Shawn Ryan Tells the Truth About Reinventing Lie to Me
Lie to Me
Lie to Me's surprise midseason success last year has been attributed to its compelling leading man (Tim Roth) and its unconventional approach to the cop procedural.
So when Shawn Ryan (The Shield, The Unit) was brought in to co-executive-produce the show (with Samuel Baum, the show's creator) this season, he wanted to maintain those two elements.
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"There were a lot of things that worked well about the show last year, primarily Tim Roth," Ryan says. "He's one of the premier actors in the world. The show had a lot of strengths. I have just been trying to refine it, add a little adrenaline, add some deeper character work and dig really deep into who these characters really are."
Ryan's higher-octane imprint has already been felt. In the second-season premiere, master lie detector Cal Lightman (Roth) strangled a client (guest star Erika Christensen) to extract information from one of her alternate personalities. Ryan said he loved the way that scene turned out, but promised he wouldn't take away the show's lighter elements.
"I'd say visceral is a good word for it," Ryan says of the choking scene. "But the show is still going to have humor. It's not a dark universe we're trying to portray, but a visceral, real world. That's something that Tim Roth really embraces. There's a real blue-collar, rough-around-the-edges nature to Tim, in real life and in the way he plays Cal Lightman. And we want to expand upon that this year."
Ryan doesn't think getting inside the head of Lightman & Co. will distract fans who want to tune in for their mystery of the week. "I think there's a way to still remain a procedural while still delving into who your characters are," he says. "Certain kinds of stories allow you to open avenues of who those characters are as it relates to the story. We're choosing stories that allow us to reflect and illustrate who these characters really are. It's a very calculated effort that takes a lot of work to pick the right stories.
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"We're not really a crime show, although our guys do investigate some crimes," Ryan tells TVGuide.com. "It's not strictly a mystery show, it's not strictly a medical show. We're able to tell stories of all kinds.
One of the characters Ryan is most looking forward to exploring is Mekhi Phifer's Agent Ben Reynolds. "What's fun about him is he's not one of the scientist nerds — he's someone who has a different approach and can be a little bit of yin to Lightman's yang," Ryan says. "He's definitely an important character on the show; he's someone we're easing in. His role is going to get bigger and we're going to learn more about him and where he came from."
At the heart of Ryan's character-rich formula is what he calls Lightman's "great family drama," which will be shaken up this season. "It's a very interesting family dynamic between his ex-wife, for whom he still has a lot of affection and that fight-or-f--- relationship. And they've got this very precocious, really adorable teenage daughter who's on the precipice of adulthood. Lightman learns about the kind of activities that she's been participating in, and they're more adult than he thought. It really brings to a head his relationship with her, his relationship with his ex-wife, and how they're parenting her."
Lightman's desire to keep his daughter in his life will have ramifications at the office. Now that he bought out his wife's share of the company in order to keep her from moving away, The Lightman Group finds itself strapped for cash. "It's definitely going to have an effect on the business," Ryan says. "They're going to have to take a couple cases they normally wouldn't, just for the money. Episode 3 starts with a case that Lightman is miserable to be on, one he actually considers is below his status. I think it mirrors a lot of what people are going through. It's a tougher time financially, and we'll see Lightman under that pressure."
Overall, Ryan says he's happy with what he and his team have accomplished so far. "I think we've been very successful ... Fox is a pretty young, aggressive network. If anything, we want these stories to be as dynamic as [those] we were able to have on The Shield, and we're trying."