Jeanine Mason on ‘Roswell, New Mexico’ and the Impact of CrashCon

     June 8, 2020

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With only two episodes left to Season 2 of The CW series Roswell, New Mexico, questions are piling up and everyone is desperate for answers, as the town welcomes CrashCon and Liz (Jeanine Mason) and Max (Nathan Parsons) find themselves trying to piece together who’s behind a potentially deadly plan targeting the popular festival. Before all is said and done, there are sure to be life-or-death stakes to survive, heart-wrenching choices to endure, big moves to make, and loose ends to be tied.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Jeanine Mason talked about what it was like to make it to Season 2, getting to have a much deeper understanding of her character, what she’s learned about leading a TV series, seeing Liz come to terms with the fact that she can’t solve every problem, having her past come back into her life, the affect CrashCon will have on Roswell, her reaction to the Season 2 finale, and how Shiri Appleby has inspired her.

roswell-new-mexico-jeanine-mason-01Collider: You’ve previously talked about doing seven pilots and a couple of TV shows that only had one season. What was it like to learn that you’d have a second season for this show, and then to also now have a third season pick-up?

JEANINE MASON: It’s crazy. It’s so bonkers. I’ve been hoping for this, for so long, that it was so cool to get that pick-up news. It’s layers of confronting the excitement and the nervousness, of course. But the most honest one for me was, I sat down, as I do every year, to work with my acting coach, who’s half of my brain, and in our first session, we started breaking down the script and I said, “Okay, so in the pilot . . .” I assumed it was the pilot again, instead of Episode 201, and he was like, “No, no, no, this is 201.” I was like, “Oh, my god, it’s 201. We’ve gotten to 201. This is crazy!” It was awesome. That was my personal favorite moment, in which it hit me that this was no longer starting from the beginning. We were getting to move forward from having a really deep understanding of these characters.

From what you just said, clearly your acting coach is important to you. Was that something that you sought out having? Was that something that you always felt like you wanted to have there for you?

MASON: It’s the way that I’ve always worked. It’s the way I was, as a dancer, as well, before this. I’m just someone who operates as an athlete, as well as an artist, in whatever I’m doing. So, it makes sense to me to have coaches. It’s also a celebration of the collaboration of it all, which is ultimately my favorite thing about this. Different people contribute and are pieces of the puzzle, and to see it all come together, it’s not just one person’s effort, so it makes sense to me to get the opinions of the people that I admire most. Along with my acting coach, I have a good girlfriend, who’s an actress, an activist, and a Chicana. I’m Cuban, so she’s another person that I lean on, a lot. She’s been indispensable for me in this process, as well. I’m just someone who loves the collaboration of it and loves having help. I love leaning on people.

How does it feel to return to a show where you’ve already set up the character, in the first season, and established these relationships that she has? What’s been the most fun about digging even deeper, in the second season?

MASON: The most rewarding thing about it has been the moments in which it really pays off, on set. We all are in a groove now, and the moments in which Lily [Cowles] will suggest a joke for Isobel, and it gets a reaction out of myself and Liz that we can possibly feel, is spot on. That’s the best feeling in the world. That is Season 2. That is the delight of having a second round.

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Image via The CW

This is also your first time leading a show. Does that get any easier in Season 2, or is it even more challenging, as they give you more because they know you can do more?

MASON: I think they would say that they’re definitely doing that, and I love it. I feel like I’m more confident and I’ve acquired a lot of skills from Season 1, that I am more proficient at now. That being said, the nature of this job is that there’s always more to learn, and I’m learning, every day, things that are just taking it up a notch. It’s asking me to be a better and more consistent number one, and I love that about this, so much. The most rewarding bit of this job has been seeing how much being in this leadership position teaches you. I always knew that. I always knew, of course, you’re gonna learn, and you’re gonna have more time on camera, more say, and more of an impact, but actually being in it, it’s insane to me. Every day, I go to work nervous because I know it’s like, “Okay, let me try to be on my game,” because I know new things are gonna be asked of me, and that’s huge. I feel like I lead every season, like an acting titan. It’s great.

Did you also have to figure out how to mentally and physically keep that up? When you’re doing 13 episodes a season, and each one has to have the same level of energy as the last one, how do you keep that consistent? Does your dance background help with that?

