'Secrets and Lies'

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Howell resident Timothy Busfield portrays lawyer in TV show

By Kurt Anthony Krug
Legal News

As the May 3 season finale of the ABC mystery “Secrets and Lies” approached at a frenetic pace, director/executive producer Timothy Busfield promised that there would be a few more twists and turns before it was all over. 

Busfield, who’s best known for his roles on “The West Wing” and “thirtysomething,” directed the finale and also had a recurring role as attorney John Garner.

“I’ve worked for ABC a lot. I spent a lot of my career at ABC. If ABC wants me to executive produce a prime-time show… I’m there,” said Busfield, a Lansing native who lives in Howell with his wife Melissa Gilbert. “I really had a great time on the finale. (Executive producer/ showrunner) Barbie Kligman and I worked really well together shooting the finale and the pilot reshoots. We are happy with the way it turned out. Being a part of the show from May until now has been great.”

Best known for her iconic role as Laura Ingalls Wilder on “Little House on the Prairie,” Gilbert has a recurring role as Lisa Daly, one of the neighbors of Ben Crawford (Ryan Phillippe).

“What I love about Ryan is how he comes to play,” said Busfield. “He’s the first actor on the set, always knows his lines, and gives 100 percent always – a dream to work with.”

Based on the Australian TV series of the same name, “Secrets and Lies” chronicles how a bucolic neighborhood in Charlotte, N.C. is shattered when Tom, son of neighbor Jess Murphy (Natalie Martinez), is found murdered in the woods. Ben, a family man with a wife and two daughters, discovers Tom’s body when jogging.
Det. Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) thinks Ben murdered Tom and dogs his every move. He’s already been found guilty by a jury of his neighbors, who harass him mercilessly. One neighbor Kevin Haynes (Gregory Alan Williams) even  kidnaps Ben and tortures him into confessing.

What doesn’t help Ben’s case is it’s revealed that Tom’s his son. Further, Ben was blackout drunk the night of Tom’s murder because he went bar-hopping with his best friend Dave (Dan Fogler) after he and his wife Christy (KaDee Strictland) had a fight. Christy learned about his affair with Jess five years ago. Ben’s affair with Jess was a one-time drunken fling at an Independence Day barbecue, which he had upon learning Christy had terminated a pregnancy; their third child would’ve been a boy.

Marriage already at the breaking point and ostracized by the community, Ben takes it upon himself to solve Tom’s murder. Along the way, he inadvertently brings to light secrets of his neighbors they would rather be left in the dark.

“You’re going to get to know the complexities of what would happen to you if you were living in a normal neighborhood and this neighborhood was turned upside down by a murder,” explained Busfield.

In the April 19 episode, Ben learns while he was out drinking the night of the murder, Dave decided to slip some prescription drugs into his alcohol while he wasn’t looking in an effort to calm him down. However, the effect was quite the opposite. By the end of the episode, Ben regains his memories of that fatal night and can confidently say that he didn’t kill Tom. Additionally, he suspects Christy might be the murderer.

A mysterious benefactor hires Garner to represent Ben. Garner informs Ben that he doesn’t have to like him; he just needs to keep him out of jail.

“I’ve played a lot of lawyers, but Garner is the most straightforward and I love that about him,” said Busfield.

Initially, Busfield didn’t want to play Garner; he just wanted to produce and direct. In fact, he offered the role to Ken Olin, his former “thirtysomething” co-star, who declined. In the end, Busfield decided to do it.

“I felt that a particular scene needed some oomph to it. Somehow, it got tossed out that I would do it. It’s a big scene to play in one moment,” he said.

Busfield also directed 10 webisodes called “Cornell Confidential,” which can be found on ABC.com. These webisodes, which are 2-3 minutes long, feature Cornell speaking to various characters. It also reveals more about her.

It is unclear if “Secrets and Lies” will return for a second season. It’s a bubble show and it can go either way. ABC will not be announcing its fall schedule until mid-May. If it does return, the second season will have a different crime and a new cast with the exception of Cornell, according to Busfield. Whether he’ll reprise his role as Garner, he’s unsure.

“I probably won’t be in the new cast, but you never know,” said Busfield. “That will be up to (Kligman).”

Regardless, Busfield enjoyed working on the show, which has other Michigan ties besides him and Gilbert. Martinez lived in Michigan when filming “1-8-7” in 2010. Pontiac native Laura Innes, alias Dr. Kerry Weaver from “ER,” directed the April 19 episode.

“Laura has been a buddy for a long time. She directed me on ‘The West Wing’ and ‘Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip.’ And she’s a Michigan girl,” said Busfield. “Natalie loved shooting ‘1-8-7’ here and she’s really fun and a wonderful actor. Working with my wife is always a blessing and really fun.”
 

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