Joanne Froggatt on “Liar”
Joanne Froggatt did not see it coming when she finished reading the script for the second season of the thriller Liar, she was completely shocked by the revelation of who had killed Andrew Earlham. The writers Jack and Harry Williams had kept her guessing to the end and she was completely surprised. Joanne plays the female lead, Laura Nielson, who accuses the handsome and seemingly kind doctor of rape – and when, by the end of season one, this was finally proven to indeed be the case, he disappears and later his corpse is found in the marshes. But who killed him? And who is lying now? That is what the second season explores.
In season one, your character Laura Nielson says that she has been raped by Andrew Earlham and, in the beginning, we are not sure, whom to believe. It turns out she is telling the truth but who did you believe when you started reading the script?
I found that interesting. When I first read the script, I only had that episode to read. So I was really unsure whether he was telling the truth. I really didn’t know. I felt quite uncomfortable about the fact that I didn’t know if he was telling the truth. That’s what made it such an interesting project for me: I felt uncomfortable about the fact that I didn’t know who was telling the truth, and I sort of questioned why I didn’t know whether he was telling the truth or not and I questioned my own beliefs and my own sort of judgments. So that is what fascinated me about it because that is what we all do as human beings and we can’t help but make judgments every day, every minute of every day, for better or worse and it’s part of getting through life. So, it really interested me. When I met James Strong, our Director, to talk about possibly doing the project, he told me. So it’s a shame I didn’t read more without knowing. Obviously, in terms of whether to take that job or not, I needed to know if she was going to be the liar or the truthful person. But I don’t think I personally would have taken on the role if she were the liar.
What was it about the second season of Liar that appealed to you?
I love the way Jack and Harry write. I think they write in a really exciting way. They are fantastic at nuanced thrillers. They are so skilled at keeping the audience guessing. I remember when I read an early draft of all six episodes of the second season and I went towards the end and I was like: ‘Ah! So this person has done it. Oh no, it’s this person!’ It was sort of vague and I was like: “Who?” And then when I came to the last pages, I was like: ‘Oh my God – oh wow!’ I was completely shocked, and they kept me guessing the whole time throughout the script. And I thought that if they can keep me guessing, I am sure most of the audience will keep guessing as well and I think that is just such great talent. It is exciting. I quite enjoy watching the comments on social media. I enjoy hearing the theories of the fans, who are invested in the show and that is the fun and entertaining part but underneath it all there is an underlying message or something else they are saying as well. They get that mix really balanced and I enjoy that about their work.
So you were surprised by who actually killed Andrew?
Yes, I was very surprised. They kept me guessing till the very last second and I literally made an audible noise when I was reading. I went: ‘Oh, my goodness’, so I was very surprised.
When we finished watching the second season, the title Liar is seen from a new perspective – and maybe Laura is not as truthful as we imagine her to be. What do you think the show says about telling the truth and lying?
Obviously, that is the main theme of the show. It spans over two seasons and obviously the first season is about who is lying about that evening and the second season goes into who is lying about Andrew’s murder. Who is lying about who killed Andrew? Every character in the show is somehow embroiled in someone else’s lie or their own. So every character is either lying about something or is inadvertently involved in someone else’s mistruth and that is quite an interesting prospect and a bit daunting as well. But I enjoyed that greater story – the bigger picture that Jack and Harry have woven into the story of Laura and Andrew. When you get to season two, you can see that everybody has told the truth and everybody has lied. It is an interesting mix.
Do you think that one should always tell the truth?
Yes, I am definitely an advocate for the truth. Absolutely. I think always it is a tricky thing to answer because if telling the truth will hurt someone’s feelings and the truth is not going to do anyone any good, then I think it is better to tell a white lie. But I think a white lie is different from a big untruth and I am hopefully a very straightforward and honest person.
You’ve spoken about the importance for you to be a loyal and decent person with a strong moral code. How would you characterize Laura with this in mind?
I think Laura is all of those things. She is a very decent person and she has a strong moral code. I think she has found herself in situations beyond her control and she has dealt with them to the best of her ability in the situation she is in. I think she is pushed to the limit constantly from the beginning of season one to the end of season two and I guess it is about how far you can push someone. You can only push someone so far before they react, whether it be in a small way or a big way, and Laura is pushed to the limit constantly. It is almost like those games at the fair when things pop up and you have to hit them with a hammer. As soon as she is past one dreadful experience another one pops up and she has something else to deal with. I think she is a person with integrity and honesty but I think she is also a person who is pushed to the limits.
How does the location add to the mystery of the show?
Deal is the seaside town, where the pier is and where Laura and Andrew go on their date and where Laura’s apartment is. It is a beautiful, picturesque place and I think there is something that I find magical about the sea. The sea is quite wild and untamable and I think Laura is a bit like that. I think that Andrew was underestimating Laura – she was not going to accept what he did to her and she was going to put up a fight. And she is not tamable. She is going to fight for what she believes in and I think the backdrop helps that: the sea and the elements that you cannot control in life.
What was it like for you to return to Downton Abbey with the cast? And what has that show meant to you?
Downton Abbey has been a huge part of my life and a hugely positive part of my life. It changed all of our lives and it was globally recognized and loved by so many people and it was a wonderful experience to be a part of it and touch wood, it has only made life better. So I feel very fortunate that I was part of it and it will always have a very special place in my heart and all the opportunities that have come along with that. It was lovely to get together and do the movie. It was a lovely experience and it was really nice to be able to get the gang back together again and feel like we were having a reunion. It was just a really warm lovely experience.
You won a Golden Globe for Downton Abbey. What was this like and where is it?
The Golden Globe is in my house. It was just one of the most magical experiences of my life that night. It was really just incredible. I had no idea. I was so over the moon to be nominated and I did not think that I had a hope in hell of getting the award that night. I was just overwhelmed. It was like a fairy tale – it was the most incredible experience, and full of love and emotion. I cried. It was an amazing experience that I am very grateful for.
You have created a production company called Run After It. Will you still be producing and why is it significant for you to be producing?
I have projects that I am developing for the future. I am still moving forward with those and a few things are going to happen. I cannot talk about them yet because everything is a little bit up in the air at the moment. With the current virus, things might shift and move around a bit. But the producing element is just something that I have naturally gravitated towards because I enjoy trying to put projects off the ground and I am good at putting the right people together, like-minded people who work well together. I know a good script when I read one. I enjoy being involved in the creative process from an early stage. I feel really passionate about it and it feels like a very natural progression. Acting will always be my first love and it will never be something that I want to take over from the acting. But I will do it alongside with the roles that I am playing. I enjoy being part of that earlier process to get to the main production.
What are the challenges of producing?
The main challenge is having to be patient. I have a TV company that is very interested in making a project but we have not managed to find the right writer yet. Or we found a writer and they were already committed to another job. I have another project with writers attached to it that I am pitching out to the companies. So it is a long process and often it is about timing. Sometimes it is just not the right time for a certain project, so it is about trying to gauge the timing, which is one of the trickiest aspects of it. And some of our best movies ever made took 20 years to get off the ground. Even if people are passionate about the story, it is about having to wait for the right time. That is probably the trickiest part: patience!