‘Liar’ and ‘Harrow’ star Ioan Gruffudd on venturing to the dark side

Ioan Gruffudd in ‘Liar’.

Ioan Gruffudd followed his riveting performance as a surgeon accused of date rape in the British TV series Liar by playing a forensic psychologist who harbours a dark secret in ABC/Disney’s Harrow.

It’s no coincidence that the Welsh actor is being cast as damaged characters after playing heroic types in Horatio Hornblower, Black Hawk Down and Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer.

“I’d been dying to play these three dimensional parts, flawed characters for a long time but I’d never really looked old enough or had the gravitas in my experiences before,” he tells IF on the line from Brisbane.

“I’m meeting these characters in the right time of my life. I’m in my 40s and I am starting to look right for these parts.”

Screened on the Seven Network, Liar revolved around his character being accused of date rape by a newly-separated teacher played by Downton Abbey’s Joanne Froggatt.

The trick in the psychological drama written by brothers Jack and Harry Williams (who also created The Missing) is that viewers were kept guessing about whether the accuser or accused is telling the truth.

“The critical acclaim in the UK and here for Liar has been beyond my wildest dreams,” he said.

“We knew we were doing something special and of high quality but you just never know until you go out there into the universe how people are going to respond.

”I think the purpose of casting me was to put people off the scent, especially in those early episodes; to give a false sense of security that this guy could not possibly have done this.

“What I am personally pleased about is that I kept the veneer going throughout the other episodes as much I could to prove that this type of character has one flaw but the rest of their life is perfect as a good father with a fantastic job and is very gregarious and charming.”

The actor, who already was friends with Froggatt, marvels at her performance as the only truly innocent character in the series.

Gruffudd leapt at the chance to play the title character in Hoodlum Entertainment’s Harrow, drawn to the scripts by Stephen M. Irwin and producer Leigh McGrath.

He describes Dr Daniel Harrow as eccentric, borderline arrogant, funny, slightly curmudgeonly and selfish and hiding a dark secret.

The actor was impressed with Hoodlum’s Irwin-scripted Australian series Secrets  & Lies and rates him as an exceptional writer. He was also happy to return to Queensland, where he worked in the films San Andreas and Sanctum.

Commissioned by the ABC and Disney’s ABC Studios International, the latter’s first original drama production, the series co-stars Remy Hii, Mirrah Foulkes, Ella Newton as Harrow’s daughter, Darren Gilshenan and Anna Lise Phillips as his ex-wife.

“I am working with the crème de la crème of Australian actors. They are stars in their own right and could lead a show in their own right,” he says.

The directors are Kate Dennis, who was recently nominated for an Emmy for The Handmaid’s Tale), Tony Krawitz (The Kettering Incident), Tony Tilse (Wolf Creek, Underbelly), Daniel Nettheim (Doctor Who, Broadchurch), Catriona McKenzie (The Warriors) and Peter Salmon (Doctor Doctor, Rake).

“Kate blessed the ship and all who sailed in her,” he says. “She set up the look, the costumes, the production design and the tone. It has elements of House, Rake and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. It’s funny when it’s supposed to be funny with gallows humour and the next scene could be quite sad and tragic. “

Gruffudd has much enjoyed working on the series produced by Hoodlum’s Tracey Robertson, Nathan Mayfield and McGrath, and is keen to come back if it’s renewed.