Phillippe draws on experiences in media spotlight for new TV role

ABC’s “Secrets and Lies” stars Juliette Lewis as Detective Cornell and Ryan Phillippe as Ben Crawford.
ABC’s “Secrets and Lies” stars Juliette Lewis as Detective Cornell and Ryan Phillippe as Ben Crawford. ABC

There’s one aspect of Ryan Phillippe’s character in the new ABC series “Secrets and Lies” that he completely understands.

Ever since the Delaware native broke into show business with a role on the daytime drama “One Life to Live” in the early 1990s, he’s been fodder for the media.

The attention has ranged from the positive – reporting of his winning awards – to the negative – coverage of his divorce from Reese Witherspoon.

All that scrutiny gives him a good idea of how people’s views can change in a snap.

That’s what happens to his character, a family man who comes across the body of a murdered boy during his morning run. The Good Samaritan quickly becomes the primary murder suspect.

“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,” Phillippe says.

“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 – dictates their reaction and relationship to him. 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.”

“Secrets and Lies” is based on an Australian program. The series also stars Juliette Lewis, Natalie Martinez, Dan Fogler and Indiana Evans. The first season will run 10 episodes.

“Every day I was playing a guy whose life was falling apart, who was being accused, who was being slandered,” Phillippe says.

Executive producer Timothy Busfield says Phillippe’s performance is so critical because he’s the Everyman who, by some twist of fate, could find himself in a situation not of his own making.