Joanne Froggatt, the star of ITV’s six-part drama Liar which concludes next week, has opened up about her decision to take on the controversial storyline.
The psychological thriller is a he-said/she-said telling of the events that occur when schoolteacher Laura Nielson (Froggatt) starts dating renowned surgeon Andrew Earlham (Ioan Gruffudd). When Nielson accuses Earlham of raping her after their date, nobody believes her and the viewer is left to decide for themselves who is telling the truth.
As Nielson’s past is called into question, she takes matters into her own hands, searching for information about the accused and revealing secrets surrounding his previous marriage. And, calling into question how much we are influenced by a person’s background and behaviour when considering guilt in sexual assault cases, the series keeps the viewer wondering who the true “liar” is, before revealing that (spoiler) Nielson had been telling the truth all along.
While some have accused the show of sending out the wrong message about women, showing them as weak and vulnerable, Froggatt has spoken out about her decision to take on the role.
Speaking to Harper’s Bazaar, Froggatt explained that if her character had turned out to be the liar she would never have accepted the part, especially because of her previous experience portraying a woman who was raped in Downton Abbey.
"[It was important to me] as a woman, and mainly because of my experience of doing a storyline about rape on Downton, and having had contact from people who had been sexually assaulted.
"They felt that they had huge support with a show like Downton tackling that subject matter, and I learned so much from the letters I received that I felt a real connection towards these people after it had aired.
"So for me personally, I wouldn't have felt comfortable doing this having had this experience in Downton... it wouldn't have been right to for me to then play a woman who was lying.”
Explaining how she felt that the storyline reflected the reality of the majority of sexual assault cases not being prosecuted (only 5.7% of reported rape cases end in a conviction for the perpetrator), Froggatt added that “people do lie but in something like 90% of cases where the assault did happen, the person isn’t brought to justice, and no charge is brought because it's very hard to prove in certain circumstances.”
“But I think that because of the overwhelming statistics, the outcome in Liar is a fair representation in society,” she added.
“Had it been the other way round, it wouldn't have felt like a fair representation.”
Considering the impact of a victim’s behaviour on the ‘believability’ of their case, Froggatt said that she found herself questioning her character despite knowing the outcome, in particular because Laura was “brilliantly unlikeable” after her date with Andrew, and because of her behaviour after the sexual assault.
“I was not afraid of people thinking that I was lying because I knew – and that's part of the show and that's the part that throws up the more interesting questions. Just because she doesn't handle herself in a way that isn't like a victim,” she says.
“So that's an interesting question – do we only believe people if they behave in a certain way, or whether we like them, or perceive to like them? Or if they behave in a way that's vulnerable, rather than strong-minded?
“Those questions are incredibly interesting – I questioned them myself.”
Images: Rex Features