Liar was the ITV show everyone was talking about in 2017. The first episode saw schoolteacher Laura (Joanne Froggatt) go out for dinner with charming surgeon Andrew (Ioan Grufford), before inviting him into her house so that he could call a taxi.
The show then cut to the next morning, as Laura awoke in a panicked state. Joined by her sister Katy (Zoe Tapper), she went to the police and informed them that she had been raped. Andrew, however, strongly denied the allegations, insisting their sex had been consensual – and, throughout the series, viewers and police officers alike are kept guessing as to which one was telling the truth.
It later transpired that Andrew was the show’s eponymous liar, not Laura. In fact, evidence showed that he was a serial rapist. However, the finale ended on a cliffhanger, with the surgeon’s corpse sprawled in shallow water before justice could be meted.
Now, at long last, all of our questions will be answered when Liar returns to our TV screens this March. Will Laura be found guilty of Andrew’s murder? And, if not, who did bump off the surgeon? Well, it’s up to Katherine Kelly’s DI Karen Renton to lead the investigation and find out.
And so, ahead of Liar’s second season premiere, I met with Frogatt and Kelly to find out more about what we can expect from the new episodes. Here’s what they had to say.
Did you know when you filmed that cliffhanger finale for season one that there would be a second outing for ITV’s Liar?
JF: No, we didn’t. There was always a hope that we might, and I think that Jack and Harry Williams wrote it in such a way that there was a conclusion, a satisfactory conclusion, with room for an offshoot story. But, if season one had not been as popular as it was, they could’ve ended it there. I’m really pleased we’ve been able to tell a story over 12 episodes in total.”
Katherine, you’re obviously a newcomer to the series, but were you among the show’s fans when it first aired?
KK: I hadn’t seen it as I’d just had a second baby. I still haven’t seen a lot of television since then. But I was very aware of it, which just shows how popular it was because I was definitely in the thick of things by then and days were nights and nights were days. Obviously I watched Liar when I got the role, though. It’s the equivalent of a page turner, isn’t it? You just watch all six so quickly. It was a real compliment to be asked to join the cast.
What can you tell us about the relationship between your characters?
KK: They don’t really have a relationship, Karen has one task, which is to find who killed Andrew. I believe she’s been chosen because this murder would have been headline news in every media outlet, and they need work really quickly to find out who did it. She’s the best for the job because she works quickly and effectively and without emotion. Laura’s got her own thing going on, and she’s too much in the thick of it to have anything personal against Karen. You only really find out anything about how they truly feel about each other in the very last scene, when a conclusion is reached.
JF: I completely agree. I think Katherine’s character is definitely sort of Laura’s antagonist in the present day, as Andrew was in season one, but also she’s everyone’s antagonist because that’s the point of DI Renton being there. She’s got to solve this case, and that’s what adds the great drama to it, I guess.
Why do you think people are so interested in crime dramas at the moment?
KK: I think we always have been, haven’t we? Look at Sherlock Holmes. We’ve always been fascinated by the worst side of human beings and what we’re really capable of.
JF: I guess it’s that feeling of never quite being able to put your finger on what it is that makes somebody do something that is terrible.
As people endlessly pore over tiny moments and theories on Reddit and social media nowadays, are there any Easter eggs you hope they’ll pick up on this time around?
KK: It’s hard to say, because you don’t know what’s actually going to make the screen. Remember, we film a lot more than actually makes the final edit and that’s actually where the final story is told, especially within a plot. So, for instance if there was a tell on Jo’s face or my face about something, the director might decide to take that out because he doesn’t want the audience to guess something at that stage, or maybe he’ll leave it in because actually it’s red herring.
JF: For some of the big scenes, we’d film the same dialogue with different reactions. James Strong, our director, would say, OK, now give me one that’s really angry, or frightened, or whatever. So I didn’t know which one he was going to use in the final edit, and that’s really exciting.
Nowadays, it’s rare to have a show you can’t binge-watch in one go. Do you think that contributes to Liar’s popularity?
KK: Definitely. It’s like a forbidden fruit now. You can’t binge it, therefore you want it more.
JF: It really gives the audience a week to digest an episode, and discuss it and talk about it at work. There’s something really special about that actually, because it doesn’t always happen now. Don’t get me wrong, I love to binge watch things as well, but it’s also really nice to be made to wait.
How far in advance do you know what’s going to happen? Particularly with regards to your character, Joanne, as she’s considered by many to be an unreliable narrator?
JF: For the first season, it was from the very beginning. I personally wouldn’t have taken the role if she was lying at that time in the world we live in. I wouldn’t have felt comfortable putting that story out there, so that was the first question I asked. Obviously you know it’s drama, and you know it’s fictional, but I felt a strong sense that I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing that story if she was lying.
KK: I think people are on a need-to-know basis. So if you need to know, and your character needs to know so you can play the role properly, then they will tell you. Otherwise they keep it as quiet as they can, as they don’t want it to be spoiled for the audience.
Obviously the #MeToo movement began in earnest as the first season of Liar aired in 2017. Has this impacted the events of season two?
JF: It’s definitely a positive that we’re speaking much more openly about these issues now, because when I was doing press for the first season, I had a lot of people asking me if I felt uncomfortable working on a thriller based around this subject matter. But that’s the whole point [of Liar]: it still feels taboo in some way to be talking about sexual assault.
We accept stories about paedophiles, or murderers, or kidnappings in thrillers, so why can’t we have a story about this? Why do we still see this as taboo? I think that, because of everything that’s happened across the world in the last two years, it’s become less of a taboo subject which can only be a positive thing.”
The first season obviously looks at the factors which impact how likely we are to believe someone, particularly if they’re a woman. Will this theme continue to run through Liar’s new episodes?
JF: I think it’s hugely important, and I’ve been involved in a few projects where similar themes have come into play. I played Joanne Lees in Murder in the Outback, which is based on a true story. Joanne and her boyfriend were backpacking around Australia when he was kidnapped and possibly shot, but his body was never found. Because she didn’t behave how society believed she should – she was quite reserved – the press really turned against her.
I filmed that 13 years ago, and I don’t think things have changed an awful lot really. It’s very ignorant of us as a society to say a person should behave in a certain way in a certain situation, and that, if they don’t, they are vilified by society and the press. It’s something we need to be very vigilant about.
KK: And Laura doesn’t really act like your typical victim, does she? She’s very proactive, which – while we never show the view of the press or public in general – you can imagine is not seen as stereotypical victim behaviour. It makes her a suspect.
JF: That’s what Jack and Harry have written so well. Laura’s a character that doesn’t behave how we perceive a victim to behave. Yes, we are all human beings, we all judge people – we can’t help it, our brains are built to do that – but I think society and the press need to be very careful about how we label people. Particularly before we know the full facts of a situation.
Liar returns Monday 2 March at 9pm on ITV.
Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.