The Texas heat was brutal throughout the season eight Austin Television Festival, but TV professionals and fans didn’t let the heat stop them from attending the Roswell, New Mexico panel Sunday, June 9. Television veteran and Roswell executive producer Julie Plec moderated the panel, which consisted of creator/executive producer Carina Adly McKenzie and actors Michael Vlamis (Michael Guerin), Lily Cowles (Isobel Evans-Bracken), Heather Hemmens (Maria DeLuca), Karan Oberoi (Noah Braken), and Trevor St. John (Jesse Manes).
The panel kicked off with Julie asking each panelist to say a kind thing about the person to their left, a unique touch that Plec explained was meant to make everyone feel safe and welcome. It gave the conversation that “sit around the campfire and chat about life” feeling, and the audience was invited into the folds of the Roswell family.
McKenzie tackled the big “why this story and why now” question immediately, explaining that she wasn’t fully sold on the reboot when Warner Brothers first presented it to her. After considering it, she “decided to pitch the version of Roswell that [she] wanted to do.” Aware that the books had already inspired a previous television show, McKenzie chose to take the core character traits from the book characters, their original ethnicity, and bring them into her version of Roswell.
Moreover, McKenzie related to the aliens story on a personal level. She was raised Muslim but feels her own white privilege excludes her from experiencing the negative stigma around that culture. While she might “get a pass” in day-to-day life, the narrative of seeing herself and those she loves painted as the bad guy resonated deeply with her.
“I wanted to tell the story of these aliens coming to terms with who they are versus who people think they are,” said McKenzie.
The panel touched on the collaboration between the actors and writing staff of Roswell as just one element that makes this show so unique and special. The actors are given visibility into the writing room and invited to every meeting. McKenzie and Jeanine Mason, who plays Liz Ortecho, had lengthy conversations about Liz’s character and storyline throughout all of season one. Oberoi even caught a character error for Noah, but thanks to the open dialogue between the writers and actors, he was able to address the issue, and it was quickly resolved.
Hemmens highlighted that it presents an opportunity for the actors to contribute to their characters in a meaningful way, and better understand their dialogue and actions.
Roswell’s willingness to tackle difficult topics in season one is another aspect that makes this show so important, and McKenzie ensured the audience that those same topics would continue to be explored in season two. The show will also address a few new topics including women’s health, transgender persons in the military, and white privilege. To make sure the storytelling is as truthful as possible, McKenzie has hired a diverse writing staff for season two and will also work closely with advocacy groups that specifically exist to help writers tell these stories.
Addressing Jesse Manes and Alex Manes’ relationship, St. John explained how playing Jesse highlighted the question of attachment versus love for him. “I explored that aspect. It wasn’t an act of love, but this character is so attached [to his son]. I went wherever it took me. I let it take me to a dark place without getting out of control,” he said of the scene in which his character maims Michael Guerin after finding him and Alex together. He also drew on his own feelings around parenting and a parent’s desire to have their children’s actions reflect well on them.
Leaning into the issue of consent, Oberoi and Cowles discussed the mindscape confrontation between Isobel and Noah, who used his abilities to control Isobel without her knowledge since she was a teen. The final version of the mindscape scene was “the tame version” according to the duo, and that betrayal will follow Isobel into next season. Cowles commented that she is looking forward to exploring Isobel’s future. “It’s a huge place this character has to grow from. It’s not something she is going to move on from easily.” She is ready to see Isobel explore what she is outside of her “performance” as the perfect wife with the perfect lawyer husband. McKenzie added that Noah’s betrayal will follow Isobel throughout the show and isn’t something the character is going to “just get over” after one season.
LGBTQ+ representation has been a goal of Roswell from the outset, and we saw that in season one through the relationship between Alex Manes and Michael Guerin. Their on-again-off-again relationship is a stark contrast to that of Michael and Maria DeLuca. While the story of Alex, Michael, and Maria is a tumultuous one, Hemmens was happy with the finale scene between Maria and Michael:
It was a long journey over the season of will-they-won’t-they. There are all these obstacles. She had to talk to her friend Alex about it and check in, and it wasn’t a go, so she backed up. There are a lot of things that brought them to that moment and it was really fun. We don’t know how long it’s going to go on or if it’s going to last, but getting to do that one scene where they finally connect was really beautiful.
That final scene left many wondering what will happen between Alex and Michael. Plec, who directed the finale kiss between Maria and Michael (and the first kiss between Michael and Alex), was invested in the relationship arc for these characters. She confessed she had a fangirl reaction of “No!” when she saw Alex sitting alone at Michael’s trailer in the final episode.
Vlamis also felt that this may be a turning point for Michael. “I had a lot to say about relationships and lost love when I booked this show, and to have two people to share that with was amazing. One is rooted in pain and the other in hope, and I got to play both sides of the spectrum. Not a lot of people get to do that, and the fact that they trusted me with that was a blessing.”
McKenzie assured the fans that those final moments were in no way an ending, but just one chapter in the overall story of these Roswell characters. She hopes to bring a little joy back to Michael Guerin’s life (something we’d all love to see, Vlamis included), and wants to explore how Maria might give him that. Alex won’t be left out in the cold though. McKenzie hinted that if Michael has a love interest, there is a good chance we’ll see Alex with one, too.
She also divulged that there is a reason Alex showed up bright and early at Michael’s trailer, and it might not be for the reason fans think.
So what can fans expect for season two? Some intriguing relationship drama for Michael, Maria, and Alex; an Isobel who must struggle to reshape herself without her husband and her twin; and even more alien backstory giving some insight (hopefully) into where they are from. Season two will further explore the immigrant/refugee experience through the 1947 crash survivors. McKenzie shared that casting the role of Michael’s mother in the short flashback moment was done with care, knowing that season two will follow what happened to her, and other mothers who were torn away from their children.
Interested in listening to the full panel? Austin Television Festival will be releasing panel discussions on their podcast, The TV Campfire, throughout the summer. Keep an eye out for the Roswell, New Mexico discussion while waiting for season two.