A Conversation with 'Lie To Me' Star Monica Raymund
Regardless, my only regret for this interview is that I did not ask Monica about my idea for a SNL skit where Jon Lovitz's liar character, Tommy Flanagan, is interviewed by Tim Roth's Lie to Me character only to be stumped by Flanagan. I picture a distressed Roth saying, "I just don't know, this guy seems like a straight shooter." Yes, I realize this idea was most relevant in 1987. Anyway, here is my conversation with the more than delightful Monica Raymund:
Mike: So, I was watching the show and ... it's funny, considering the subject matter, I made sure I watched every frame of every episode -- and not just enough to get by -- because it scared me that you might have picked up some tricks (and call me out).
Monica: (Laughs) Yeah...
Mike: Is that possible? Because almost every bit of dialogue is about how someone is lying or reading their emotions. Do you pick any of that up just being on the show?
Monica: I'm certainly much more aware of people speaking to me; my eye is a little sharper in determining their facial expression and wrinkles ... and little tips that I practice on the show. It's quite annoying actually; when we stop filming I don't want to be seeing things like that. I don't know how somebody like Paul Eckman -- who the show is based off of -- is able to carry on his daily life being able to read every single person who comes into contact with him. It's exhausting, really.
Mike: It's funny, I was on the subway the other day -- and I had just watched both episodes back to back an hour before (on Hulu!) -- and on someone's face I saw the sign for scorn. Of course, the scorn was directed toward me because I bumped into a lady trying to get off the subway ... but it was exciting because I was like: hey, this this lady is mad at me and I know it.
Monica: (Laughs) It could be a little secret weapon you have. That's what is great about the show: people are going to be able to learn something from it ... and have a better attention to detail when talking to someone, or, maybe, if someone's lying they'll have a better chance of picking it up (laughs).
Mike: I think that would be a tough place to work because Tim Roth's character (Dr. Cal Lightman) ... it's all he ever wants to talk about, even when he's walking down the street he will stop people to tell them the other person they are talking to is lying. So, this morning when I called in sick because I was out too late because of the Super Bowl, there's no way I could get away with that with him.
Monica: (Laughs) So are you saying you didn't lie? You just told the truth?
Mike: Well, I'm telling the truth to you; but not this morning. But, if I worked for your character's company on the show, there is no way I could get away with that.
Monica: Let me tell you: Paul Eckman, the scientist (that the show is based on), comes to the set sometimes to survey and check out what's going on and how it's all being done. You can see Tim (Roth) is a little nervous around him. And we all get a little nervous because we know he will be able to tell if we are telling the truth or not.
Mike: Are you really careful about what you say around him?
Monica: You know ... no. The guy will be able to read it anyway. So why worry?
Mike: Or you could always do what was done in the second episode and just take some Valium.
Monica: (Laughs) Yeah, we can all take some Valium ... we just (need to) have those drugs on the set and we will be fine.
Mike: Right (laughs). I love how your character was introduced as a TSA agent -- speaking of tips and tricks -- because I am actually flying tomorrow so if I am in the airport and get into any trouble with the TSA and they say, "you have to come with us" I'm just going to say what Tim Roth's character said and say, "no, you need to come with me." (As his character said to Monica's as he offered her a job at his firm.)
Monica: (Laughing) But, then you need to run.
Mike: Right! Unfortunately I'm not going to have a suitcase full of money to offer (as he did).
Monica: What's funny is when I first got the job I was traveling a lot -- personally, with my family -- I was in the airport four or five times in a few months and every single time I would get there early to check out the TSA's and what they were doing. Half of them are surveying the crowd and the other half are completely bored (laughs). I tried to see if there is actually somebody there whose sole purpose is to check for odd behavior; (once) I acted like I had something to hide ... and I got really nervous.
Mike: Well, yeah ... I'm assuming you didn't have a million dollars in a briefcase to offer them a position at your new firm ... or even a part on the show.
Monica: I guess I wasn't very convincing; they let me right through.
Mike: I'm just going to assume the brave men and women who are TSA agents are so good at their jobs they just knew you were not a threat.
So, what is it like working with Tim Roth and Kelli Williams?
