science, and thatís why I feel it can really reach a broad audience.
So does Timís character get into layered voice analysis and real nitty-gritty elements of the science of this in the series?
S. Baum Yes. You will see voice stress analysis in addition to speech analysis and analysis of body movements, body language and the work of recognizing facial expressions, microexpressions.
And that leads me to one other thing thatís quite extraordinary is that Paul has proven that in as little as two hours of studying microexpressions, which are these little expressions that flash when weíre trying to hide an emotion, in as little as two hours of training someone can learn to recognize these hidden emotions.
So, one of the exciting things about the show is that people who watch ďLie To MeĒ will actually learn not only to recognize when people are lying to them, but will recognize when people in their lives are hiding emotion in some way.
So you can imagine what it would be like to have a heightened sense of when someone is secretly sexually attracted to you or secretly jealous, and literally the truth is written on all our faces.
Itís there to see if youíre quick enough and perceptive enough to catch these microexpressions, which one can be trained in as little as two hours to recognize. And heís proven that in his work with the TSA.
Tim, why do you think that someone will enjoy the subject matter of this show?
T. Roth: I think itíll be fun to see this kind of stuff and see how it relates in reality, in real life.
Part of the fun is going to be Paulís Web site that heís doing, his companion Web site, the guy itís all based on. Heís a scientist that itís based on.
Heís going to do a companion Web site for each episode. So, youíll actually see the stuff that weíre making up and the stuff that is real. Youíll see examples of how Ė youíll be able to train yourself to spot stuff. I donít want to know. No, I think an audience could really enjoy themselves with it. Itís kind of fun.
I noticed that you had Alec Hammond, a great production designer, on your crew as one of your key department heads. I was wondering, was it his work in ďDonnie DarkoĒ that caught your eye or if you had a decision in hiring him?
S. Baum Absolutely. His work was fantastic in ďDonnie Darko.Ē We have a set that is unlike any design you will have seen. Itís a set that really highlights the human face and body movements because itís so stark and high key in the look of the show.
He came to the show, I met him through Robert Schwentke, our director, whoís the director of ďFlight PlanĒ and the ďTime Travelerís Wife.Ē He did a fantastic job with the pilot. And in particular, one of the things youíll see is youíll see the world through Dr. Cal Lightman, Tim Rothís characterís eyes. And so you will get to see microexpressions in real time and the subtle body language movements that betray emotion.
Whoís your DP and director?
S. Baum Well, the DP on the pilot was Florian Ballhaus. So a really extraordinary team. And then in the series itís Alan Caso and Joe Gallagher who Ösucceed under several years and Emmy award-winning shows. Itís a great production team.
How does Timís character keep from scrutinizing his family and friends?
S. Baum Imagine what it would be like to go through your life knowing when anyone was being dishonest with you, from your wife or your husband to your children to your colleagues at work. It is a terrible curse and a great blessing.
Dr. Lightman is continuously in this situation of TMI, of just too much information, because he can read what you are feeling and often what you are thinking at any time. So obviously, yes, heís a very unwelcome dinner guest in many circles.
Itís also a very bizarre place to work, because the entire team is adept at reading facial expressions, microexpressions, which are the, again, the leakage of hidden emotion of what youíre actually feeling.
And so you have to be very careful about what you project in this office place, because people know when youíre lying, in terms of as simple a question as ďHow are you?Ē if you said fine and youíre not fine, theyíll know.
How did you meet with Dr. Paul Ekman?
S. Baum Well, Iíd been doing a lot of writing about lying, lies in family life, lies in political life, and I started to do some research into the science of lying and I very quickly came across Paulís work.
I was just completely fascinated about all aspects of it, from lying in gender and learning about the differences between what men lie about versus what women lie about, you know, which is that men, the most common lies are lies of self-aggrandizement, trying to make themselves seem better than we are as opposed to women who the most common lie is a lie of social lubrication, of trying to make others feel okay.
Starting there and then getting really into the deception work, I was just completely fascinated by the idea that you could tell if someone was lying just by looking at them without their saying a word.
Another piece of the show is that youíre going to see footage of real people, recognizable people, famous people lying and we will point out the specific behavioral queues that are the sign of lying.
So you will see an unnamed politician who I wonít give away who we know has had affairs and you will watch him giving a statement in which he says that he has been in love with the same woman for his entire life.
And then you will see the body language queue, which is called a one-sided shoulder shrug, which is a squelched shoulder shrug, that says that I have absolutely no confidence in what I just said and I was lying.
So youíll actually get to see that this is not supernatural, this is not made up. This is actually based in the most cutting edged, scientific research thatís used by the Pentagon to keep our nation safe.
Tim, during your research, do you find a way to continue lying and consciously manipulate your face so it appeared you were still telling the truth?
T. Roth: Well, I donít know. You know what? Itís weird. The only one who could tell me - essentially, all of the acting is lying, right?
All of acting is lying. Itís all deception. So, for me, for my character, thankfully, heís one of the few ones that doesnít actually have to be on stage. Itís only the subjects or people talking to him or people that he is talking to who are on stage.
