The Return of ‘Roswell’ Offers Deeper Characters

We look at the reboot's ensemble for clues on how the new version could be a lot better.

We look at the reboot’s ensemble for clues on how the new version could be a lot better.

Last October, we heard about the return of the sci-fi drama Roswell and how the forthcoming CW series will feature a slight twist. Where the original series surprisingly made no mention of undocumented immigrants, this one would feature the daughter of two. Now, The Hollywood Reporter has shared an update on the production indicating the cast has finally been filled out.

What can we learn about the new Roswell and how it differs from the old version from the ensemble and the characters they’re playing? Let’s take a look.

For starters, unlike the original series, the new Roswell seems to have zero high school student roles. Liz, now played by Jeanine Mason (Bunheads), is billed as a “jaded biomedical researcher” who is reluctantly returning home. Was she fired over an ethical disagreement with the corporation funding her? In a show about aliens, it’s interesting the main character will be a person trained in biomedical research. Surely that will come up more than once.  

Max (The Originals‘ Nathan Parsons) will be a police officer in the new series. He’s working in his hometown and actively covering up his alien origins. When Liz uncovers his secret, they reconnect and work together to explore his extraterrestrial history. As the series progresses, we’re promised government intrigue and the politics of fear and hatred.

Those politics won’t apply solely to Max, the unwelcome or untrustworthy alien visitor. As the child of immigrants, Liz grew up in a place that wouldn’t recognize her as belonging if they knew her origins. There’s clearly room for the two to walk the line between human connection and scientific curiosity as they work together to explore Max’s origins.

Alex (Pretty Little Liars‘ Tyler Blackburn) is now a US Army sergeant returning home from a deployment. Despite his courage abroad, when he gets home he chooses to try and meet his father’s expectations for his life. In doing so, he gives up on his dreams and a relationship with a man he loves.

Lily Cowles (BrainDead) is playing Isobel, who is better than the small town she’s stuck in. Michael Vlamis (New Girl) is the new Michael, a victim of childhood trauma who wants to escape. And Heather Hemmens (Hellcats) is Liz’s friend Maria, who is too free a spirit to get mired in details. Essentially, the character traits are similar to the original series. But they’re older so a little more lived in. A little more earned.

Aging the characters allows them to have more life experience, and that should anchor the series better. When you have a story featuring high school characters, they’re all so similar. Yes, you’ve got the different cliques and hobbies, but there’s no history yet. There’s no gravity to their choices. In the case of the original series, the alien characters literally came out of pods as blank slates. The cast of characters will now deal with challenging or traumatic experiences that have defined them as people.

While it’s certainly possible to mix teenage melodrama with science fiction — that’s practically every comic book or movie about characters in the X-Men vein — but the original series tried to anchor a serious story about displacement in a will-they/won’t-they crush-so-hard schmaltz. It’s challenging to keep your viewers engaged when they don’t know what to expect.

The reboot’s changes have a deliberate feel to them. The producers seem to be aiming to create an environment with higher and more mature emotional stakes. That’s important. The original Roswell was more faithful to its source material, though. While the differences will be welcomed by some as expanding opportunities for the series, there will certainly be naysayers.

The show is still based on the “Roswell High” series of young adult books by Melinda Metz, but this reboot is altering canon. It’s a big departure. Let’s be straight: fans hate that. They loathe it. It’s a gamble. But it can also be very successful. There’s no certainty the reboot will fare any better with its changes, of course, but it’s nice to see them trying something fresh.

William Dass: Writer for Film School Rejects. He currently lives in Virginia, where he is very proud of his three kids, wife, and projector. Co-Dork on the In The Mouth of Dorkness podcast.