MASON: My dance background helps so much with that. I am so grateful. I remember being in dance class and having my teacher say to me and to all of us that, regardless of where we wanted to go or what we wanted to do, this was preparing us. I really do believe that athletics, but particularly dance, because it’s the athlete and the artist together, in a way that doesn’t really exist much, except for maybe ice skating, and I’m always amazed by the way that prepares me. I think the mindset stuff is the biggest, and that is my dad’s realm. He’s just fed me a little bit of that sports mentality, for years. Even on set, people will laugh because our camera operator and I will be talking about something and I’ll equate it to baseball, but that’s my dad. That’s the way my brain works. I’ll be like, “Okay, let’s give it another at bat.” When it gets tough and people get tired, that’s when people start to get sloppy and that’s when I can trust that I will stay on the straight and narrow. That’s a huge relief to me because then I know that I can utilize the rest of my brain to try to connect to that ephemeral thing of, can I give a great performance?

You’ve said that you knew, early on, that Max was going to die at the end of the season and that Rosa was going to be resurrected. What was your reaction, when you first heard that, and how do you feel now about the way that all played out and how that’s affected the second season?

MASON: I loved it, immediately. I thought it was so brave and that it honored the sci-fi nature of our show, but it felt impossible to connect to that amount of grief and elation, and the blurry way that they cross over each other. I immediately got excited about trying to figure that out for Liz and trying to play with that big of an event. That’s the cool thing about doing a sci-fi show. You get these big stakes moments that very rarely exists in shows that are just about mere mortals. Acting wise, it’s just like the Olympics. So, that felt really exciting for our show, and I was pumped about it. And then, the way it played out, I thought was quite brave, as well, and right for Liz, in that it was such an immediate thing for Max to save her, as the catalyst for our show and our pilot episode, but it’s not as immediate for Liz. We were able to get those five episodes of her and the Scooby gang bringing him back to life, and I loved every bit of seeing her work through her grief and her frustration, and having that fuel her work. It felt really human and honest, in an impossible situation.

Now, the two of them both have things that they’re dealing with, that Liz can’t really help them through. They have to get through these things they’re dealing with on their own. What’s it like for her to have these two people that she loves, back in her life, but also see them going through these things that she can’t really help them with?

MASON: It’s so hard for Liz. She likes to be able to take care of people, and she’s a problem solver. When it comes to her people, the woman will mountains, without question. So, for her to not be able to solve this for them, kills her, but she has to learn. That’s what I love about a protagonist that’s truly on a journey. I’m so sick of shows, where there’s nothing to be learned or earned for your protagonist. She has to let go. She has to realize that this is Rosa’s journey, and as much as she wants to be like, “Sit here and let me make it work,” Rosa is like, “Girl, I’ve gotta go to rehab. Lemme be.” Rosa is right, and Liz is learning. It’s really fun to watch her try.

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Image via The CW

Liz has had to deal with the return of Rosa, the return of Mama Ortecho, and now Diego is back in her life. What’s it like for her to have her past reuniting with her present? How is she able to handle all of that, with everything that she’s been through?

MASON: Yeah. What I loved about Mama Ortecho and Diego coming right now is that, we all go through changes and every decade we can notice shifts, but the shift that has happened in Liz’s life, in this two-year period is the biggest thing that’s ever happened to her. She was so closed off. She was someone who kept you at arms length. She was someone who was used to running. She was someone who felt very abandoned. The first season is her heart getting pried open. So, for the two of them to come in, it really felt like whiplash. It might have just been a year, but she’s such a different person now. So, that was really exciting to me. It was fun to imagine the little flashbacks with Diego, where we could go back to her life pre her return to Roswell, pre-Max, pre knowing there are aliens in the world. To see her then, you really get a sense of how far you’ve already been with her, how far you’ve seen her go, and how happy you are for where she is right now. I liked that it clued the fans back into that.

I think it’s fun that you’ll be having a CrashCon episode (Episode 212), which pays homage to the original series and their UFO Convention episode. What can you say about having this convention in town, the attention that brings, and how that’ll affect the story?

MASON: Oh, man, it’s so fun. It’s gives you so much OG Roswell nostalgia. It’s pretty great. There are a couple of really fun Easter eggs, and we just kept dying on set, every time we encountered posters that said things. We were just like, “That’s really good. Good work, writers.” It’s huge. What I love about The CW is that there’s always an episode, or a pair of episodes, centered around a big event. Last year, we had the gala, and this year, it’s this. Small town events are massive. Everybody’s out. With the amount of extras and the costume pieces, and the creativity of our wardrobe department and our props department, in dressing everybody in alien and sci-fi and actual properties that get little nods, I think it’s gonna be a feast for the eyes. I think it’s gonna be so visually beautiful. I was impressed. I read a script and get so excited by the writer’s ideas, and then we get to set and we try to figure out the logistics, three times over, and how to do it justice and do right by the excitement of the words. These last two episodes, that happen in the convention/carnival, exceeded everything that I had imagined and it was incredible to see. I can’t wait for people to see. I really think the last two episodes are gonna have people on the edge of their seat.

