From show creator Carina Adly MacKenzie, the new CW series Roswell, New Mexico tells the story of what happens when Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) returns to the town she grew up in, 10 years after the death of her beloved older sister, only to find that her teenage crush, Max Evans (Nathan Parsons), is now a police officer with secrets of his own. When Liz finds herself in a situation where Max reveals to her that he, his sister Isobel (Lily Cowles) and their friend Michael (Michael Vlamis) are actually aliens with otherworldly abilities that they’ve had to keep hidden, the ever-present threat of a government conspiracy could endanger all of their lives.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Michael Trevino (who plays Liz’s trusting high school ex-boyfriend, Dr. Kyle Valenti) talked about never having seen the original 1999 TV series, the appeal of this reimagining of the source material (which also includes a book series), having The Vampire Diaries co-creator Julie Plec direct the first and last episode of the season, shadowing directors this season so that he can try his own hand at it, in the future, what he likes about his character, the Kyle and Liz relationship, and the possibilities for Season 2.
Collider: I really enjoyed this take on the material. I’m very familiar with the original series, but this one feels very different, right from the beginning, especially with the characters being 10 years older.
MICHAEL TREVINO: Cool! It’s funny because I never saw the original series. I have family members who have, so I’m sure that they’ll have the same reaction as you. Back when I booked the pilot in March, I have family members that actually watched them all on DVD, so it will be interesting to see how they feel about it.
And you’ve not only had much of the original cast wish this new cast well, but Shiri Appleby even directed an episode.
TREVINO: She did, and she was lovely. That was honestly one of my favorite episodes, just ‘cause she’s just full of energy. It was so nice to have her on set. She’s crushing it. I was shadowing her, so I was on set for a couple days and she was very open with me about the process and how she got where she is, as far as acting and directing. She’s getting after it, so that’s very motivating.
Is directing something that you’ve wanted to do for a bit now?
TREVINO: It’s something that’s always been on my mind, as far as wanting to direct. I never took advantage of it on the last series I was on, but now I’m spending more time on set, so I made it a point, with this series. Honestly, for the last five months, I really have been staying on set and shadowing all of these guest directors that have come in. The majority of directors that are coming in, I’ve worked with before because they are coming in from The Vampire Diaries and Warner Bros. Television, so I had a relationship with most of them and it’s been nice to just learn from them. It’s been such a learning experience, for the past five months, and it’s been really great.
It seems like there’s no better place to get on the job experience, watching a director, than on your own TV series.
TREVINO: Yeah, it is. I still have a ton to learn. I have friends that have gone to academies and certain schools for directing, but they haven’t been on an actual working set, as much as I have. For me, it wasn’t so much about asking questions about lenses and certain shots. I know how the machine works, and I learned so much by just observing. I can understand what’s happening and how things work, and I would just question things to myself and in my mind, but watching it all happen, in real time, you pick up on things quickly. I’ve never learned from a director’s manual or from going to certain classes, but I plan on doing that, in the future, so it will be interesting to see how I take to that. We’ll see. I’m very excited about it. Right now, I know that if I move this here, it’s gonna get the look that I like. I don’t know what it’s called, but I know this is what I want. It’s learning backwards, but it’s still learning about it all.
When Roswell, New Mexico came your way, what was the appeal of it for you?
TREVINO: To be completely honest, this pilot season, I tested for two pilots. I was in a place where I was really focused on the work, coming off another series and not having work on a consistent basis for almost two years, so I decided that I was gonna go after every pilot. Initially, I heard about Roswell because it was friends of mine, with (showrunner) Carina [Adly MacKenzie] and Julie Plec. So, when it came my way, because I hadn’t seen them in a long time and I was in L.A., I was like, “Yeah, I’ll read for this.” When I went in, Carina was surprised. She was like, “What are you doing?” And I was like, “I’m gonna read for you.” And she was like, “You are?” And I was like, “Yeah, let’s do this.” So, I read for it. Apparently, they were having problems placing Kyle, and who Kyle was and who they wanted this character to be. I just went in there and had my take on it. I didn’t watch any of the original series, and they obviously know me so well, so it helped. I put myself in a great situation, where I played around with how I interpreted the character. They also know me on such a personal level that they knew they could tweak things this way or that way. I think the story of Kyle made more since for them, after I read for it. After that, it became a conversation of, “Do you really want to be a part of this? Do you really want this part?” It was about wanting to get back to consistent work with people that I feel comfortable with and that I’m safe with, and that know my talents and abilities. I could join a project were it’s gonna take the writers awhile to get to know me, on a personal level, and then see how I work, on the day. Here, we were already caught up to speed because we know each other so well, so I was in a great position.
