Interview With Ron Livingston
What was it like to play the man who finally brought Gillian to justice?
The most interesting thing about playing this role was that it's one thing to get to someone to confess, but I feel like there's more at stake for Roy for a couple of different reasons. For one, his day job is to get confessions, but he's good at what he does because he really believes in the power of redemption through confession. I came at it with three questions. The first was: What if the person deceiving you was always telling you the truth? Another was: What if the person pretending to be in love with you is actually falling in love with you while he's doing it? And the third was...I think that Gillian and Jimmy's storyline is like something out of a Greek drama. The incest, the murder of the father—and for the Pinkerton detectives to show up and carry her off the way they do—they're kind of like the Furies from Greek mythology, hunting someone down for their crimes against nature. What if the Furies, when they come for you, instead of tearing you apart, show up and tell you that they understand, that they love you, that everything's going to be okay, and then they tear you apart? Would that make it any better? Or would the world still be the same cruel place?
Gillian really gets a gift over of the course of it—she comes clean in a way that wouldn't have happened if they just showed up and arrested her or beat the confession out of her.
So Roy's feelings aren't just an act?
I think he falls for her fairly early on. He's a complicated guy. His is an odd job to have—where you disappear into somebody else's life for a month at a time.
Going with her to court, helping her detox from heroin—that seems above and beyond the call of duty.
To be honest, from the moment he sees her, he's fallen. It's one of those things where you get set up to do something and then you show up and go, "Oh this is the girl. Wow! Well this is going to be fun." As the season progresses, he keeps getting in deeper until he's a little over his head. By the end, when we did the restaurant scene, his heart's really not in it. I had the feeling that Roy was half hoping she'd sniff it out. There's a sense that he's phoning it in because he really doesn't want it to work.
How can he fall in love with Gillian despite knowing she's done terrible things?
Roy doesn't believe it's his job to judge; that's for other people to do. He feels—and I agree with him—that if we're all to be judged, we're all going to be found wanting. His job is to get people to speak the truth about themselves and after that, it's someone else's job to handle the punishment. He's just there to take Gillian to the light.
There are a few moments where Roy seems to be saying honest things to her—that he didn't lie about having a wife, or that he thinks she's courageous and brave.
[Executive Producer] Terry [Winter] and I talked from the beginning about that. People who are deceptive themselves have a really good ear for deception. They know when somebody's telling the truth or not and so one of the ways around that is to always be telling the truth—or some version of it. It was an interesting challenge. He claims to be working for some out-of-town company that's doing a takeover, which is kind of what he's doing with Pinkerton. He does have to tell Gillian a couple things that aren't true, like the name of the company he works for, but other than that he was always expressing some version of the truth. "I'm always true to you darlin'—in my fashion."
Speaking of half-truths, who was on the other end of that mysterious phone call?
Good question. You'll have to ask Terry. I have my ideas about who it might be, but I'll leave that to the writers.
Were you ever given any kind of backstory on Roy?
I appreciated that they left it mostly up to me. And I think his history is best left cloudy—he really is a curious guy. I do wonder how long this he's been doing this. Where does he go next? Does he have a family? If so, how's this job work for him? But then, it's the same thing with acting.
Do you find parallels between your life and Roy Phillips'?
A little bit. I get paid to roll around with Gretchen, just like Roy does, so it's not entirely different. [Laughs.]
How does Roy feel in those final moments of Gillian's confession, right before he makes his big reveal?
It's a tough moment. Basically, you have to tell the woman you love that not only are you breaking up with her, but you're sending her to prison.
Talk about a rejection!
Yeah, it's a rough one. [Laughs.]
If Gillian hadn't cracked, do you think they might have run off together after all?
The sense I got was that she really needed to crack. She was dying without it. There's this moment where she's really on death's door in episode 405. He finds her passed out from an overdose and, really, he could have just let her go and saved everybody's money. But Roy believes in the power of redemption and there's some healing in being able to face who you are. He watches Gillian be reborn. She's a different person. You wonder if she might have had another life. But the fate he leads her to is ultimately better for her than the fate he found her in. It goes back to the Furies. When they come and settle up your sins, are they our enemies or are they our friends? I don't know the answer to that. When they get here for me I'll tell you. [Laughs.]
So there's no chance that love could have conquered all?
Well, they have a conversation about that a couple episodes earlier where he talks about his ambition cheating him out of love and family, and I don't think he's lying. But I think what happens is inescapable—there's no other way it could have ended.