An innocent date between a widowed surgeon and his son's high-school teacher begets a flurry of accusations and conflicting accounts after she accuses him of drugging and raping her in a gripping new series premiering this week on SundanceTV.
In “Liar,” a six-part psychological thriller premiering Wednesday, Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey”) stars as Laura Nielson, a bright, dedicated teacher in a small English coastal town, who's just out of a relationship. When an encounter at school with successful Dr. Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd, the “Hornblower” series) leads to an invitation for a drink, it seems these two charming, attractive and slightly damaged people are a good match.
But when Laura wakes up the next morning believing she's been raped, she brings charges against Andrew. And what follows is a series of flashbacks, accusations and conflicting stories that at different times have the viewer wondering whether he is indeed a sexual predator, she an unhinged lunatic imagining or making up the whole thing, or both. Or neither. And what of her ex and his late wife?
It's a twisting, turning vortex of events that keeps the viewer going back and forth from episode to episode as to who the guilty party is, and it also had the actors not exactly sure where their characters were going, either.
“It was very interesting for me watching this, actually, because in the edit they've really switched things up,” Froggatt says.
“The way we worked is ... we filmed very different emotional responses to the same situation, so we'd do different versions. And it actually has a huge effect on the story, which version in the edit they've chosen, because they had all these variations to go from ... that they could really manipulate how ambiguous or not it's going to be at any point. So I was really excited to see it, because I didn't know which way they were kind of going to go with it in some places.”
“I've seen takes where, 'Oh, he's taken the angry take there instead of the I'm-totally-innocent take,'” Gruffudd adds. “So it's really interesting the way they've been able to weave it together.”
The rain and cold of England's southeast coast, where the series was shot last winter, give the series an appropriately gray and foreboding atmosphere. And with long shooting days and intense scenes, the actors found themselves seeking relief from their own characters' inner storms.
“What we did have was a lot of fun once the day had ended and on the weekend,” Gruffudd says. “We did a lot of socializing together. Yeah, so you have to blow off some steam. And then I went and played a lot of golf as well, just to clear my mind of this person.”
“You're like, 'Yay! We need to go and have fun!,'” Froggatt adds. “'We really need to release from this.'”