Lie to me, the dramatisation of cutting edge behavioural science

Lie To Me - The drama

LIE TO ME is the compelling drama (now in its third series) inspired by the scientific discoveries of a Dr Paul Ekman who can read clues embedded in the human face, body and voice to expose the truth and lies in criminal investigations.

Now showing across the world. Download the network for your country here.

DR. CAL LIGHTMAN (Tim Roth) is the world's leading deception expert. If you lie to Lightman, he'll see it in your face  and your posture or hear it in your voice. If you shrug your shoulder, rotate your hand or even just slightly raise your lower lip, Lightman will spot the lie. By analyzing facial expressions and involuntary body language, he can read feelings ranging from hidden resentment to sexual attraction to jealousy. His work gives him the knowledge and skill set to expertly deceive others as well as detect lies. But as Lightman well knows, his scientific ability is both a blessing and a curse in his personal life, where family and friends deceive each other as readily as criminals and strangers do.

Lightman heads a team of experts at The Lightman Group who assist federal law enforcement, government agencies and local police with their most difficult cases.  DR. GILLIAN FOSTER (Kelli Williams) is a gifted psychologist and Lightman's professional partner who brings balance to the partnership by looking at the bigger picture while Lightman focuses on the details. He needs her guidance and insight into human behavior, whether he knows it or not. ELI LOKER (Brendan Hines) is Lightman's lead researcher. He is so uncomfortable with the human tendency to lie that he usually practices what he calls "radical honesty." He says everything on his mind and often pays the price. RIA TORRES (Monica Raymund) is the newest member of the agency and one of the few "naturals" in the field of deception detection. Her raw, untrained ability to read people makes her a force to be reckoned with.

Created by Samuel Baum, LIE TO ME is executive-produced by Shawn Ryan, Brian Grazer, David Nevins, Daniel Voll, Samuel Baum, Dan Sackheim, Vahan Moosekian, Liz Craft and Sarah Fain. Dr. Paul Ekman serves as scientific consultant. The series is produced by Imagine Television in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Dan Sackheim directed the season premiere episode.

Fox's drama "Lie To Me" is a series about the science of lying.  The series, starring Tim Roth, focuses on a team of deception experts who have a private agency that's contracted by law enforcement, every government agency, corporations and private individuals when they've hit a roadblock in their search for the truth. Roth's team work on the most difficult cases where there's a web of lies that needs to be untangled. 

The science of deception detection is based on the work of Dr. Paul Ekman who is the world's leading deception expert.

"Lie To Me" creator and initial executive producer, Samuel Baum, enlisted the consulting help of Dr. Ekman, who has contracted himself with the Secret Service, the Department of Homeland Security as well as every government agency to consult in deception-related fields. The organisation 'Paul Ekman International PLC' has been established and approved by Dr Ekman to deliver training in deception detection and emotional awareness skills. This series launched on Wednesday, January 21st 2009 at 9:00 p.m./8:00 p.m. CST after American Idol.

Monsters and Critics joined some other online journalists and spoke to Samuel Baum and Tim Roth of "Lie to Me." Here is an extract of their interview which can be seen in full by folloing the link at the end of this article.

INTERVIEW (adapted)

Samuel, were you happy with the time slot FOX gave the show?

S. Baum: I'm incredibly excited by the time slot, because, in a way I feel like this subject matter is perfect for reaching a broad audience, because lying is such a part of the fabric of our every day life.  And also the fact that the whole focus of the science is that it's universal; that we all look the same when we lie and we all look the same when we conceal emotions. That anxiety on me looks exactly like anxiety on you.  So there's something really, really exciting about knowing that there's going to be a wide, wide demographic of people watching. I feel like this is a show that has interest for a wide, wide audience because it's about something that affects our everyday life, which is lying. The average person statistically tells three lies per ten minutes of conversation is what the research shows. And so it's such an integral part of everyday life for everyone, but the issue of lying and the science of emotion of learning to recognize how do people in your life really feel and really think that it's very exciting to have the possibility of reaching a broad audience.

Tim, how much of this character would you say you take home with you? 

T. Roth:  I try to take absolutely none of it home with me.  I make a very strong attempt not to get to know too much of the science and not to practice it at home or any of that stuff because the real guy, Paul, he can't switch it off. He can't unlearn it. He knows so much about this stuff that he can see, in everybody, what they're maybe thinking. He watches their bodies betray them. I don't really want to do that.

Sam, what is your opinion of the lie detector test?

S. Baum: The thing about the polygraph is that it's very reliable at telling you if someone is anxious, but what it's not telling you is WHY that person is anxious. And the real reason why, there's a strong psychological mystery at the heart of every episode is that determining if someone is lying is just the beginning of our story. The real question is why is someone lying?  Is someone lying because they committed the crime they're being accused of?  Is someone lying to protect someone else?  Is there a secret that's unrelated to the crime that they're so ashamed of that will come out if they tell the truth that they're forced to lie?  So the human element of our team of deception experts creates a whole other level from just simply a machine that tells you if someone is feeling an increase in emotion, which is what the polygraph does.

