From show creator Carina MacKenzie, The CW series Roswell, New Mexico is back for Season 2, and Liz (Jeanine Mason) is torn between having her sister Rosa (Amber Midthunder) back and the sacrifice that Max (Nathan Parsons) made, in order for that to happen. And while Michael (Michael Vlamis) and Isobel (Lily Cowles) are struggling with their own grief over the death of Max, they also have their own dramas to work through.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actor Michael Vlamis talked about what he’s most enjoyed about his character arc so far, how Michael Guerin feels about being the one that’s left to keep people together now, the absence of Max and why that storyline has so deeply affected him this season, feeling honored to get to explore his character’s bisexuality, getting to take risks and go dark on this show, what Michael’s learning about his own past, and how cool it is to have some of the original series cast members involved with their re-imagining.
Be aware that some spoilers are discussed for previous episodes.
Collider: Your character has really taken quite a journey, since we met him in Season 1, finally admitting that he actually cares about a person or two, other than himself. What has most surprised you about the journey to where he is now and how he’s grown, as a character, up to this point?
MICHAEL VLAMIS: I feel like, with Michael Guerin, it’s always two steps forward, one step backwards. That’s been the yo-yo effect that I’ve been fortunate enough to play, based on the writing, since Season 1. I’m never surprised because the writing is always so consistent. Everything that I read makes sense. We did an Instagram Live for a Roswell takeover, and someone asked if there’s anything that’s ever written that I don’t agree with, with my character and, to be honest, no. Carina MacKenzie, the showrunner, knows Michael Guerin like the back of her hand, and she’s relayed all the information that she knows and she thinks of him to the writers’ room. Everything seems very on par with what he would do. As he takes these two steps back and keeps moving forward, every time he does progress, it’s in a very subtle way, but there is progression there. And now, he’s back to real bad Michael Guerin, getting in fights. That’s how you met him, originally, in a jail cell. So, I had this full transformation in Season 1, and now I’m right back to where I was, at the start of Season 2, and maybe even in a worse position. This whole season is figuring out his role in this world that maybe he doesn’t even want to be a part of. It’s figuring out his self-worth, figuring out where he comes from, and figuring out the origin of Michael Guerin. Episode 5 is the Michael Guerin episode, and you’ll get to learn a lot about his past and what’s brought him back to where he is.
With Max mostly dead and Isobel mostly a mess, Michael is the one that’s left to keep things together, which is very out of character for him.
VLAMIS: Exactly, yeah.
How does he feel about being the one that’s left to keep people together now?
VLAMIS: I think he hates it. That’s the last thing he cares about doing or wants to do, but now he’s feeling pressure to do that. His whole life, he had this brother who loved being the savior and loved being the hero, and Guerin just took a back seat. A little bit of that changed, 10 years ago, when Max decided to cover up those murders, and not turn ourselves in and reveal that there are aliens, and I don’t think Michael Guerin wanted to do that. He was pressured into doing that. You learned that last season, when Max and I are trapped in that bunker together, in my layer. So, this season, he’s finding his new role and he’s realizing, right now, that he has to step up because there’s no Max anymore to step up. I think he resents that he has to do that, and resents the fact that his hero savior card killed him, in the end, but it is what it is. That’s the reason that he showed up at the funeral for Isobel. He doesn’t want to be there. You’re telling me that guy was ready for that funeral? He’s there because he knows that he needs to play a different role now.
The first season, you had this little alien trio. At least at the beginning of this season, did it feel weird to not have that? Did it feel different without Nathan Parsons there?
