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Remote Controlled: Joanne Froggatt on Her ‘Complex’ Role on ‘Liar,’ ‘Downton Abbey’ Movie Prospects

Joanna Froggatt Liar TV Show
Joss Barratt/Two Brothers Pictures

Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.

In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Joanne Froggatt about her new series, “Liar.” The six-part miniseries created by brothers Harry and Jack Williams currently airs on SundanceTV.

In the thriller, Froggatt plays Laura, a teacher who goes on a date with Ioan Gruffudd’s character Andrew, who has a son in Laura’s class. “Events happen on that night and they both have very different accounts of the evening,” she teases. “They both become embroiled in truth and lies basically, as do all the characters around them.”

The plot unfolds when consequences following their date force them each to prove they’re telling the truth. Froggatt adds: “It’s how far will you go to prove your innocence or prove someone else’s guilt.”

Froggatt also discusses the non-linear formatting of episodes, which are heavy with flashbacks. “You’re constantly questioning yourself and your beliefs in these characters, and constantly changing your mind about who you think is telling the truth,” she says.

And on that, Froggatt says the title — “Liar” — serves a theme for the show in its entirety.

“Actually, there’s more than one liar in our show, and lots of people that are affected by their lies in very different ways,” she explains. “It’s quite a complex story.”

Without giving away spoilers, Froggatt says she doesn’t think Laura always makes the right decisions. “As an actor, you have to understand the mindset of the person you’re playing, and you have to give her a backstory and a background so it makes sense to you, their thought process,” she says. “You don’t have to agree with it or agree with the decisions they make, but you have to make sense of why they’re doing it. That’s how I go about building a character.”

Portraying the character takes her to bleak places, so Froggatt praised her co-stars for lightening the mood on set.

“When you’re telling quite a dark story, it makes it so much easier when you’ve got good people around that you can go to those places when you need to for the work you need to be doing,” she says. “Then on the days, which were few and far between where it wasn’t such dark content, you can smile and have a conversation in between scenes and enjoy hanging out with them as well.”

Froggatt was inspired by her character’s strength. “She is fierce, actually,” she says. “We don’t meet her and think, ‘Wow, this woman’s fierce,’ but as the show unravels, you realize she’s somebody that you don’t want to mess with.”

And, despite discussion of gender inequality in the industry, Froggatt says she doesn’t struggle with finding diverse female characters to play, though, she jokes, “I had to turn down a couple of maid roles and someone coming in carrying another tea tray.”

One role she was particularly fond of was on “Downton Abbey.” Froggatt discussed her satisfaction with the series finale, along with the fandom that sparked between her character Anna and Brendan Coyle’s John Bates.

“I just think people connected with their slow-burn love story,” she says. “What Brendan and I loved about it, was their relationship grew out of a mutual respect and that they were best friends, and then you have to have attraction as well. They had all the ingredients of a relationship that could really last a lifetime.”

And as for rumors of a movie, “Selfishly, it would be great to get together for 10 weeks and have a little reunion,” Froggatt said. “But in all honesty, I have no idea. There’s been talk, there’s been conversations, but nothing has happened. We’re all sort of leaving it up to the gods.”

You can listen to this week’s podcast here:

New episodes of “Remote Controlled” are available every Friday, and you can find past episodes here.