Without giving away spoilers, what was your reaction to reading the finale and seeing how things would end up for this season, and how do you think fans will react to it?

MASON: The beautiful thing about this season is that things have been weaving in and out, and so much has been set up, in a way that fans are conscious about it. There’s so much stuff that you wouldn’t have thought twice about, that’s gonna come back, and there are so many people that we’ve met, even in passing, who are gonna have such prominence, in the last two episodes. They’re so full. So much is connected and a lot is revealed, in terms of the mythology of our world. But then, there are also personal decisions made that are heartbreaking and that are really not where some characters thought they would find themselves, for sure not at the beginning of the season and definitely not even a week before this whole convention goes down. I’m proud of the decision that characters make, to look out for themselves, but it definitely sets us up for a lot of complication to sort through in Season 3.

Max has been finding out some new and unexpected things about his alien side. Will we also see that affect his relationship with Liz?

MASON: Yeah, absolutely. That’s a lot of what I’m trying to dance around. I’ve gotten some little hints, as to where we’re going for Season 3, and our show is about otherness. That’s what it is and has been, from day one, and feeling other. You can’t help but wonder when you’ll be satiated and when you’ll feel like you have enough information, either in front of you or historically, to feel like you’re  happy with where you are. Ultimately, a lot of our characters are still asking those questions for themselves.

Have you also started to have conversations about how to go back to work and make sure that it is safe for everyone?

MASON: Absolutely. It’s been really inspiring to see the way that everyone is so willing to be creative and to take it very seriously, to figure out a way that we can get back to work, but do so safely. Everyone is just guessing, right now, and a lot of the suggestions range in possibilities, but the main thing we’re all saying is that we’re grateful that we’re now going to be a Season 3 show. We feel confident and we feel like we got in such a groove by Season, as a production, that I’m excited we’ll be able to get back to set. Even in honoring all of the protocol that we have to, I feel like we’ll be able to just connect back to the well-oiled machine that we are now. That is just a really gorgeous gift.

roswell-new-mexico-poster-jeanine-masonWhat’s it been like to be directed by Shiri Appleby? She’s been an actress for many years, she’s led a show more than once, herself, and she even played Liz in the original Roswell series. What sort of insight do you feel that gives her, as a director, that makes her different from everybody else?

MASON: The woman is a dream. People always ask me about what’s been the most surprising thing about being number one, and the most surprising thing is that I like it. I didn’t know how it would feel on me, and I love it. I hope to have a career like Shiri, where I get to do this again and again. I admire her because the reason she’s had that career is because she’s such a boss. She is 100, constantly. The woman is a machine, and it’s really just inspiring to be around her to see her life force at work. I’m a huge Shiri Appleby fan. I cannot wait for her to be back for Season 3, to direct us again. Every time she’s there, it’s fun to just pick her brain and get her advice. ’m living in New York now, and that was something I read by Shiri. She was like, “Oh, hell yeah, go to New York.” And I was like, “Okay.”

Has she inspired you to want to step behind the camera, at some point? Is directing something that you’re also looking to do?

MASON: Yeah. I’ve directed for stage. I love it, and I wanna do more of it. As of late, I’ve gotten more inspired. I think it’s also because I’m in New York and, prior to the pandemic, was seeing so much theater. I’m excited about just getting involved out here more, and finding my people out here. So, directing for stage excites me. It just brings back my dancing and all of the things I love about physicality and relation. I love the medium and the palette that is the stage. I’m excited about that, right now. But, we’ll see. Maybe, eventually, working with the camera will be exciting. To be honest, where I’m at right now, in my journey, is excitement about working with directors that I love. That will be next, hopefully.

Do you have a dream list of directors that you’d like to do a project?

MASON: Oh, man, so many. I would love to work with Guillermo Del Toro. He has such a love of cinema and a love of movement, and I love his brand of magic. I would love to play in his movies. It would be so fun. I have a lot of film aspirations. That’s the next frontier. I’ve always had aspirations to work with great filmmakers, absolutely, but now, it’s changed to great filmmakers who seem like a great time. I’m getting older. My 30s are coming, and what I really wanna do is spend my time, preciously. I wanna be with my family, and if I’m gonna be working, then I wanna be working with legit and delightful people. Hopefully, that’ll be the 30s.

Roswell, New Mexico airs on Monday nights on The CW.

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