‘Roswell, New Mexico’ Showrunner on the “Bolder” Direction of Season 2

     March 16, 2020

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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, Rosa begins experiencing mysterious side effects from her resurrection, as she realizes that she’s been kept in the dark about what really happened the night that she died.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, showrunner/writer/executive producer Carina MacKenzie talked about how the death of her male lead was in her original pitch for the series, the interesting ways that they’ve made use of Nathan Parsons throughout the season, that the secrets pretty much all of the characters are keeping are going to blow up in their faces rather quickly, getting to explore the sister dynamic, that there will definitely be more Maria (Heather Hemmens) this season, her approach to exploring Michael’s bisexuality, how original Roswell star Jason Behr ended up doing a chunk of episodes, and what she’s most excited about with Season 2.

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Image via The CW

Collider: First of all, congratulations on already having a Season 3 renewal before the premiere of Season 2. That’s awesome.

CARINA MacKENZIE: Thank you! I think it’s awesome, except I’m so tired and I have to go back to work on Monday.

When you tell the powers that be, “Hey, I’m going to kill off my male lead and start Season 2 with him dead,” what was their reaction? Did they try to convince you to do something else?

MacKENZIE: This was actually part of my pitch, when I pitched Season 1, from the very beginning. I can’t remember if I told Nathan about it during the pilot episode or during when we were shooting the second episode, but it was the plan from the beginning, so they knew where we were going. I think they trust me on that stuff. I always make the joke that I’ve killed Nathan Parsons a lot on television and he always comes back, in one way or another. We started the series with Liz taking a bullet to the heart and with him saving her life. This is a show about a woman. It’s not a show about a man being the hero, all of the time. So, if that’s how we started our series, we wanted to turn the tables and say, “Okay, she doesn’t have superpowers the way that he has superpowers.” Our show is science fiction. It’s not about magic and witches and rituals. It’s about science. So if he somehow, within him, has the science to save her life, then somehow, she should be able to use that science to save his. The studio and network definitely were a little bit worried about how much we used Nathan Parsons because we pay him for every episode, no matter what, and you like to get your money’s worth. And so they were like, “Are we renegotiating his deal here?” But we did find interesting ways to use him throughout the season, whether it’s nightmares or flashbacks. I also made Nathan come in to do work that wasn’t even Max related. We had a character that we hadn’t cast yet, but we needed to see their hands, and I was like, “Okay, you come to work and be the hands.” Whenever we had a shadowy figure whose face you can’t see, I’d be like, “Hey, Nathan, come to work.” It was actually fun for him, I think, to get to be around when he wasn’t around, ‘cause he actually lives in Santa Fe, as opposed to some of the other cast members who live in L.A.

It seems as though everyone is really starting off the season with secrets and things that they’re hiding from each other. How will that affect things? How soon will those secrets really start blowing up in everybody’s faces?

MacKENZIE: Quickly, in different ways. Alex and Maria have a conversation that they need to have about the status of their relationships with Michael. Maria has been in the dark about a lot of things, including the fact that no one’s told her that Rosa is back, and she was incredibly close to Rosa. No one told her about Noah, and she was one of Noah’s victims. Secrets don’t stay buried very long on the show, so there will definitely be some fall out. But I also think that, in some cases, the fallout is gonna be what makes what makes the relationships stronger, as opposed to what weakens relationships.

With Rosa back, you really get to explore the sister dynamic now, in present day. What have you enjoyed about that relationship, and watching what Jeanine Mason and Amber Midthunder bring to that?

MacKENZIE: Well, they are amazing. Obviously, they look alike, which helps, but they also did a lot of work together to work on mannerisms that they could create for these girls to share. Right off the bat, in the pilot, they’re sharing a motel bed on their road trip, and they both sleep with one leg outside of the covers. Little things like that were things that the actors got together with us and we said, “Okay, how do we create this feeling of Rosa being a relatively new force in our present-day Roswell, but still show the audience how deep the history runs?” Working with Jeanine and Amber made that very easy.

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Image via The CW

You’ve previously talked about there being more Maria, in general, this season. What can you say about her storyline and what Heather Hemmens is bringing to it this season?

