Exclusive Interview: Justina Adorno Talks ‘Roswell, New Mexico,’ Love for Animals, and Representation
The series Roswell, New Mexico follows biomedical researcher Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason), who is forced to move home after her project’s funding is cut off. Liz still has unanswered questions about the mysterious circumstances that surround her sister Rosa’s death and coming home sees her reconnecting with high school crush now police officer Max Evans (Nathan Parsons). After a near-tragic incident, Liz discovers that Max, his sister Isobel (Lily Cowles), and their best friend, Michael Guerin (Michael Vlamis), are alien beings with powers. But that is only the beginning.
Nerds and Beyond had the opportunity to speak to Justina Adorno about her upcoming role on the series, representation, and her love of animals. She is from the Bronx, New York and is a highly skilled actress who continues to work hard and make her mark. Along with acting, Justina writes songs and is passionate about veganism and being an Animal Activist. Before appearing on Roswell, New Mexico, she was a series regular on Grand Hotel as the character Yoli and had a recurring role on the Netflix limited series Seven Seconds as Jasmine.
Nerds and Beyond: Can you tell us a little about your character and what you hope she will bring to Roswell, New Mexico?
Justina Adorno: Well, there’s not much I can say about Steph. She is the head of surgery’s daughter in New Mexico, and I think she’s going to bring a little more depth to Roswell, although I think Roswell surprisingly has a lot of depth for a show about aliens (laughs). You know I was really surprised with the show and the writing and where the writers took the storylines. I’m thinking Steph’s character is also going to do the same. She’s a little sassy, but I think there is a lot of depth there.
Nerds and Beyond: How was it meeting Carina [MacKenzie] and the cast on the first day?
Adorno: It was amazing! I was a little nervous coming off of Grand Hotel with a whole season being a series regular. I’ve never actually come on to a show. I was on Seven Seconds, a Netflix show, I was a possible recurring role, this one I am in a few episodes. It was strange coming off of being on set every day knowing the entire cast and then jumping into a new family. I was a little nervous. They were so sweet and ridiculously enthusiastic about me being a part of their family; it was just like overwhelmingly nice. Jeanine was so sweet to me and Michael, both Michaels. Everyone was so great.
Nerds and Beyond: Were you a fan of the other Roswell series?
Adorno: The original I watched it with my mom when I was very young, so it’s kind of full circle that I’m now a part of this new reboot, and I did love it. I always knew of Roswell. Whenever I was telling people that I was being cast in Roswell for season two, they were like “Roswell?” I’m like, “You don’t even know the original,” (laughs) I grew up watching it. It was special for me, for sure.
Nerds and Beyond: Do you have a favorite character from either series?
Adorno: I mean, I really loved Liz from the original. Just because at the time I loved Roswell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all the shows that were female led — they were just badass. She was my favorite character from the original. And I do love Liz and Max in this new reboot. But I’m not gonna lie. My new favorite is Michael’s (Vlamis) character. I love him. I think he is very charming. I connected to his character because I played a similar character (Yoli) on Grand Hotel, and I think he does an amazing job.
Nerds and Beyond: How do you mentally prepare to play these strong female characters?
Adorno: Honestly, I get excited that I get to play strong female characters on camera because I believe I am a strong female. So, it makes me excited that we continue to write characters that portray that instead of the weak, dainty, save me kinda girls on screen. So I love it, I don’t think I’ve been mentally preparing, I kinda have to tone it down sometimes. They are like, “Whoa, relax not as harsh,” oh that was mean? (laughs) That came out strong? I thought I was playing it down. Sometimes it’s the opposite (laughs) and have to mentally prepare yourself not to be as strong.
Nerds and Beyond: On series like Grand Hotel where you played Yoli and with Roswell, New Mexico where representation is at the forefront both in front and behind the camera, can you share why you think it’s important to have that representation voiced and to see these stories being told.
