When a TV writing team has a reputation for complex plotlines and complicated storytelling structures, one critical job when producing a new series is to avoid making it fully understandable.
Certainly, Jack and Harry Williams, the highly acclaimed brothers behind ITV’s Liar, had the issue of complexity in mind when writing the second series of the murder drama.
The constant lying by many of the characters is what can cause the problem, Jack told an invited audience during an RTS Q&A session following an exclusive screening of the first episode of the second series. “Our story is about people hiding secrets from themselves, their spouses, their family and I think that worked well in the first series,” he said. “We definitely tried to do it again in the second series because, with people lying, you also have the expectation of them being found out and, of course, then other things happen.”
The first series of Liar centred on an allegation that Dr Andrew Earlham (played by Ioan Gruffudd) raped teacher Laura Nielson (Joanne Froggatt), but it was unclear who was telling the whole truth. Then that series ended with a shot of Earlham’s dead body in a marsh and the new series picks up exactly from that point.
“Of course, the story has to be clear to the viewer because we haven’t done our jobs properly if they don’t follow it,” said Harry.
That confidence is well-founded because the Williams brothers have already jumped a similar hurdle with another one of their shows, The Missing, which also developed dual timelines and multiple plots, a structure that creates puzzles which the brothers enjoy solving.
“We had to tell the Liar story this way,” said Jack, “because it’s important that you see what’s happening to Laura in the present day and also how it happened. Every time we go back in time and see what Andrew did, it’s a whole other level of intrigue.”
Yet, a second series - which took nine months to write - was not an automatic option. “We explored a lot of endings for series one. But if we’d ended it with Andrew just going to prison, it would’ve been shit, so killing Andrew was the best way to end,” said Harry. “In the writing process, it takes ages to look at every version of an ending, but finally, you have to be led by the story and, for Liar, we needed more time to tell everything.”
The Liar, Series Two RTS screening and question and answer session took place at the Curzon Cinema in The Brunswick Centre in London on 27 February. The panellists were interviewed by journalist Emma Cox and a full report will be published in the March edition of Television magazine.
All photography by Paul Hampartsoumian