Now would I lie to you?
Tim Roth was afraid to meet the scary guy who inspired his new series Lie to Me
PAUL Ekman is a rather mildmannered psychologist who just happens to be involved in a line of research that scares the living daylights out of some people. He knows when you’re lying. Ekman, 74, has spent his life documenting every twitch, eye movement, body shift and lip quiver that offers clues about who is telling the truth.
His work is the basis for the new series Lie to Me.
How scary is Ekman? Lie to Me executive producer Samuel Baum explains that even the crew scampered when they saw Ekman coming.
‘‘There was a guy on our crew, this huge 250-pound dolly grip. Very confident guy. And on the day Dr Ekman came to set to consult, you just saw him go, ‘I don’t want to be anywhere near that guy’. He just cleared out,’’ Baum says.
Ekman has faced that reaction before. The psychologist suggests the reason for the fear is that people assume he can read their minds. That’s definitely not the case. All he can do is put together all the unconscious clues a person reveals to decide who is truthful or not.
The series, based on Ekman’s work, stars Tim Roth (Reservoir Dogs). The British actor plays Dr Cal Lightman, the world’s leading deception expert. Not only can he figure out if you are lying, but he also can figure out the reason for all the fibs. Even Roth gets a little nervous around Ekman.
‘‘ You’re forever wondering whether he’s thinking ‘No, I don’t believe you. The performance was terrible’,’’ Roth says.
It would take years for a viewer to learn the medical skills used to solve mysteries on House. The same goes for the bone knowledge that serves as the vehicle for Bones. Ditto for Ekman’s abilities.
Be careful what you learn, he says, because knowing the truth may not be a good thing.
‘‘The truth sometimes can be painful,’’ Ekman says. ‘‘Do you want to find out your spouse is cheating? Do you want to find out your kids are using hard drugs? Do you want to find out the person you hired is embezzling? It’s your own choice. You may sometimes be confronted with painful truths.’’
Ekman’s book Why Kids Lie: How Parents Can Encourage Truthfulness documents his own experience with his children.
As with House, Lie To Me features a British actor as its star, but unlike Hugh Laurie he has not been asked to do a US accent. That makes Roth happy.
‘‘I’ve done dialects a lot,’’ Roth says. ‘‘I know the work that goes into them and that you have to get pretty specific to convince some people that that’s where you’re from. Do I want that added work when I’m working seven days a week?
‘‘My feeling was it’s the kind of character who you have to be really flexible with and play around with and you have to be really light on your feet when you’re doing him.
‘‘To have the added weight on you of trying to get the accent right would just be a waste of time. So it was a deal-breaker for me.’’
And as Ekman could confirm, Roth was not lying.