VLAMIS: Definitely. I haven’t really talked to a lot of people about what I’m about to tell you, and this is dark, but I lost a friend at a bachelor party, last summer, and I lost that person in my arms. It was very weird how art imitates life because I wasn’t even thinking about it, at the time, but when I got back to shoot Season 2 and I was in Santa Fe, and I live alone out there – in L.A., I live with four of my best friends in a house – and do my thing, and I have a lot of time to reflect and get deep into the character. As I was getting into this character and pulling from real life, I realized, “Oh, my god, I lost a brother in real life, who was one of my best childhood friends, and I lost a brother in the show. This is the same thing that’s going on.” And so, not having Max around was tormenting because I can’t help but try to make things as real as possible. A lot of actors can show up to set and do the lines, being in a happy headspace, even though it’s an emotional scene, and they can do a great job. With me, I don’t know what it is, but I feel responsible for bringing out true sides of Michael Vlamis and Michael Guerin, so I really channelled that loss of a friend into the season. So, not having Max around on set was just a constant reminder of what happened with my buddy, and that that actually took its toll on me. I got to a breaking point around Episode 5 or 6, during the season, ‘cause I was just being so hard on myself, with making this loss of a brother true. And aside from all of that, not having Nathan Parsons on set is a whole other thing. The dude is a pro. He’s been around forever. So, anytime I’m working with him, that guy knows how to navigate a set. It’s a constant learning experience, and it’s really nice to have that older brother figure. Even though we’re similar in age, he is almost like an older brother to me, in real life, outside of the show. So, that was unfortunate. And I know everyone else on set felt that same way too, about not being able to work with them.
One of the things that I love about Michael being a bisexual character is that it’s allowed you to really explore two relationships with him – the one between Michael and Alex, and the one between Michael and Maria. What’s it like for you to get to do that, to be able to bring that to life and to also hear how people feel about being represented, in that way?
VLAMIS: It’s an honor. I didn’t even realize it would be this big of an honor, when I booked the show. I was just like, “Okay, this character is bisexual. This character is conflicted. This character loves deeply. I’m gonna do my best. I’m gonna love Tyler Blackburn, in this first season, as if I’ve loved a girl who’s broken my heart, in the past.” I just took it in like that. And then, after the season aired, I got so many messages from fans about how my character and our storyline inspired them to come out to their families. I realized, “Oh, wow, me being true to who this character is allowing people to be true to themselves, and they feel like it’s safe and they have an outlet, for once.” My whole mindset on the thing definitely developed, over Season 1. It was interesting because I think Tyler Blackburn came out as bisexual, after Season 1, so he always knew how important this was gonna be. But for a guy who has never actually struggled with what Michael Guerin is struggling with, in the show, I didn’t really know. I know heartbreak, I know love, I know loss, I know hope, but I don’t know what it really feels like to be a bisexual human being. But having that weight and responsibility, and seeing what it really means to everyone, has allowed me to see that. There’s a lot of pride in my work, on both sides. As a bisexual person, it’s not like, “Oh, I’m gay sometimes. You hear people say, “Are they really bisexual?” I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, love is love. Who knows who you’re gonna fall in love with? Who knows at what time, or who that person is gonna be? You just have to tackle it as true as you can to that relationship. So, Maria’s relationship with Guerin is so different than his relationship with Alex, and that’s been the most fun to play. With one, I get to have a little bit of a softer side, and with the other one, I’ve got my guard up, all the time, because of previous trauma.
Do you, personally, find yourself rooting for one of those relationships more than the other? How do you feel about him being torn between those two?
VLAMIS: First of all, I love it because I love the drama. I love being able to play almost two different characters, in those relationships, obviously staying true to who Michael Guerin is. That’s really fun. Am I rooting for someone? No. That’s like judging your character. At the end of the day, you can’t judge your character. Your character is going through something that, at the time, they need to go through. They’re just doing what feels right, in those moments. So, I’d never choose which way I wanted to go. I love working with Heather Hemmens, and I love working with Tyler Blackburn. They’re both so different. With Tyler, I have the whole bromance thing. He’s just a buddy. And then, with Heather, there’s that female energy. It’s kinder, it’s softer, it’s safer. It’s just different. So, I don’t root for one or the other. I just see where the writing takes me.
Now that Maria has found out about Rosa being back from the dead and that there are actual aliens in Roswell, where can things go between Michael and Maria, after that?
VLAMIS: Oh, man. Well, it’s gonna be bumpy, that’s for sure. I would say that Maria is much more mature than Michael Guerin. She’s so grounded, which is just how Heather is, in real life. She knows herself, knows what she wants, and knows who she is, but Michael Guerin doesn’t know that. He’s almost like this puppy dog that follows suit. Over time, he definitely gets to figure out more of who he is, spending time with these different characters.
