Lily Cowles & Michael Vlamis on the Crazy Fun of ‘Roswell, New Mexico’

From show creator Carina Adly MacKenzie, the new CW series Roswell, New Mexico tells the story of what happens when Liz Ortecho (Jeanine Mason) returns to the town she grew up in, 10 years after the death of her beloved older sister, only to find that her teenage crush, Max Evans (Nathan Parsons), is now a police officer with secrets of his own. When Liz finds herself in a situation where Max reveals to her that he, his sister Isobel (Lily Cowles) and their friend Michael (Michael Vlamis) are actually aliens with otherworldly abilities that they’ve had to keep hidden, the ever-present threat of a government conspiracy could endanger all of their lives.

While at The CW portion of the TCA Press Tour, co-stars Lily Cowles and Michael Vlamis sat down with Collider to talk about their own awareness of the original TV series, which premiered in 1999, why they wanted to sign on for this new spin on the story, playing characters that enjoy getting into a little bit of trouble together, the tension Isobel and Michael have with Liz, what they’ve grown to appreciate about their characters, and their reactions to how things play out this season.

Collider:  I’ve seen the original series, and anytime there’s a reboot, remake or reimagining of a TV series, the initial response is always, “Why? What are they gonna do with it?” So, was that your initial reaction? Did you have any awareness of the original series?

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MICHAEL VLAMIS:  I had some awareness. I definitely knew about it. I knew there was a show, and I knew about the crash. I knew about Katherine Heigl, Shiri Appleby and Colin Hanks ‘cause he went to my college, Chapman University. But when it came down to it, I hadn’t seen all of the season. I felt like I needed to do a little bit of homework, so I read about the show and figured out what Roswell was all about because I didn’t want to deliver the same character that had been delivered before. I wanted to honor the writing and this new spin that we’re bringing to life, and do it in a way that I felt would organically come out of me, as long as I did the research. I didn’t want to emulate anybody, so I did not go back and rewatch.

LILY COWLES:  I was a big fan of the books and of the original series. I grew up on it, so I was excited to be a human in a world where they were remaking Roswell, period. And then, when I got the opportunity to go up for it, I was like, “Oh, my god!,” because Isobel, as a character, is just so fun. She’s great. She’s so juicy. I loved that I got the chance to go up for it, and then I could not believe that I booked it. You feel a responsibility, when there has been an original version and there are fans that are upset about you changing it. I don’t think it’s a case of trying to fix something that’s broken. In my mind, it’s like a composer who writes a piece of music, and then different artists can do their own takes on it. Roswell is a framework that we can paint, in our own way. We can do our own new 2018/2019 take on it. I don’t think anyone is trying to redo it, or that it takes away from what has been made, in any way. It’s just a different version, and we’re welcoming a new generation of people back into a world that we’re lucky enough to be a part of. I loved it, when I went back and rewatched it. It makes me so nostalgic for ‘90s TV. It’s so good, and it has this wonderful tone to it. I think of shows like Buffy, that were funny and exciting and serious, but they had their own campiness that they embraced and they were so good at it. That’s what I’m hoping we can be. It’s such a fun little universe to step into.

VLAMIS:  And it gets serious. A lot of the time, we’re just having fun and not taking it too serious, even when we’re poaching on Jeanine [Mason], like in the diner scene in Episode 2. It’s fun. We know that we’re trying to make people laugh, at times, even though it’s a dramatic show.

COWLES:  We’re so lucky ‘cause our characters get up to naughty stuff together. I think about that scene in Jurassic Park when Evelyn is being chased and cornered by the raptors, and then the T. Rex comes in and the raptors are like, “Uh-oh.” We’re the raptors, chasing down Liz.

VLAMIS:  Lily wrote a whole journal. She journaled that entire scene, and I was like, “Man, maybe I should have done more homework.”

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I especially love that these characters are 10 years older because they have real adult issues and problems that are easy to relate to.

COWLES:  Yeah, and the stakes are so much higher because they’re older. They all have these lives that are coming together. Isobel is married and Max has a job, and we don’t really know what Michael does.

