In the next episode of The CW series Roswell, New Mexico, entitled “I Saw the Sign” and directed by Paul Wesley (The Vampire Diaries), a devastated Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) decides to take matters into her own hands to protect herself from a mysterious and very dangerous threat. At the same time, spending the day with Maria (Heather Hemmens) and her mother Mimi (Sherri Saum) leads to some painful revelations about what her best friend has been going through, as well as what may have contributed to Rosa’s death.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, actress Heather Hemmens talked about the relationship between Maria and her mother, working with guest star Sherri Saum, how hard it is when you don’t have a diagnosis for a loved one, how staying in Roswell has shaped Maria, her favorite Liz-Maria moment in this episode, how Maria would feel if she knew that aliens really existed, the Michael-Maria dynamic, and that she believes fans of the series will be very satisfied with the season finale.
Collider: With this episode, we get to learn more about Maria’s history and what’s been going on with her.
HEATHER HEMMENS: Yes. I’m really excited about this episode. I think that people are finally going to see the heart of Maria.
How much of what we learn about her was stuff that you had already been told, and how much did you learn once you got the script?
HEMMENS: Some of it had been discussed. I knew that we were gonna meet Maria’s mother, but it wasn’t until I got the script that I realized the depth that this character was going to add to Maria. Maria’s mom is played by Sherri Saum, who is an amazing, graceful actress, and she played this angelic, haunted character that really gives Maria this backstory that, until now, hasn’t been exposed. I think that it’s really gonna take viewers on this journey with Maria, and help them realize where she’s coming from, emotionally.
When you have a dynamic like that, that is so intense and emotional between the characters, what was it like to have Sherri Saum to play that with?
HEMMENS: I connected with Sherri instantly. She’s just a very soft spoken, sweet woman, in person and as the character. I had no trouble just portraying images of my mother onto her character. And then, the way that she played it is so true to what people with a degenerative disease go through. I had a lot to play with there, from what she added to her character.
Obviously, something is wrong, but it seems like it would be so much harder to not have the answer as to what. How hard is it for Maria to not have a specific diagnosis for her mother?
HEMMENS: That’s one of the most frustrating things, when anyone is dealing with a medical issue. If you know what it is, then you can tackle it. You have a goal, you have something to work towards, and you can get a plan of action. But what’s so frustrating for Maria is that she’s almost in despair. She doesn’t know how to help, and every day is just this hamster wheel of trying to keep going with no end in sight. There’s really no end to what ails her mother, and no fix for it.
How would you say that staying in Roswell, for these last 10 years while her friends left, has shaped Maria into who she is now?
HEMMENS: Maria is someone who has immense potential, but from a young age, she was groomed into taking over the family business, instead of pursuing and finding her own passion. So, like a lot of people, she’s someone who has just resorted to wanting the simple things in life. You have a job, and your family is there, and you have responsibilities, and that is your day to day goal, while you think, “Someday, I’ll go do what I want to do,” or “Someday, I’ll try that thing that I want to try,” but it’s very common for a lot of people to just get stopped from doing that. Maria, at one point, could have left Roswell, but she’s getting to the point where it may be dawning on her that it’s too late.
I love how, in this episode, Alex calls Liz on what a crappy friend she’s been since she’s been back in Roswell, and that she hasn’t really been paying attention to what’s been going on with Maria. As a result, that means that we also get some nice moments between Liz and Maria. What is your favorite moment between them, in this episode?
HEMMENS: When they’re sitting at the picnic table and having a bite to eat, that’s such a call back to what they used to do, in their high school years, with all of us hanging out and Mimi being the surrogate mom to all of them. That’s a moment where all feels well, until they realize that it’s not. But just for a moment, they feel that comfort of Mimi’s presence.
Right now, Liz is keeping the secret that Max, Isobel and Michael share. If Maria were to learn the truth, especially with everything that she’s going through with her mother, how do you think she would feel about the reality of the existence of aliens? Do you think she would freak out, or would she be more like, “Okay, that actually explains a lot of things”?
HEMMENS: Maria has been in Roswell long enough to have encountered some strange things, especially with her psychic inheritance, but I don’t think she’s ready for that information yet. She juggles a lot of things, but she still very much exists in a human world. I think Liz has a scientific way of looking at things, so she’s able to swallow that, but I think Maria approaches everything emotionally, and that would be a lot to take in.
Another really great moment in this episode is the scene that Maria shares with Michael, when they’re drinking together in the bar. That was a relationship that people loved in the original series, but we haven’t really gotten to see them interact in this series. Even though the relationship between your characters is different, what do you enjoy about that dynamic?
HEMMENS: There’s just a real sense of understanding between those two. Their banter is something that they can’t find with anybody else, so they gravitate towards each other to have these little snarky moments that they need, based on a mutual respect. There’s a love-hate thing there, and they are just drawn to each other because they can’t get that elsewhere.
You’re finished shooting the season now, so you know where things ultimately end up. What was your reaction, when you found out how everything would come together, by the end of the season, and how do you think fans will react to the way that things are left?
HEMMENS: Our last few episodes are jaw-dropping and heart-stopping. They are so intense, and all of us felt that way, when we read the script and when we were filming it. It could not be a better culmination to the different storylines that have been going on this season. I know people are going to be really, really satisfied. We hope that the reaction is as strong as ours was.
Roswell, New Mexico airs on Tuesday nights on The CW.