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The CW’s upcoming reboot of Roswell will be firmly rooted in the political reality of 2018 and will deal heavily with the climate of fear and bigotry around immigration.
“I wanted to make sure there was a reason to reboot it, and that it felt very grounded in 2018 and what we are dealing with presently, because the original show is available on Hulu and it’s really great,” creator and executive producer Carina Adly Mackenzie said Saturday at a New York Comic Con panel for Roswell, New Mexico. “There wasn’t a reason to update it unless we made it really current, and I think one of the important things I wanted to do was … take Liz Parker back to Liz Ortecho, and create a show with a Latina lead and a really diverse cast.”
The panel followed the world-premiere screening of the show’s atmospheric pilot, which drew an enthusiastic response from the audience. Leads Jeanine Mason and Nathan Parsons’ charisma and chemistry was instantly evident, as was the show’s emphasis on political commentary. In one early scene together, Liz Ortecho (Mason) and Max Evans (Parsons), who is a police officer, discuss the recent crime spike in Roswell and the way it’s being spun by authorities.
“Suits want to blame the undocumented,” he says, “but tearing families apart? That’s not why I joined the police force.” During the same conversation, Liz notes that a scientific study she was involved with had its funding cut, because “someone needed money for a wall.”
“I grew up on The WB and I loved everything about every single show on the network in 1999, but they were really, really, really white,” MacKenzie said. “I wanted to change that, and to cast people of color and tell stories about their experiences, because we’re talking about aliens here, we’re talking about people who feel other, who feel like they don’t have a community. We wanted to play with the metaphor of the aliens, but talk about what it feels like to be an actual human being existing in a small town in a border state in 2018.”
Shiri Appleby, who starred as Liz Parker in the original series, will direct an episode of Roswell, New Mexico. The new show centers on Liz, who returns to her hometown of Roswell after more than a decade away. She reconnects with her high school crush Max, who has spent his entire life hiding the fact that he’s an alien with superhuman abilities. From the very first scene of the pilot, bigotry and anti-immigrant sentiment emerge as major themes.
The diversity effort continues behind the camera, according to executive producer Julie Plec. “There is a barrier to entry [in this industry], which we as people of privilege don’t necessarily see,” she said. “Sometimes we need to lift that barrier and crate opportunity and be committed to making that opportunity. We are trying to do as much as we can to make our shows look and sound and feel like the world.”
Noted MacKenzie, “There are seven white executive producers on this show, so we really made an effort to counteract that in the writers room.” She added that the writers and producers also take direction from their diverse cast. “We listen to Jeanine when she has an opinion, whether it’s what she’s wearing, the way her bedroom is decorated, Jeanine makes sure to bring an authentic to the role, and we listen to her.”
While the show will be markedly different from the original, MacKenzie is aware that “we’re venturing into territory that means a lot to a lot of people, and I don’t take it lightly.” The first season will encompass some Easter eggs and references designed to please longtime fans, she said. “We shot a prom scene the other night, and there may or may not have been a mention of Tess,” she teased.
Roswell, New Mexico is set for a midseason premiere on The CW.
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