TREVINO: Really exciting! It was nice because the journey started with her in March, when we shot the pilot, so to end with her, on such a huge episode was great. Even the crew felt safe. We knew we were in good hands. It’s been really great. Watching Julie grow, as a director, has been a joy to see. I can see her giving these notes that she maybe wasn’t giving before, and she does it in such a calm way. We’re all growing, and it’s exciting to see everybody grow, as performers, directors, writers and producers. It was a fun way to end the season.
This is a very different Roswell. Just having these characters be ten years older than they were in the original series gives it a very different feel. Does that feel freeing, in the sense that you can’t really be beholden to the books or the original series because, even though people are going to come in with certain expectations, they are not going to be able to hang onto them for very long?
TREVINO: Because this is a reboot, it’s not a complete copy of the original series. The age difference, alone, sets the tone, right in the first episode. So, because of that, right away, you’re in familiar territory, but in a completely different place. I play a doctor. There is nothing supernatural about Kyle, and I love that. That’s what appealed to me, with this character. I could just play somebody who is really grounded, and focus on building these relationships with everybody else, in our world of Roswell, New Mexico.
Since it seems like there are so many different directions that Kyle could go in, as a character, did you have specific questions about who he could be, and whether he could end up being more villainous or not?
TREVINO: Yes. In the early stages, before we even shot the pilot, it was said that Kyle is a good person, and I was like, “Yes, let me play a good person. Let me play a nice human being who is there for his friends.” Kyle has his life together. He is successful, in most aspects of his life. Although there has been tragedy in his family, he still has a great head on his shoulders. So, it’s nice to have Kyle bounce around with each character. He does have storylines with everybody. There’s a common thread. It’s not like he’s just with Liz. He ends up going on a journey with all of the different characters, within our 13 episodes, and it’s nice to see those relationships evolve.
Kyle also finds himself in a bit of a situation because he knows a bit about what’s going on. What can you say about the relationship between Kyle and Liz, and how that will evolve? How much will what he knows be a threat for him?
TREVINO: Kyle and Liz are very close. They used to date each other, back in high school, for a long period of time. Some time has passed now, but there are still some feelings there. Kyle, no matter what, is somebody that Liz can rely on and trust. With that, Kyle finds out all of this other information about some otherworldly beings. He is trying to juggle this burden and this heavy weight on his shoulders with what’s best for everybody. It’s a lot of information that comes his way, in the first four or five episodes, and his moral compass is questioned. He questions what’s right and wrong, and who to trust because so much information is coming his way. It’s a nice storyline, and it’s interesting to see that play out because that’s a struggle for him.
Does he ever get to a point where he wishes he never found out about all of this, or will he always feel better about having that awareness of what is possible?
TREVINO: I would say that throughout this season, there are definite levels that Kyle goes through, as far as struggling with all this information that he knows, and then also, at times, feeling empowered with all the information that he knows. It goes up and down. It really depends on who he’s interacting with. Somethings is always going on. Something is always happening. Kyle’s really trying to look out for everybody’s best interests and trying to make the right decision. When we all come back, in the first episode, for the high school reunion, life is great for Kyle. Slowly but surely, things start to unravel. We find out all of this information about what’s really going on in Roswell, and how it’s affecting his family, his friends, and someone really close to him, like Liz. He’s sucked into this world that he’s forced to live in, and he has to make tough decisions, here and there.
When you play a character who lives in a world where aliens exist, do you always keep that in mind because it does affect who Kyle is and how he reacts to things, or do you just try to focus on the human side of things?
TREVINO: There’s a fine line there, living in a world where there are aliens. Kyle is a surgeon. He’s somebody who is calm under pressure. With that, I was always trying to keep in mind that, although there is a lot of information that could really throw somebody off, he keeps his composure, as much as possible. He’s holding that inside, but inside, he’s just going crazy. I think it played well. I was trying to hit that mark, so that he can just handle things one step at a time.
With what happens at the end of the season, can you already see where Season 2 could go, in regard to your character?
TREVINO: Yeah. Honestly, I’m very pleased with the character of Kyle, throughout this season, because how we see Kyle in Episode 1 is completely different from where he’s at in Episode 13. To even guess where we would begin in Season 2 is difficult to say, but I would say that to continue from where he leaves off, at the end of this season, might be a bit of a struggle for him, moving forward. After everything that he’s gone through, seen and knows, to start Season 2 from there, might be a bit of a struggle.
Roswell, New Mexico is now airing on The CW.