MacKENZIE: Heather is a goddess. She is the queen of my life. There is literally nothing that I’ve asked her to do that she hasn’t done, with full enthusiasm. I will say that we put Maria into situations that I don’t think the fans are going to see coming. I got a phone call from Heather once and she said, “I’m hearing a rumor that this might be happening in the next episode. Please tell me that’s not true.” And I was like, “Read the script and tell me what you think. We’ll change it if you hate it, but just read the script.” And then, when she read the script, she was like, “Oh, hell yes!” I know that I’m being incredibly cryptic, but we’re pushing boundaries with her character and we’re exploring all sides of her. We’re learning who she is, not just as Liz’s best friend, which was what it felt like throughout Season 1, but we’re learning who she is as a business owner, as a caretaker for her mother, as a friend, and as a girlfriend. We get to see a lot of sides of her, but one of the things that I’m excited about is that we put Maria and Isobel together a little bit more this season. They’ve got this really fun, long, deep history of just hating each other, for no real good reason, whereas the actresses, Lily [Cowles] and Heather, live together and love each other. So, it led to some really fun dynamics on screen.

One of the things that I love about Michael being a bisexual character is that it’s allowed you to 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 do that, be able to bring that to life, and to hear how people feel about being represented in that way?

MacKENZIE: The representation part of it is really important to me. It’s really important to me that it’s not portrayed like he’s having two relationships. He is a very honest character. When Michael keeps secrets, it is not because he wants to keep secrets. Michael’s not gonna be a person who’s cheating on anybody, ever. He’s not someone who leads people on, or wants to hurt anyone. And those relationships are very different. Michael and Alex’s relationship, the bulk of it, was the summer after their senior year of high school, and that was 10 years ago. There are obviously a lot of lingering feelings, and there have been some brief reconnections over the years, but he isn’t in a committed relationship with Alex. He’s also not yet in a committed relationship with Maria. But when Michael does commit to someone, it’s very important to him to be true to them and to be honest. That’s been my whole thing. We’re not playing this bisexual character as a promiscuous person who can’t decide what he wants, or who wants both, and who’s just flitting between the genders. He’s very much a lover. And it’s been cool for me to play him as the Joey Potter or the Felicity. He’s not the typical person in the center of a love triangle. The other thing that’s important, too, is that Alex and Maria aren’t rivals. They are people who have a very deep history with each other and who love each other very much. Later on, we tell a story where Maria admits that, when she was a little kid and Alex was her best friend, she always thought she was gonna grow up and marry Alex. So, there are a lot of layers to this, and we’ve made sure to tell it with respectfully because of the representation angle, but also, we’re not trying to tell a story about people that aren’t flawed and that don’t make mistakes and that don’t have any nuance to them. We’re telling a story about people who mess up sometimes and who have to emerge from that, just like anybody else.

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Image via Walt Disney Television

It’s also very cool that you have Jason Behr coming onto the show for Season 2.

MacKENZIE: Yes, it is.

How did that come about? Did he agree to it, and then you wrote the character tailored to him, or did you write the character, and then try to convince him to do it?

MacKENZIE: I met Jason at Julie Plec’s birthday party, and literally sat talking to him for five hours, and I’m not exaggerating. Everyone, including the person who was throwing the party, had gone to bed, and Jason and I were still talking about work and art, and what inspires us as artists. He had watched the first season of the show and he said, “If you want me to come do a cameo, reach out.” I didn’t think he was serious, but I thought it was worth a try. And we had this character come up that was a pretty small character because I didn’t think Jason was gonna be interested in going back to work full time. He hasn’t, in a really long time. He’s a dad, and he’s very much rooted in L.A. But when I reached out to him about the character, he was so excited that he was like, “Well, I’ll stick around.” We developed a very rich backstory for this character. He has a very deep and complicated history, and a very interesting future. He ultimately appeared in five episodes out of 13, which is a lot, and he’s essential to the season. I also cannot say enough wonderful things about working with this man. I was expecting somebody to come in with some reluctance to revisit a reboot of something that he had worked really hard on 20 years ago, but there was no reluctance. He was immediately one of the gang. He gave everybody advice. He knows the show, inside and out. And we put him through the ringer. He did not have an easy time on the show, at all, and he never didn’t have a smile on his face doing it. If anybody, in the future, gets the chance to work with Jason Behr, jump at it ‘cause it was a dream. It was a literal dream. I had the guy’s poster in my locker when I was a kid.

What are you most excited about with what you’re getting to do in Season 2, and how you’re also working toward Season 3?

MacKENZIE: Season 1 was my first time as a showrunner, so I was nervous and I had a lot on my plate. With Season 2, I felt a lot steadier on my feet. With Season 2, I pushed the stories to be bolder and pushed us in directions that scared the crap out of me because I had more confidence that I, as a writer, would be able to rise to the challenge. I told some stories that shook some things up on the network, and that we had to really, really defend. They ultimately ended up being very supportive of us, but we definitely threw some surprises at our bosses, which we didn’t really do in the first season. So, bolder is the word. We are entering territory that’s a little more controversial, a little darker, and a little sexier, in some cases. I’m just seeing what I can get on The CW.

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

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