How much research did you and your writers delve into with Dr. Paul Ekman who studied microexpressions and body language, especially facial expressions?

S. Baum: Dr. Ekman is the scientific consultant for the show and he'll be with us all year. I've spent close to a year with Paul now. The amazing thing about Paul's work, it focuses on four areas, which you'll learn about in the show, which is the study of the human face, the body, the voice and speech. And just focusing on the face for a moment, the remarkable thing about this work is that we all show emotion the same way. There are seven basic emotions of anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, we show them all identically, whether you're a suburban housewife in the OC or you're a Saudi sheik in Saudi Arabia.  So it's a universal phenomenon, the science, and that's why I feel it can really reach a broad audience.

So does Tim's character get into layered voice analysis and real nitty-gritty elements of the science of this in the series?

S. Baum: Yes. You will see voice stress analysis in addition to speech analysis and analysis of body movements, body language and the work of recognizing facial expressions, microexpressions. And that leads me to one other thing that's quite extraordinary is that Paul has proven that in as little as two hours of studying microexpressions, which are these little expressions that flash when we're trying to hide an emotion, in as little as two hours of training someone can learn to recognize these hidden emotions. So, one of the exciting things about the show is that people who watch "Lie To Me" will actually learn not only to recognize when people are lying to them, but will recognize when people in their lives are hiding emotion in some way. So you can imagine what it would be like to have a heightened sense of when someone is secretly sexually attracted to you or secretly jealous, and literally the truth is written on all our faces. It's there to see if you're quick enough and perceptive enough to catch these microexpressions, which one can be trained in as little as two hours to recognize.  And he's proven that in his work with the TSA (Trasportation Security Agency in the USA).

Tim, why do you think that someone will enjoy the subject matter of this show?

T. Roth: I think it'll be fun to see this kind of stuff and see how it relates in reality, in real life. Part of the fun is going to be Paul's Web site that he's doing, his companion Web site, the guy it's all based on. He's a scientist that it's based on ( and He's going to do a companion Web site for each episode.  So, you'll actually see the stuff that we're making up and the stuff that is real. You'll see examples of how - you'll be able to train yourself to spot stuff. I don't want to know. No, I think an audience could really enjoy themselves with it. It's kind of fun.

How does Tim's character keep from scrutinizing his family and friends?

S. Baum: Imagine what it would be like to go through your life knowing when anyone was being dishonest with you, from your wife or your husband to your children to your colleagues at work.  It is a terrible curse and a great blessing. Dr. Lightman is continuously in this situation of just too much information, because he can read what you are feeling and often what you are thinking at any time.  So obviously, yes, he's a very unwelcome dinner guest in many circles. It's also a very bizarre place to work, because the entire team is adept at reading facial expressions, microexpressions, which are the, again, the leakage of hidden emotion of what you're actually feeling. And so you have to be very careful about what you project in this office place, because people know when you're lying, in terms of as simple a question as "How are you?" if you said fine and you're not fine, they'll know. 

How did you meet with Dr. Paul Ekman?

S. Baum: Well, I'd been doing a lot of writing about lying, lies in family life, lies in political life, and I started to do some research into the science of lying and I very quickly came across Paul's work. I was just completely fascinated about all aspects of it, from lying in gender and learning about the differences between what men lie about versus what women lie about, you know, which is that men, the most common lies are lies of self-aggrandizement, trying to make themselves seem better than we are as opposed to women who the most common lie is a lie of social lubrication, of trying to make others feel okay. Starting there and then getting really into the deception work, I was just completely fascinated by the idea that you could tell if someone was lying just by looking at them without their saying a word. Another piece of the show is that you're going to see footage of real people, recognizable people, famous people lying and we will point out the specific behavioral queues that are the sign of lying. So you will see an unnamed politician who I won't give away who we know has had affairs and you will watch him giving a statement in which he says that he has been in love with the same woman for his entire life. And then you will see the body language (leakage), which is called a one-sided shoulder shrug, which is a squelched shoulder shrug, that says that I have absolutely no confidence in what I just said and I was lying. So you'll actually get to see that this is not supernatural, this is not made up. This is actually based in the most cutting edged, scientific research that's used by the Pentagon to keep our nation safe.

Tim,  during your research, do you find a way to continue lying and consciously manipulate your face so it appeared you were still telling the truth? 

T. Roth: Well, I don't know. You know what? It's weird. ...Essentially all of the acting is lying, right? All of acting is lying. It's all deception.  So, for me, for my character, thankfully, he's one of the few ones that doesn't actually have to be on stage. It's only the subjects or people talking to him or people that he is talking to who are on stage. I do know that, for example, actors … quite often get a hold of Paul's training DVD's and his Web site training stuff and also his books and use them. So, I'm always lying. That's what actors do, so you never stop lying.  It's just how good you are at it, I suppose.

What's the tone of the series?

