7 Questions with… Liar’s Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd: ‘Andrew is like a rat trapped in a corner. He’s still going to find a way out’
The hit drama returns to answer one question: who killed Andrew Earlham? The show’s stars discuss the challenges of playing the flawed characters three years on.
Liar got the nation talking when it launched on ITV in 2017.
And now its highly-anticipated second season will reveal who murdered serial rapist Andrew Earlham.
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt (Laura Nielson) and Fantastic Four’s Ioan Gruffudd (Earlham, who appears in flashback scenes) discuss the show's impact, why they decided to return to the project, and the challenges of their roles.
7 Questions with… Joanne Froggatt and Ioan Gruffudd
1. How did you feel about the reaction to the first series of Liar?
Joanne: I was just so thrilled that people connected with it and that it opened up conversations. And it made people think about who they believed and why they did or didn’t believe a certain character. For me that was all part of the point of the project. It made me sit back and go, "Oh wow. How do I feel about how I feel about this?" That was very satisfying. To hear those conversations happening with people.
A lot of people came up to me in the street when it was shown in the UK. It was probably one of the biggest reactions to anything I’ve done, emotionally. People were just amazing. Everyone was talking about it. The general reaction was that people were completely gripped by it, which is the best reaction you can hope for. I was very pleased with that.
Ioan: I’ve had some incredible encounters including with women who [were] distraught and disgusted by Andrew. But at the same time, they had fallen for his charm on screen. And they were totally conflicted. They told me, "Your character did terrible things to those women. But I couldn’t stop watching Andrew."
The impact it had was what we had intended with that character. We were all thrilled with the way Liar resonated with the audience. There are so many steps to the process of making anything for television or film that have to go right. Harry and Jack Williams had written amazing scripts so far in advance that when it came to shoot them, we just had to film what was on the page.
2. Were you contacted by any real-life sexual assault victims after series one?
Joanne: I got a lot of feedback when my character in Downton Abbey was sexually assaulted and I also had a lot of people speak to me about Liar in person. People would talk about their own experiences of being sexually assaulted in some way and not feeling able to come forward, having woken up in a very similar situation to Laura.
[Date rape drug] GHB being is such a widely used drug to put women in a vulnerable position. Some people who spoke to me were luckily never attacked, but others talked about their experiences of having drinks spiked with GHB or something similar when they had been in a bar or nightclub. Then, unfortunately, some of those incidents became much more traumatic. At the time, they didn’t really know what had happened and thought, "Maybe I was just drunk? I know something happened but was it me? I can’t remember".
They weren’t even able to register they had been sexually assaulted until quite a long time afterwards when they would realise they didn’t consent and didn’t remember it and they couldn’t have been that drunk because they only drank a certain amount, which would not make them pass out. All of that was pretty concerning, I have to say.
3. What was it like returning to this story?
Joanne: It was a really exciting prospect to go back to Liar. When something has gone so well you want to fulfil the story and your commitment to the project. It was such a lovely group of people to work with as well. I love working with Ioan Gruffudd, James Strong, our main director [who] came back, Jack and Harry Williams, and all of the team. I was thrilled to be back with everybody making something that would stand up to and, hopefully, surpass the first series.
It was also great to work with Kieran Bew - as Ian - again. It’s not a smooth path for Laura and Ian but I think there is real love there. It’s new and it’s troubled by this intense situation they are in. But there are real strong feelings between them. They are good for each other.
There is so much more of this story to tell. We see how Andrew became who he was and learn more about Laura
- Ioan Gruffudd
Ioan: Having all been blown away by the response to the first series we were thrilled there was an appetite to make the second series. But with every second season of anything, especially something so great and impactful as Liar, there is always that fear it might not be on the same level and people might not respond the same way.
When I started reading the scripts for the second series and when we started shooting it, I was just so pleased with the way it had come together.
There is an air of excitement as well as trepidation about releasing it out there again. You’ve obviously never going to satisfy everyone, but I think people will be very entertained by the whodunit element of it. There is so much more of this story to tell. We see Andrew in flashbacks along with the introduction of new characters. We see how Andrew became who he was and learn more about Laura’s path. I’ve every confidence that people will enjoy it.
4. How would you describe Andrew’s mindset when he is on the run?
Ioan: Andrew has got away with his crimes for so long, which led to his overconfidence about what he could and could not do. But we see him facing the reality of having been caught and going on the run. Although this is his great demise, he doesn’t lose the manipulation tactics he has at his disposal. It’s almost like a rat trapped in a corner. He is still going to find a way to fight and get out. We also discover more about his background and why he is able to manipulate certain people.
He has this crazy belief that he needs to get one over on Laura. She has ruined his life because she spoke out. You are playing someone who is in complete denial of reality. Andrew is on a downward spiral and is clutching at all sorts of straws. It was an amazing challenge.
5. In one of the flashback scenes you go back to Andrew and Laura's first date. How was that to revisit?
Joanne: It was actually really nice to go back to filming that very first date again. Because it’s one of the few happy scenes. I said to Ioan, "Do you remember when we did this?", all that time ago.
On the night we filmed it there was a massive thunderstorm. The location we used was a little cafe at the end of the pier in Deal which we turned into a restaurant. There was this incredible lightning and thunderstorm. We managed to get through the scene and then as we were walking back along the pier to go back to the hotel, this lightning bolt struck. There was so much electricity in the air that all of our hair was standing on end. It was a pretty eventful evening.
Ioan: Joanne and I filmed that first date between Laura and Andrew again in that restaurant at the end of a pier. There was a massive thunderstorm. Almost prophetic - and symbolic that we were there again. Back where it all began. It was just as magical and intense as it was the first-time round. We were literally in the eye of the storm. It was quite spectacular. But, of course, they had to edit around all of the lightning flashes. There was a real sense that this was the beginning of something terrible for Laura.
6. Joanne, you’ve described Laura as one of the most challenging characters you have ever played. Can you expand on that?
Joanne: It’s definitely one of the most challenging characters I’ve played because of the subject matter of sexual assault and everything that surrounds that, the research, looking into how few of these rape cases even go to court. All of those real things surrounding it.
It’s a challenge to play someone where we couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or not
- Joanne Froggatt
But also, it’s a challenge to play someone where we couldn’t tell if she was telling the truth or not. Having to be real for the situation. Because I don’t believe you can play your role for the audience, you have to play it as truthful to the role.
Then you have to second-guess and make choices that are ambiguous enough to tell the story, so you don’t know who is lying until the point in the story where you do know.
7. As an actor, could you find any redeeming qualities in Andrew?
Ioan: You have to bring all of the elements you have at your disposal as an actor to humanise this person. Even though he is an abhorrent human being. Just to find a way of justifying those actions, from his point of view, and making them believable. I thought it was important that we empathise with him in some perverse way.
His actions, to him, are not relevant. It’s the fact that somebody has told on him, he’s been caught, and they are saying all of these horrible things about him. It’s devastating for Andrew. Along with the implications for his relationship with his son Luke [Jamie Flatters], who turns his back on him. I had to create some kind of empathy so people could see there was a human being there but with one element of his make-up that is totally off centre.
In the first series people still didn’t want to believe that Andrew could possibly have done these things, even though they saw it with their own eyes. That’s the power of a person like him.
Watch Liar seasons 1 and 2 on BritBox.