Monica: It's an honor. It's really, really amazing. You know, I'm straight out of school; I don't even have my diploma yet. I don't even have the degree in my hands, it's still at the school (Juilliard in New York City) and I'm working with one veteran of TV and another veteran of film ... you know, what better way to learn the ropes acting with these two.
It's fun because Tim doesn't have much experience in TV and neither do I, so we're both learning from a very different point of view and very different experience levels. And Kelli is one of my big role models now, I think she's awesome as a working woman and a mother ... that's great.
Mike: Well, she was great as Lindsay Dole on The Practice and she, obviously, is an expert on long running shows. That's a good sign.
Mike: You know, Tim Roth always plays these intense characters. Is he intense when the cameras are off? I've never seen him play a happy-go-lucky guy...
Monica: He's actually a total jokester; incredibly humorous. He actually is a light, happy-go-lucky guy ... in an intense fashion. It's definitely not what you would expect seeing him play roles in Rob Roy, The Legend of 1900, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs.
Mike: Where is the show filmed at? Is it filmed in L.A.?
Monica: Yeah, we film in L.A.
Mike: Oh, is that why you haven't gotten your diploma yet ... because you haven't been back to New York?
Monica: Yeah. I did a play in Boston ... then moved here (L.A.)
Mike: Well ... if you just need someone to just go pick it up, I suppose I have some free time tomorrow.
Monica: (Laughs) I have a lot of friends still over there... (laughing) thank you though.
Mike: Well, I thought I should be polite and ask. I didn't want you talking to (your publicist) later and saying, "I hinted about it a million times but he just would not go and pick it up."
Monica: That's what boyfiends are for.
Well, OK, if you could use one word to describe your character, Ria, what would it be? And before you answer: This is the wrong word, but I was almost going to go with "sassy" but she's too intelligent ... I think that word applies more to characters like Flo Castleberry from Alice.
Monica: That's a really good question, Mike. She's complex. She has her reasons why she stands behind these black and white vision of the world. She has reasons why she might take certain things personally or her relation to men. She's street-smart she's bright ... not academic. My first instinct is to say "visceral." She's aware through her guts, she follows her guts.
Mike: Right, because she's the natural.
Mike: OK, we know Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) is based on a real person. Is there a real Ria?
Monica: Me? (laughs) No.
Mike: Well, I didn't know. Maybe he met one of his colleagues he met in a similar way?
Monica: Well, if there was I would have heard of it so I am going to say no ... oh my gosh I'm going to be so embarrassed if there is.
Mike: When I (transcribe) this I will be sure to put a footnote saying: I later learned the real Ria Torres was based on ...
Monica: (Laughs) Oh god... You will be like: I need to call Monica Raymund and let her know.
Mike: (Laughs) OK, this is the last question. Before you called I was getting some quick background on your Wikipedia page and it says:
"Reportedly, Raymund performed in Cymbeline directed by Richard Feldman, The Diviners (directed by Jonathan Bernstein), and Animal Farm (directed by Trizana Beverley) all at the Juilliard School, where she is a member of the class of 2008"
Can we go ahead and confirm this? Can we go in and edit this and remove the word "reportedly"?
Monica: (How about) "Apparently"? (Or) "By word of mouth she has been..."
Mike: I was thinking about changing it to "In no way, no how, did Raymund perform in..."
Monica: (Laughing) "In no way, in any fashion of the sense, did she go anywhere near, within three feet of the Juilliard school."
Mike: (Laughing) See, now my hope is when this is published, someone will actually go on Wikipedia and edit it to that. That's my hope.
OK, I lied: one more question. Is there anything coming up, spoiler wise? Any inside information?
Monica: Let me think about this … I don't want to give too much away. We will get to find out some really great past information about my character. We might see a couple of romantic flings happening ... and some pretty amazing cases that we're going to learn about.
Mike: And in the sixth episode we learn it's all a dream?
Monica: (Laughs) It never existed in the first place; it's all in your head; thank you for watching.
"Lie to Me" airs Wednesdays at 9:00 PM Eastern Time on FOX.
"Truth, Justice and Gordon Shumway" (yes, that is ALF) is a weekly column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan which appears Wednesdays, focusing on pop-culture current events. For any comments or complaints, you may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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