‘Roswell, New Mexico’ – Jeanine Mason Interview on Her Starring Role in the New Series

The CW will premiere the new sci-fi drama Roswell, New Mexico starring Jeanine Mason and Nathan Dean Parsons on Tuesday, January 15, 2019 at 9pm ET/PT. The series slips into the network’s primetime lineup in the timeslot immediately following The Flash. That spot was occupied this season by Black Lightning which will move to Mondays at 9pm, after Arrow, beginning January 21st.

Roswell, New Mexico is based on the young adult Roswell High book series by Melinda Metz. The CW’s new show marks the second television adaptation of Metz’s books. Roswell High also inspired the 1999 series Roswell which ran for three seasons and starred Shiri Appleby, Jason Behr, and Katherine Heigl. During our interview at the New York Comic Con, series star Jeanine Mason talked about how this show differs from Roswell, taking on a leading role in the 2019 version, and whether she believes aliens actually exist.

Were you familiar with the original series?

Jeanine Mason: “I was. My older sister watched it and loved it. I went back and watched it. I read some of the book series. I’m a big fan girl at heart so I love anything where I get to be a part of people’s excitement in watching it by finding little Easter eggs and stuff. That was primarily my interest in going back, because it is a different series and different characters. But it was just like, ‘Let’s find moments to have a little homage for the people like my sister who are excited to watch the show because they watched the first one.’”

Can you tell us about your character and how she differs from characters in the original series?

Jeanine Mason: “Yeah. She’s Liz Ortecho so she’s a totally different character. She’s no longer Liz Parker. She’s Mexican American, as she was in the book series. She’s an activist; she’s a scientist. She’s a woman who is ignited, I like to say. She has been away from Roswell for 10 years and she’s come back to take care of her dad, and really just pass through. But she runs into Max Evans and finds out that he’s an alien, and her whole world is just turned upside down.

So, yeah, it’s fun. It’s fun to have a character who is so intelligent and is generally someone who has all the answers.”

How much do you know about your character’s development through the first season?

Jeanine Mason: “That’s been an important thing for me. This is my first time being the lead of a television series so the tracking of it…I come from theatre and I’m used to having all the information. That’s not the case in television. I’ve worked in television a lot but not as the central character. I want to make sure she has a journey and I want to make sure there’s an arc and that our protagonist is learning something. And I will say the wonderful thing with Liz is that as brilliant as she is, she has so much to learn. She is such a closed-off human. She lost her sister 10 years ago and ran away from home. She hasn’t been back. So, she is isolated in a way. She is hard. She, as they like to say, has had a string of lovers but no real connections. And then she’s brought back to a place that’s all emotional, all bringing stuff up.

They’ve been really lovely with me and including me in what’s to come. I’m finding my footing as a number one and going, ‘I want information and I need information because I want this to be better than what we’re used to seeing when it comes to romance shows.’ And, it is. It’s part romance – epic small-town romance – but it’s also a murder mystery. And in that way, I want to honor everything it can be.”

Will it be accessible to an audience who hasn’t seen the original series or read the books?

Jeanine Mason: “Totally. I mean it’s definitely a whole new show, so you don’t need to have watched the original. This show actually honors the book series probably more closely in a sense that the characters are going back to their original names and a lot of the same circumstances. We’re just older.

But in terms of what the show is, I think it’s going to speak to anyone who’s got the propensity to be a fan girl or a fan boy because it’s got a lot to love. The alien thing is fun. It’s kitschy and fun to get behind. We’ve have some writers in the room who that is their world. They go to alien cons. We’re bringing in some real-life occurrences and playing them in our show. It’s also fun in the way that it expands your possibility about that and it’s a murder mystery which I love. I always get hooked on those shows where I’m solving along with the characters. And it’s a romance and it’s fun to watch them try to find each other with this amount of exponential entanglement – like aliens exist in our world – and they’re trying to find each other amongst the circumstances. It’s really fun.”

Roswell, New Mexico Jeanine Mason and Nathan Parsons
Nathan Parsons as Max Evans and Jeanine Mason as Liz Ortecho in ‘Roswell, New Mexico’ (Photo: JSquared Photography © 2018 The CW Network)

Liz sounds really complicated. Was there one particular thing about her you really could sink your teeth into? Like, one aspect that really helped you understand where she was coming from?

Jeanine Mason: “Yeah. I mean, I come from a dance background and I tend to connect to characters physically versus some actors who connect intellectually. Physically, she’s very grounded and her feet are fully planted. She speaks from a full voice and from her full intelligence – far more intelligence than Jeanine Mason pretends to have! (Laughing) I could hook onto that. I could hook onto somebody who doesn’t apologize for an ounce of her existence. So that’s been so fun, especially in light of the fact that this is my first time being a number one.

It’s been fun to be in character who doesn’t sway often, who knows the answers generally. I think it’s encouraged me to really take care of her and really step it up.”

What’s it been like for you being the lead female in a series as a person of color in today’s climate, especially with all the young girls who’ll be watching this?

Jeanine Mason: “What’s amazing is that surrounded by Julie Plec, Carina Adly MacKenzie…we have so many women on the set too that it’s fun to feel like I’m not always aware of it in that way when I’m working because it’s just regular to these people. I came off of a year at glorious Shondaland with Krista Vernoff and Betsy Beers and Shonda herself, and there it’s the norm too so I think I was primed for it. I think it was a gift the way these jobs linked into each other like that because I just don’t take anyone’s sh*t. (Laughing). I just come to work and I’m like, ‘This is how it is and you’re going to hear me because I know.’ And they are like, ‘Yeah, girl, that’s why you’re here because you do know.’

That said, there’s always moments where I have questions and I’m like, ‘Okay, hold on. This is new to me.’ But Nathan is right there with me. We’re leading the show together and he’s got years of experience. It’s good. We take care of each other in that way.

I was talking about how exciting it’s been with all these parts coming out of this push this year for leads, in particular, in network series that are people of color. It’s so exciting to have my photo as one of the like seven of those headers. I take it very seriously and I take portraying Liz Ortecho’s experience very seriously and so does our writers room. We’re working with Define American which is an amazing organization and they work in media only, which is amazing – or primarily. They’re just trying to make sure portrayals of undocumented characters are accurate.

In that way, in the way that Laverne Cox just existed on Orange is the New Black and that Ellen DeGeneres existed on TV, it’s like it doesn’t have to feel precious all the time. It’s just a full example. It’s just a full particular example. That’s what we’re trying to do on this show. I think people are going to see Liz’s family dynamic and be like, ‘This chick is cool and her family loves the hell out of each other.’ They’re trying to run a café which they’ve been running for decades and employ their workers. I hope people just fall in love with them and open up their hearts a little bit.”

On a lighter note, do you believe aliens exist?

Jeanine Mason: “Yes, we all do. We joke around that the casting nailed bringing together the most alien conspiracy/ancient aliens-loving cast of all time. On the pilot there was some kind of weird cloud over Arizona and all the alien websites were like, ‘It’s happening!’ We’re like, ‘Look! Look! Look!’ and sharing it on set. I totally believe that they are out there and probably just watching us. Just like, ‘What are these idiots going to do next?’”