Roswell, New Mexico's Jeanine Mason Celebrates the Show's Political Power
Caitlin Chappell
For two seasons, The CW's Roswell, New Mexico followed the struggles and triumphs that came with Liz Ortecho returning to her hometown. Along with dealing with acts of racism within her community, Liz's life is further sent into chaos after discovering her childhood best friend and his family are actually aliens. As the series progresses, the brilliant scientist not only catches an alien serial killer, but she also helps her resurrected sister, Rosa (Amber Midthunder), adjust to the future and saves the city of Roswell from a bomb threat.
There is no stopping Liz, especially with Roswell, New Mexico Season 3 kicking off July 26. In anticipation of the show's newest season, Liz's actor Jeanine Mason sat with CBR to talk about what's in store this year for her character, including how the show tackles social issues, the importance of Liz's role as a scientist, and how Season 3 isn't afraid to go big or go home.
CBR: Since Season 1, Roswell has tackled a lot of real world social and political issues. For you, why do you think this show is able to address such important topics, alongside the more sci-fi oriented plot points?
Jeanine Mason: First of all, that is the history of sci-fi, and that is why we love sci-fi, to actually be living metaphors for cultural issues, and that was the thing that made me most excited about getting to work in sci-fi with this show. Particularly because it's a show led by a Latin woman, and in 2020, which is when Season 3 happens -- but even in 2018 when we started, the idea to exist as a Latina you can choose to not be political is a farce. Your existence is political. Our existence as women is political. I assume that you identify as a woman?
I do identify as a woman.
So there you go. Our existence is political because our body is on the ballot. So by the nature of this show, being led by a Latin woman, it is a show that is always going to be centered on social issues. Every year, it's fun to see what our writers, what their hearts are yearning to discuss, and what messaging activists they're connected to or that I'm connected to are urging us to put at the forefront of our dialogue in the year. People can definitely expect more of that in Season 3, and even more in Season 4.
roswell new mexico liz
roswell new mexico liz
That's very exciting, and talking a little bit about Season 3 without getting into spoilers... Since this takes place in 2020 and in past seasons we've seen [Roswell] directly address the past presidency and stuff like that -- what social themes can we expect in Season 3?
A big part of our show always is LGBTQ+ social issues, and we had trans woman in Season 2. Is that Season 2?
What I love about our show is it's in everything. Sometimes it's something where someone's just existing. By nature of that not being the reality as often as it should be on television, it is a protest. And then sometimes we're more explicit, and we find other things to nail some messaging with, and then other things we present questions and present both sides. That's the best kind of TV. I think we do a great job of that, especially with our LGBTQ+ characters. I love Alex the most, so I was thrilled to see what Alex is navigating, particularly in his journey as a war veteran.
I think this year for Liz it relates to work, which I thought was super fun. She's working for a giant corporation, and she is brilliant, and her contributions to this corporation are significant. She is doing them on the promise that this corporation's morality lines up with her own, and that all of her contributions and brilliance will then be brought directly to her community and affect positive change in her community. Oftentimes, we are finding that people of color, marginalized people who're thriving at their jobs, in journalism, and in everything, that when they get to a point where they're like, I'm getting to actually speak with a real platform or develop a drug that is going to save lives, but I don't work for a company that cares to do that first, that cares to put what they report to be a priority actually as their number one priority.
It's devastating because then you get people having to make the decision and not have all the resources they could benefit from with these big corporations, and that's absolutely something that Liz is navigating off the top of the season for sure, and Genoryx does become a big presence in Season 3. I thought it was a brilliant way to, first of all, honor her Latina, but also honor that she's a scientist, and especially after a pandemic, where we got to honor that she's a scientist, and what's something that a Latina scientist actually faces in her workplace, and this is maybe not the first thing people would guess, but we found it's very pressing.
roswell liz
roswell liz
Speaking about Liz and her role as a Latina scientist, there was one line that really stood out to me in Season 2, which was, "This isn't what the world teaches girls like me to dream." I wanted to know, for you, what makes Liz such an important character, and what's it like playing such a badass protagonist?
I love it! Thank you! I think, to be honest, the amazing thing about Liz is that this book series that this is all based on, Roswell High, her name is Liz Ortecho; she's Latina. Not long ago, the original [television] series aired, and the decision was made to make that character white, and listen, Shiri Appleby, I'm her biggest fan. It is not a reflection on the actors at all. It's just a reflection on what we prioritize in our culture as the things we were going to consume, and we can love that series, and we can acknowledge the brilliant work that so many people... like a cult following my god! Brilliant! But we could also go, "That wasn't that long ago." And now you're getting to do this show, and we're going to honor what was originally the intention with this character.
Sometimes I forget because we're all making such a conscious effort to talk about our representation and do better, but the problem with that is it becomes commonplace for some people, and then I have moments where I have to remember it's been such a short amount of time. I've been acting now for 10 years, as a professional, and when I think about what my pilot seasons looked like, those first five years, and the kind of roles I was going up for, I never, ever would have thought this job would be coming when it's coming. The jump was fast, but the awareness was fast.
But that doesn't mean that as much as we are trying to normalize it, absolutely stoked to celebrate it, because it's huge milestones. So I'm trying to really be bold in what I advocate for, being included in this woman's journey on this show, and being honored and respected and fully fleshed out. So the next time it happens, it's like, "Oh, right! We have heard Jeanine talk about how her room should be a reflection of a young, Mexican woman, so it's not weird that we're setting aside extra funds to get the real products from Cuba for this Cuban character to have in her room." Whatever it is, little things like that.
roswell new mexico liz
roswell new mexico liz
What are you most excited for audiences to see in Season 3?
Oh, man! I think it's like a real dynamic season. I think the beauty of a Season 3 is you're getting to get away with murder because season threes don't get handed out all that often anymore. We really took it as an opportunity to totally escalate their growth. All of the characters. To go, "Okay, let's confront some stuff that's been holding us back, that they themselves have not even been aware of." So it's a real big metaphor for marrying themselves.
The Jones and Max (Nathan Parsons) of it all is an actual sci-fi literal metaphor that all of the characters are going through, of them shedding what they have not acknowledged that's not servicing them for a long time. The characters end in a very different place and in a place that allows them to expand into stuff for some characters like Kyle (Michael Trevino) for example is more playful and romantic by the end of the season, which I loved for him.
And the other thing is, partially as a result of the COVID protocol, we just went full out with the alien explosions and gags and tricks and effects and stunts. Our stunt team, god bless them, they were just on overtime. The last episode of the season's insane. I think a majority of the cast had body doubles there, and even with the most incredible, competent stunt doubles, I still manage every year for the finale to have my knees all cut up. I just can't help but be, "Let me do a couple of takes." And I am no hero. Leave it to the professionals. Let them do their thing. But we really upped the ante on all that stuff this year, so it's really dynamic. You're gonna love that.
There seems to be plenty to be excited about for Season 3 of Roswell, New Mexico, with its first episode airing Monday, July 26 8/7c on the CW.