When I spoke to your showrunner Carina MacKenzie and asked her what she was most proud of with Season 2, she told me that it’s the fact that she was able to push the stories in a bolder direction, shaking things up a bit, and telling stories that are a little darker and sexier. Do you feel that’s the case, and how do you feel that that specifically pertains to your character?
VLAMIS: Oh, a hundred percent, just from seeing that Isobel’s pregnant, and her battling with this idea of taking this alien death serum to have an abortion is such a topical thing, in the world right now. Obviously the quarantine and COVID-19 is what’s at the front of everyone’s mind, but six months ago, that was all that people were talking about. The fact that we work themes like that into the show is risky, but I think there’s a lot of power in making people think about these uncomfortable themes and maybe reassessing the way that they feel about them. And when it comes to Michael Guerin, the funny thing about him is that I don’t feel like he ever gets too political. He’s just doing his thing and floating through, like a puppy dog, seeing where things take him and keeping to himself. A lot of those storylines are peripherally around my character, but when it comes to the risk and the darkness, she definitely ramped it up, in a big way. Episode 5 is the Michael Guerin episode, and some of the stuff that you see him go through and how he’s reeling is pretty special. A lot of CW shows, when I was growing up, you saw a specific version of a mold. You got to see the risks that Roswell, New Mexico takes last year, in Episode 12, when my mom dies in front of me and I can’t get through the wall. I was going insane. The fact that a channel that’s known for very attractive people because that’s what they’ve built their brand around – crazy, dramatic stories, great characters and attractive people that you want to watch – and they let me just go off the wagon, and not even think about how my hair looks or how crazy I’m acting, there’s something really special in the freedom that an actor gets when you’re able to do that. And so, I don’t feel confined by any standards that maybe were set for previous shows like this. That stems from Carina allowing us to take risks and go a little darker route.
Michael is really getting to put some of the pieces of his own life and his past together. How is he feeling about what he’s learning about his mother, and how do you think that will inform who he is now?
VLAMIS: First of all, with his mom dying, he had this feeling of giving up and like there was no point anymore. But now that Alex is pushing this new information on him, he hates it. He felt like everything was over and done, and now it’s reopened, and he does not want that. Deep down, he’s just a kid who comes from multiple foster homes, who would look up at the stars at night and wonder, “Where the hell is my family? Where do I belong? Who am I? Am I really this kid who got looked over while the other two were adopted, or am I someone that does belong?” And so, I think he’s hesitant, at first, to embark on it, but through the rest of the season, he saddles up and really dives into finding out his past because that’s gonna allow him to know whether he’s a good guy. He doesn’t know if he’s a good guy. I think he’s a good guy, but is he a good guy? What does he want? What does he wanna do with his life? What should his life goal be? Ever since they covered up those murders, it hasn’t been about him. It’s been about protecting the secret, and he doesn’t want that.
It’s very cool that this re-imagining of this story has also been able to include some of the original cast members. You have Shiri Appleby directing episodes and Jason Behr guest starring in Season 2. What’s it meant to the cast, to see how the original cast is supporting the series, and what’s it like to have them around?
VLAMIS: Oh, it’s amazing. I’ll speak on Shiri, as a director, because I’ve worked with her on two episodes. First of all, Shiri is just cool. She gets it. She did this, for many years, so she knows what works. When you’re doing a scene, there are little adjustments that she might give you, that she knows are what the fans are gonna react best to. You’re comfortable around that, knowing that you’re in good hands and that she’s not gonna move on unless she gets a take that she knows is gonna work because she’s been there before. And then, when it comes to Jason Behr, he’s just the man. We spent a lot of time hanging out together in Santa Fe. There’s a karaoke bar out there, called Tiny’s, and they have the best karaoke on Saturday nights. We went there a couple of times and sang together. We really hit it off. I see his demeanor on set, and I just try to emulate that man. He’s a good dude. He’s a family guy, and he’s someone that you’re excited to see. There are certain people that walk up and you’re like, “How’s it gonna be today?” In general, he’s a guy who, when he’s in front of you or he’s in the room, you feel a little bit of that ease. It’s a little pressure because you’re like, “Okay, I’ve gotta do justice for this show, the way that they did it.” But the fact that he’s there, playing along with us, just shows how much he trusts and believes in what we’re doing, and that makes us want to do our best work.
Roswell, New Mexico airs on Monday nights on The CW.