Adorno: I mean, it’s just an overall necessary thing. I think it’s so important that the viewers get to see different people and hear different stories from those people that they probably wouldn’t have expected. It just helps us all grow and learn from each other and keeps us in check to be open-minded. As future artists, it’s inspiring to see yourself on camera. Behind the scenes, I think it’s so important because it just makes for a more fruitful show and fruitful project. You know that you can have all these different perspectives. For me growing up with a multicultural family, it just makes me feel more at home. To see lots of women, people of color, people of different sexual orientations, and disabilities, it just makes it feel more at home. I think for others that it may not, it helps them learn more and be more comfortable and grow as a person and as an individual growing and knowing that everyone is the same. We all have love triangles (laughs) we are all just trying to be a good person, and we all make mistakes. It doesn’t matter what you look like, or who you like, or where you come from. You could even be an alien (laughs.)
Nerds and Beyond: I also have to ask because I love his name; can you tell us about your fur family Catsby and Penni?
Adorno: Catsby is my first cat. I rescued him from the street of the neighborhood I was living in. Well, he was actually a bodega cat, but sometimes they go through inspections, and they kick the cats out. It pisses me off. So, I remember seeing him, and we just looked at each other, and it was like yup. It’s you. He’s just the cutest little attitude ball. I learn so much patience from that cat you have no idea. And Penni, she was found during a rainstorm here in New York, on one of the streets in my neighborhood too. I picked her up. She was on the verge of death. Her back legs weren’t working, and her tail just didn’t function, and I nursed her back to health. I just felt there was no way I was gonna give her away and trust that someone else was gonna help her. This is my cat. I guess I’m the cat lady now, and I have two cats. I have to help her. But ya, I mean, my cats are the best. I think it’s so important to have that animal-human connection. I just love animals in general, and I see them all as equal, I really do. I’m also vegan, and something that is so current in my life and seeing how speciesism is such a thing. My boyfriend always brings it up because I want to help charities with animals, and they’re like ok there’s these dog events or dog fundraisers. Don’t get me wrong I friggin love dogs. I have ADD with dogs if I see a dog our conversations over. I have to say hi to them. But there are so many animals that need help, and their voice needs to be herd. That’s something really important to me. To show equality in every way with animals to.
Nerds and Beyond: I would always say that if I could afford it, I would have an animal sanctuary somewhere (laughs.)
Adorno: Oh my god, that’s my dream! I’m actually going to one on Sunday. They are having a vegan festival at an animal sanctuary, I believe in Jersey. But I think it’s important to bring awareness to everyone that these cows snuggle and cuddle and they feel. They don’t want to die for your lunch. It’s so important to me. With every day and with every video I see and information I’m told, I find it important to spread the word. Just because I’m that person that was struggling and was like oh my god, I don’t think I can give up my burgers. But it’s not my burgers. It’s another life. It’s a living being’s life. Sometimes it’s important for us to see how we are thinking selfishly and momentarily instead of long-term and of another life that’s involved in the situation. I think we can afford not to eat burgers and milkshakes. There are other substitutions that we can get onto and still feel satisfied without causing suffering and torture of another living being.
Nerds and Beyond: Here at Nerds and Beyond, we like to embrace our Nerdy side, what is something that brings out your nerdy side?
Adorno: I guess I answered that. Animals bring out my nerdy side, like “oh my god, this little pig, did you see this little pig and his little toes?” I’m walking down the street, I’m talking with someone, and I see a dog, I’m there talking to the dog. I’m thinking I’m on the same level with my friends, and I’ll look over, and they are over it. I’m like sorry but not sorry. I seek out other animals. I will watch videos on Instagram of little monkeys just being super cute, and I forget that not a lot of people are like that.
Nerds and Beyond: Thank you, Justina, for taking the time to speak with us, and we all can’t wait to see your character Steph on Roswell, New Mexico.
Adorno: Oh, me too! Thanks. I really appreciate it.
Roswell, New Mexico returns for season two in January 2020.