S. Baum: I would say that the story lines certainly have a dramatic and an emotional quality to them.  The mysteries that we tell are psychological mysteries, where we ask the question: why is that person showing this emotion? Why does someone who is told they're about to be rescued from the edge of calamity suddenly show more fear than before they were told they were going to be saved? So the mysteries are psychological and emotional. I'd say this is not a show where the reason why someone is lying is because they robbed the bank. This is not a show about the search for a criminal, it's about the search for human truth.  So they'll definitely be emotional and dramatic, but there's also a huge amount of comedy. Obviously, it's incredibly difficult going through life knowing whenever someone is lying to you. It's awkward when you know that you're the fifth best sex your wife has ever had. That's the too much information area. So there will certainly be a large amount of comedy in the show. It comes from the every day lies that we all suffer from, you know, the guy who steals your parking space and lies to you, to the hot dog guy when you ask if the hot dogs are fresh who lies to you and says, "Oh, of course they are." I mean, everywhere he goes he sees the truth. And so it lends itself to comedy.

Tell me more about the series premise.

S. Baum: They're (Roth & Co.) actually investigating on the cases. Frequently they work with the police, but they will tend to focus on cases where there isn't physical evidence that can tell you what happened. So they're really the most difficult cases to crack because there are only people to talk to as opposed to physical evidence and DNA and those sort of things that you would see on a traditional crime show. There may be like the deputy chief of police who recurs or a particular person at the FBI who occurs, but it's such a wide range of cases that you're going to see in the show, it will be like a little movie every week in the sense of one week you'll be in the world of the Secret Service and then the next week you'll be in the world of the military and then the week after that you'll be in the world of the DEA and then you may be in a public high school dealing with a homicide of a senior in high school, so it's a really wide range of cases. And that's what's exciting is that unlike a law show or a medical show or pure cop show where you're locked into telling legal stories, doctor stories, cop stories every week, with this the range of cases is as wide as there are lies. Obviously there's an unlimited number of stories because there's an unlimited number of lies.

Tim, how much time did you spend with your real-life counterpart?

T. Roth: Well, the first time I met him was when we were shooting the pilot. He came, in fact, to the location where I am at now, which is a juvenile prison that's been shut down, which we use. Horrible place, in fact. That's when I first met him. He hung around. Then, he came to the set a couple of times after that. I didn't - what I did - I mean, I talked to him about it. I did some reading. I read a couple of his things. I looked at some Web sites. Then, I stayed away from it. That's what I tend to do. Now, I deal with what's specifically in each script. Apart from that, I stay away from it because it's not really stuff that I want to take home with me. Paul lives and breathes it. So, I just stay away from it. I think there's a fascination there. Definitely fascinating stuff. I'll probably pick up a little bit more of it as I go through, but I generally don't try to have it follow me home.

Sam, do you find that you can spot people in a lie now?

S. Baum: Yes, it's an incredibly profound skill and it comes quite quickly, actually.... so, yes, there a lot of things that I see now that I was blind to before, and basically my agents will only deal with me on the phone now because they can't lie anymore. It's awkward.

Are you acutely aware of your lying now?

S. Baum: I think I'm much more aware, I'm much more aware if I am lying or not revealing the full truth and that's another important piece of the show, which is the stories we're going to tell are going to frequently create situations where there'sa big cost not only to lying, but where there's a real cost to telling the truth.  We don't live in a world where honesty is always the best policy. As grownups, we've all come to realize that there are times when lying is the right thing to do when there isn't another option. That's the territory that the show is going to explore is really asking the question: when is lying the right thing to do?

How did Tim Roth actually get involved with the project?

S.Baum: Well, he had initially passed on the project, because he had said he would not, I don't know whether he had read the script or not, but he was not interested in television. Then we went to lunch over a year ago, the two of us, and he laid out all the reasons why he was not going to do television and then I told him all about Paul's work and about the show, and I think together with Brian Grazer and the team at Imagine he suddenly got bitten by the bug of this science and started to do some research and see both the extraordinary power of this science and what it does when you learn to recognize what other people are feeling and often what they're thinking all around you. And then I think he became interested in playing a character who would have to deal with this highly unusual condition of knowing what other people are feeling and often thinking all around him. He's incredibly excited about it.  I know he's dived head first into all of the research for the show and I know that he's particularly interested as a father in the implacability of this research to kids. As a father he is very interested in why kids lie, which is a whole area of research that Dr. Ekman has written about.

(Reference: Adapted from 'Lie to Me' Tim Roth and Samuel Baum interview
By April MacIntyre Jan 21, 2009

Dr Ekman ran a blog that picked up on the drama and how it relates and sometimes conflicts with the science.

Here are extracts from that blog:

Series 1 Episode 1  Pilot

Series 1 Episode 2  Moral Waiver

Series 1 Episode 3  A Perfect Score

Series 1 Episode 4  Love Always

Series 1 Episode 6 Do No Harm

Series 1 Episode 7 The Best Policy

Series 1 Episode 10 Better Half

Series 1 Episode 11 Undercover

Series 1 Episode 12 Blinded

Series 1 Episode 13 Sacrifice

You too can attend training programmes accredited by Dr Ekman to learn the skills dramatised by Tim Roth.


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