Ryan Phillippe Interview: ‘Secrets and Lies’

Ryan Phillippe Interview on Secrets and Lies
Ryan Phillippe and Juliette Lewis star in ‘Secrets and Lies’ (Photo by Bob D’Amico © 2014 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.)

ABC’s new suspense thriller Secrets and Lies premieres its 10 episode season one on March 1, 2015 at 9pm ET/PT with a special two hour episode starring Ryan Phillippe, Juliette Lewis, KaDee Strickland, Dan Fogler, Natalie Martinez, Indiana Evans, and Belle Shouse. In support of the show’s upcoming premiere, I had the chance to sit down with Ryan Phillippe at the Television Critics Association’s winter press event to find out what the audience can look forward to with Secrets and Lies.

The Plot: “Ben Crawford (Phillippe) is about to go from Good Samaritan to murder suspect after he discovers the body of his neighbor’s young son, Tom Murphy, in the woods. Even as Detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) digs for the truth in her investigation and pegs Ben as a “person of interest,” the case unfolds from Ben’s perspective — whether he is guilty or not. In trying to clear his name, it is Ben who peels back the layers of these suburbanites’ lives in their quiet cul de sac, revealing their dirty little deceptions and all-too-crowded closets overflowing with skeletons. No one is above suspicion. Ben’s family’s life, already privately in disarray, is turned upside down as he sets out on a complicated journey to prove his innocence.”

Ryan Phillippe Secrets and Lies Interview:

How hard was this particular project on you because you’re in nearly every scene?

Ryan Phillippe: “So grueling, man. I mean, it’s not something that I want to complain about because you’re an actor making a television show, but it was 15 hours a day five days a week. I was in every scene. I had no days, no scenes off. That’s physically really, really brutal. You will see me break down physically over the course of this series. From episode one to episode 10, my weight loss…it’s all very clear. I age over the course of this because of how difficult the process was physically.”

How did you handle getting so emotionally involved in the character when you knew the ultimate ending of the story?

Ryan Phillippe: “Regardless of whether or not I knew the ending, I was playing a guy who 90% of him believed he’s completely innocent. So that 10% of doubt that the audience will hopefully be wrapped up in, Ben is trying to determine. I played him as an innocent guy, regardless of how the series ends. That’s what my character believes.”

In the series Ben’s neighbors turn on him so quickly, yet he seems like a decent guy. What do you think it was about Ben that made them suspect the worst in him immediately?

Ryan Phillippe: “Well, you know, a big part of that is the snap judgments that we make and especially in relation to the way things are framed often in the media. Like the first line written about someone in reference to any sort of case is the one that usually stays with people the longest. So I think it’s a notion of the way he’s painted to look by law enforcement and by the media from the outset of the series dictates their reaction and relationship to him. I think it sort of speaks to those ideas of how judgmental a society we’ve become, and how when something is salacious, it’s kind of presented in a certain way that becomes the truth of the thing whether it is or not.”

You’ve dealt with the media so much, what advice would you give to someone in Ben’s situation? Just don’t say anything?

Ryan Phillippe: “I guess so. It’s strange because you’ll see people in these big stories and they’ll continue to go out and be public. I think I would do the exact opposite. I think I would hole up and stay indoors as long as a I could.”

Was there a particular episode that was hardest on you?

Ryan Phillippe: “Episode six. You’ll see when it comes. It’s hardcore. It’s one of the most hardcore episodes of network television I remember seeing.”

Can you talk about what it was like behind the scenes? Director Timothy Busfield said the cast was cracking up behind the scenes.

Ryan Phillippe: “They did – I didn’t. It’s not a matter of staying in character but it was so much pressure on me to deliver in each and every scene, 10 pages a day, that between scenes and between takes I was usually working for the latter part of the day. I’m not one of those who can go in and out, mood-wise. I kind of have to live and stay in the material to some extent. I’ve always admired people who can be cutting up and laughing and then go right into crying, but that’s not who I am. So, there wasn’t a lot of joking around a lot for me.”

Did you find that when you’re at home it’s difficult to get out of the character when shooting this? Were you still moody at home?

Ryan Phillippe: “A little bit. Yeah, there is some hangover in some ways. But the fact that we were on location made it so that I could shield my family and friends from that. I wasn’t coming home to my house with my kids every night; I was on location which was brutal in its own way, but it also spared them from whatever kind of mood I was in.”

On a lighter note, you’re shirtless a lot in the series. Are you working out? Is that something you had in your contract?

Ryan Phillippe: [Laughing] “No, and in fact I would have it the opposite.”