VLAMIS:  He works on cars. Maybe he’s making drugs in the trailer.

COWLES:  He’s got all of his plans. 

VLAMIS:  A big thing that (showrunner) Carina [Adly MacKenzie] and I spoke about was that, a lot of what happens when you’re a kid or you’re in high school, with all of the petty drama, exists in the adult world, but the stakes are much higher because you have to maintain a job and a relationship with your family. When you’re a kid, that stuff doesn’t matter. It matters, but not to the same extent. Carina was never gonna make us younger. She was always gonna skew us up because it’s just more important. There’s more at stake.

How much tension will there continue to be between Isobel, Michael and Liz? Will they ever get to a point where they could actually see her as an ally?

VLAMIS:  That’s a great question.

COWLES:  It gets so intense. My sister watched the first two episodes and she was like, “Lily, this just went from zero to 100 in two episodes. How many more episodes do you have?” The writers do a phenomenal job of maintaining that tension and building on it. It gets tighter and tighter. There’s gonna be some massive conflict. It’s gonna get worse before it gets better, that’s for sure.

VLAMIS:  I would just say that all worlds in this show collide, all characters collide, and everything gets answered, which is really exciting.

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What have you grown to appreciate about your character, after playing them for a season?

VLAMIS:  Just how vulnerable my character is. I brought a lot of that to my original audition for the show because of the headspace I was in, at the time. A lot of guys could play this character as just that stoic cowboy with machismo, but there’s way more to him than that. As the season progresses, Michael Guerin is more comfortable with letting his guard down a little bit. The guy’s still always ready for a fight, but he just gets tired of secrets, and tired of hiding and running. It’s been the most fun for me to shed that and show those layers, as the season has progressed.

COWLES:  I loved watching Michael ‘cause you get the sense that he’s the bad boy and the rogue, but he’s actually got the best heart out of all of them. He’s a bad boy, but a good man. It’s beautiful. It was really cool to watch that happen.  It’s so easy to look at someone like Isobel and just be like, “Oh, she’s a mean girl,” but for me, discovering all of the different layers and shades within her was so fun and exciting. The writers started writing me really funny stuff. You see a lot of her as an ice queen, which I love playing because it’s so much fun to be able to exercise and flex that muscle and just slay people, since I don’t feel like I can do that in normal life, but then you realize that it’s coming out of a place of self-protection and self-preservation. I miss Isobel, every day. It breaks my heart, I love this character so much. For an alien, she has a tremendous amount of humanity.

Since you guys know how the season plays out, what was your reaction to learning the answers, and how do you think viewers will react?

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COWLES:  Oh, my god!

VLAMIS:  I could not believe the stuff that we got to do, as the season progressed. It really does just get insane.

COWLES:  It gets so fun.

VLAMIS:  I kept getting to use my powers more and more, too, which was so much fun. Maybe mid-way through shooting, we heard the season was gonna end a certain way, but even we were like, “How the hell are they gonna get there?” And they got there, in a way that made sense and that I think was really special. Unless it really pertained to our character and we needed it for performance reasons, they didn’t bring us into the office and tell us what was gonna happen.

COWLES:  Every time that I would receive a script, they’d send it over late at night and I’d wake up in the morning and be like, “There’s a new script!,” and I’d go downstairs and be like, “Oh, my god! Okay, it’s gonna be fine. No matter what’s in there, you’re gonna be fine.” And I’d have to take a couple deep breaths before opening the first page. Every time we’d get a new script, we knew some crazy shit was about to go down. It was amazing to watch the writers do that. Every time you thought you had a sense of where things were going, you’d realize that was just what they wanted you to think.

Have you already tried to get Season 2 hints out of the writers?

VLAMIS:  I have no idea where it would go next.

COWLES:  I’m just praying for Season 2. I’ll take it however it comes.

VLAMIS:  I didn’t even see where this season was going, and it worked so well. We’re like, “Okay, what have you got up your sleeve for next season, Carina?”

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