The CW's Roswell reboot, Roswell, New Mexico, attempts to tackle real-world politics and sci-fi alien romance all at once—including a reimagining of main character Liz as the daughter of an undocumented immigrant. We caught up with actor Michael Vlamis, who plays renegade alien bad-boy Michael Guerin, to get the his take on the show.
Why reboot this show, and why right now?
I think that [writer Carina Adly MacKenzie's] specific take on a show about aliens, but that's really about people feeling alienated, is why this show is important and really necessary right now. Ultimately, I think that the theme of alienation in our country right now is why aliens are back on screen.
What made you want to be a part of the show?
I think it's very rare to read material for an audition and just kind of be blown away by it. And I think that speaks to Carina. She's a great writer with a great voice and something to say; very opinionated, very lively, and that's what pops up on the page.
The show came to me at a point in my life where I was looking for answers, just like this character Michael Guerin was. I grew up with a temper like this guy; I've been able to control it much better in my later years. I've really valued the underdog my whole life, and I feel like this guy is the underdog. I think the guy is scared, you know—scared of love, he's scared of maxing out his full brilliance, of getting found out, scared of his own anger. And I think that that's a really human thing that I was dealing with that I could really bring into the character.
This new rendition of Roswell seems to address a lot of issues that are at the forefront of politics right now. Is that an accurate interpretation?
Oh yeah, definitely. The main thing that we are trying to accomplish with the show is the feeling of belonging and being comfortable, not only with who you are but with your surroundings. I know in the first episode people are already talking about politics and about the wall and immigration and things like that.
What it really comes down to is that I don't think that [Carina] is trying to force a side on anyone, but I think what she's trying to say is that inclusion is very important and people should be open to it. I think she's just hoping it opens up people's eyes to inclusion and being comfortable with the uncomfortable.
At the end of the first episode, your character shares a steamy and unexpected kiss with Alex. What does it mean for you to play an LGBTQ character who is also secretly an alien?
This is really important to me because I'm from Chicago, and I only knew one gay person growing up. Not that I ever thought [being queer] was wrong, but I just wasn't accustomed to it. As a kid, you only know what you know.
What I'm trying to get across is that love is love no matter what. It doesn't matter if it's a man and a man, or a man and a woman, or a woman and a woman. At the end of the day, you should be able to support love. In the context of the show, in a small town it's even harder to face your truth because the majority of people are one way—you don't have a whole lot of examples of people being different, and this is really something Michael struggles with. It comes back to that political message of inclusion and not judging a book by its cover.
How does your character deal with this context?
Michael just bottles everything up and hides it. Everyone thinks he's this tough renegade badass who likes to drink and get in bar fights. In this small town especially, he knows that people maybe won't accept who he is. It gives my character another layer to know that I feel a certain way, but that I can never show it.
It was really interesting to hear different people's takes of the pilot, because some people did not see the kiss coming at the end of the episode. To me, the chemistry between Michael and Alex is just so palpable from the get-go and it was so surprising that some people didn't see that coming. I really think that if it was a man and a woman on that pilot, it would be very clear what was going on, but some people were pretty shocked. I think that kind of speaks for itself, and I would love to get to the point in society where people would know immediately, 'Hey, this guy's personality is one way, but that doesn't mean that he has sexual preferences one way or another.'
I mean, the guy's an alien—what is an alien's sexual orientation? Do we really know? Is he in love with only men? Is he with women? As the season progresses you'll see a spectrum of love and sexuality, but Michael and Alex are definitely deeply in love.
Most sci-fi romance shows seem to be geared toward teens, but this reboot deals with a group of older characters. What is the audience that the show is trying to attract?
Attracting an older audience was definitely a big goal, especially with our characters being in their late 20s and early 30s. We're all grown adults. We have our own jobs; we're cops, a socialite, a mechanic, a scientist, etc. When you're a kid, the stakes just aren't as high, and I think [Carina] wanted to have the characters dealing with real issues that people in that 20s-to-30s range can relate to. In high school it's all about friend cliques and romance and being on the baseball team and all that—and in today's adult world you deal with all of that, but you still have to go to work. We still have that action and drama and romance at a level that I think teens can really respond to, but we also have that maturity to skew towards an older crowd.
What was it like for you to shoot in New Mexico? What were your favorite things about being here?
I loved it. We shot the pilot in Albuquerque, but we shot the rest of the season in Santa Fe at Santa Fe Studios. I think being in Santa Fe and just getting out of LA for a little bit let me step back and appreciate the beautiful sunsets and the beautiful sunrises that New Mexico has to offer. I got to chill out for what felt like the first time in the last six years—the hustle and bustle of LA does not allow you to chill, and trying to get your career popped off as an actor is anything but chill. Santa Fe definitely gave me some peace of mind.
My favorite thing to do probably was to eat—from Jambo Café for dinner to Café Pasqual's for breakfast to Tune Up Café for lunch, going out to eat was one of the few things I did regularly while we were shooting. I really enjoyed the food and the scenery, and people in Santa Fe were very laid-back and friendly. It was easy to feel at home there.