I do know that, for example, actors Ö quite often get a hold of Paulís training DVDís and his Web site training stuff and also his books and use them. So, Iím always lying. Thatís what actors do, so you never stop lying. Itís just how good you are at it, I suppose.
Whatís the tone of the series?
S. Baum I would say that the story lines certainly have a dramatic and an emotional quality to them. The mysteries that we tell are psychological mysteries, where we ask the question: why is that person showing this emotion?
Why does someone who is told theyíre about to be rescued from the edge of calamity suddenly show more fear than before they were told they were going to be saved?
So the mysteries are psychological and emotional. Iíd say this is not a show where the reason why someone is lying is because they robbed the bank. This is not a show about the search for a criminal, itís about the search for human truth. So theyíll definitely be emotional and dramatic, but thereís also a huge amount of comedy.
Obviously, itís incredibly difficult going through life knowing whenever someone is lying to you. Itís awkward when you know that youíre the fifth best sex your wife has ever had.
Thatís the too much information area. So there will certainly be a large amount of comedy in the show. It comes from the every day lies that we all suffer from, you know, the guy who steals your parking space and lies to you, to the hot dog guy when you ask if the hot dogs are fresh who lies to you and says, ďOh, of course they are.Ē I mean, everywhere he goes he sees the truth. And so it lends itself to comedy.
Tell me more about the series premise.
S. Baum Theyíre (Roth & Co.) actually investigating on the cases. Frequently they work with the police, but they will tend to focus on cases where there isnít physical evidence that can tell you what happened.
So theyíre really the most difficult cases to crack because there are only people to talk to as opposed to physical evidence and DNA and those sort of things that you would see on a traditional crime show.
There may be like the deputy chief of police who recurs or a particular person at the FBI who occurs, but itís such a wide range of cases that youíre going to see in the show, it will be like a little movie every week in the sense of one week youíll be in the world of the Secret Service and then the next week youíll be in the world of the military and then the week after that youíll be in the world of the DEA and then you may be in a public high school dealing with a homicide of a senior in high school, so itís a really wide range of cases.
And thatís whatís exciting is that unlike a law show or a medical show or pure cop show where youíre locked into telling legal stories, doctor stories, cop stories every week, with this the range of cases is as wide as there are lies.
Obviously thereís an unlimited number of stories because thereís an unlimited number of lies.
Tim, how much time did you spend with your real-life counterpart?
T. Roth: Well, the first time I met him was when we were shooting the pilot. He came, in fact, to the location where I am at now, which is a juvenile prison thatís been shut down, which we use.
Horrible place, in fact.
Thatís when I first met him. He hung around. Then, he came to the set a couple of times after that. I didnít Ė what I did Ė I mean, I talked to him about it. I did some reading. I read a couple of his things. I looked at some Web sites.
Then, I stayed away from it. Thatís what I tend to do. Now, I deal with whatís specifically in each script. Apart from that, I stay away from it because itís not really stuff that I want to take home with me. Paul lives and breathes it. So, I just stay away from it. I think thereís a fascination there.
Definitely fascinating stuff. Iíll probably pick up a little bit more of it as I go through, but I generally donít try to have it follow me home.
Sam, do you find that you can spot people in a lie now?
S. Baum Yes, itís an incredibly profound skill and it comes quite quickly, actually. One of the programs that Paul started is the SPOT Program, which is the screening by observational techniques program that the PSA uses in major airports now.
What the SPOT program does is it has people who are scanning for microexpressions, looking for a microexpression of fear and anxiety of someone whoís planning to do something criminal at the airport or on one of the planes.
And in as little as two hours of training, you can train these behavioral detection officers to spot microexpressions. So, yes, there a lot of things that I see now that I was blind to before, and basically my agents will only deal with me on the phone now because they canít lie anymore. Itís awkward.
Are you acutely aware of your lying now?
S. Baum I think Iím much more aware, Iím much more aware if I am lying or not revealing the full truth and thatís another important piece of the show, which is the stories weíre going to tell are going to frequently create situations where thereís a big cost not only to lying, but where thereís a real cost to telling the truth. We donít live in a world where honesty is always the best policy.
As grownups, weíve all come to realize that there are times when lying is the right thing to do when there isnít another option. Thatís the territory that the show is going to explore is really asking the question: when is lying the right thing to do?
How did Tim Roth actually get involved with the project?
S. Baum Well, he had initially passed on the project, because he had said he would not, I donít know whether he had read the script or not, but he was not interested in television.
Then we went to lunch over a year ago, the two of us, and he laid out all the reasons why he was not going to do television and then I told him all about Paulís work and about the show, and I think together with Brian Grazer and the team at Imagine he suddenly got bitten by the bug of this science and started to do some research and see both the extraordinary power of this science and what it does when you learn to recognize what other people are feeling and often what theyíre thinking all around you.
And then I think he became interested in playing a character who would have to deal with this highly unusual condition of knowing what other people are feeling and often thinking all around him.
Heís incredibly excited about it. I know heís dived head first into all of the research for the show and I know that heís particularly interested as a father in the implacability of this research to kids. Children, as a father of, I believe, three, he is very interested in why kids lie, which is a whole area of research that Dr. Ekman has written about.