Roswell, New Mexico star Jeanine Mason talks broken hearts and a ‘brazen’ season 2

The CW’s hit reboot Roswell, New Mexico is back for a second season on The CW. We talk with star Jeanine Mason about her life and what’s in store for season 2.

It’s been a whirlwind of a past decade for Miami, Florida, native Jeanine Mason. During the fifth season of the Fox network reality competition So You Think You Can Dance? she became, at age 18, the youngest person to date to win the show. It was a move that gave her confidence to head into scripted television.

Starting with guest roles on such series as Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush and CBS’ CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, NCIS: Los Angeles and Criminal Minds, Jeanine moved onto recurring roles on such high-profile shows as ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy from 2017-2018, and last year, landed her first series lead in The CW’s hit sci-fi romantic drama Roswell, New Mexico.

In the series, Jeanine plays biomedical researcher Liz Ortecho, who 10 years after leaving Roswell, New Mexico, following the tragic death of her sister, Rosa (Amber Midthunder), returns to her hometown and begins a close relationship with her high school crush, Max (Nathan Parsons). After Max revives Liz following a shooting, Liz discovers Max is actually an alien who survived the legendary alien spacecraft crash in Roswell in 1947. Life becomes complicated very quickly for the two, culminating with a selfless act in the season 1’s finale where Max makes the ultimate sacrifice and brings Rosa back from the dead.

FanSided (Tim Lammers): Life has changed considerably for people lately, even in the last week with the threat of the coronavirus. But at least you can take comfort in knowing that with the new season of Roswell, New Mexico, you’re providing an escape for people, and that’s a good thing for these times.

Jeanine Mason: Oh, gosh. Absolutely. I feel that it’s something that we always say we’re excited about being a part of, being able to get people to a place to lift their spirits and disconnect for a second, but it was pretty overwhelming this morning when I posted on my Instagram, saying I was going to be taking over the Roswell, New Mexico Instagram account. The number of messages I got saying, “I need this tonight” makes me feel so good to have this show in the can and ready to share.

So, it’s been 10 years, 11, since you won So You Think You Can Dance? Surely a day doesn’t go by – especially now, playing the lead on Roswell, New Mexico – where you don’t say to yourself, “I still can’t believe I’m here!”

Absolutely. My plan was to always be an actor, and the definition of an actor to me was that of an MGM actor, which was one that did everything: who could dance, who could sing and who could use any part of their instrument to perform and inform the character. But still, it’s an insane thing to be in a position to be No. 1 on a call sheet, especially when you’re a woman and 29 – I was 26 when I booked this job – and being a Latina. I think there are four Latinas in leads in network series. I’m so grateful that it’s come together now. This show is my seventh network pilot, too, so I was just in the routine of not being picked up (laughs). That adds to my disbelief as well. I’m enjoying every step of this. I don’t take anything for granted. I found out earlier this year that we were picked up for a third season and I was, like, “Oh, my God. Season 3. I’m still amazed that we made it from pilot to episode 2 of season 1.” It’s a pretty heavy feat, these years on the show.

And you did not forget where you came from. In season 1, where you got to bust a move here and there. Was that a conscious decision by the directors on the show to say, “Hey, let’s have Jeanine show off her dancing talents here”?

I think it was sort of a cheeky thing that everybody was trying to find a way to wedge in some dancing (laughs), but always finding a way to do it to honor the tone of the show. I was honestly thrilled that they did. I feel like it’s this superpower where I’m at the Crashdown Café and have my dancer on. It’s really fun. Especially in the pilot, where Liz is boogying by the jukebox. It’s been a lot of fun seeing the number of memes and gifs sent to me by friends.

You mention how important it was to have dancing part of who you are as an actor. Do your sensibilities as a dancer enter into your acting? Having a sense of rhythm must come into play somewhat.

Absolutely it does. Musicality is in everything, especially when it comes to storytelling and especially in comedy. As for Roswell, New Mexico, we use a lot of comedy to cope with the heavy themes that are a part of season 2. That’s very satisfying to me. It’s easy for me because of my dance background to approach a scene and go, “OK, the rhythm of the scene is, ‘Tension, tension, tension, release.’ It’s fun to do that physically, to feel that in the body, which not a lot of actors can access easily. So, the dance background is something that I love using.

Regarding season 2 of Roswell, New Mexico: It would have been cruel not to bring the show back, especially given the big cliffhangers at the end of season 1 – the tragedy surrounding Max and the resurrection of Rosa. How much can you discuss about the beginning of season 2?

There isn’t a lot of closure in the first episode. The truth remains that Max is dead and Rosa is alive.

There isn’t a lot of closure in the first episode. The truth remains that Max is dead and Rosa is alive, so I think there are going to be a lot of broken hearts when everybody finds out in episode 1 that that is the truth and it isn’t magically fixed … which is how it happened in season 1, when Max magically saves Liz. But Liz is just a human and her superpower is her brain and science, and as we know, using that is a slow process. It’s going to be a lot of trial and error, as she recruits everyone. It feels like a Scooby Doo gang – and I loved Scooby Doo growing up – so it was a lot of fun getting people together to try to find a way to make this impossible thing happen.

You know what fans are hoping for, but is there something in this season that fans won’t see coming?

Oh, yes. I think fans are going to be impressed with our brazenness and committing to some stuff that I don’t think most shows feel confident enough to commit to. I think the reason we can do that is, if you love these characters so much, you’re going to want to see them through stuff that’s very difficult. So, there are definitely situations that happen that complicate things, and the scenes really start to unravel toward this big secret in a really small town. The enormity of it, compared to how small the secret was in season 1, is too big to hide. It’s pretty crazy.

The show has what it takes to be a success on its sci-fi storyline alone, but then you have the mystery, the drama and the romance. It must have been a thrill for you to get the opportunity to be part of such a well-rounded show. Yes, the show is science fiction at its core, but it can’t be just defined as science fiction.

That’s what I love about the show. It’s a show about these people in their late 20s or early 30s who have lived and have opinions, and who have trauma and responsibilities. It’s fun because we’re not in a superhero setting where things can be fixed relatively easily for so many of our characters because they’re just humans. That is always so fun to play with.

And surely that’s why the show got this second season with a third on the way. Viewers are investing themselves into it because any good show defined by some sort of genre still has to be rooted in some sort of honesty, some sort of truth and some sort of relatability.

Our show is about “otherness” and we don’t approach that from a space of super-macro, but a very micro space.

Absolutely. Our show is about “otherness” and we don’t approach that from a space of super-macro, but a very micro space. We ask ourselves, “How do we as humans in the most personal ways, in the most vulnerable ways, feel other?” The metaphors and the similarities grow bigger and bigger in terms of otherness, but at that end of the day, our show exists in the growth of our characters. They are adults who are facing adult things. Everybody’s journey is full in that way.

Certainly, you’ve been asked about your thoughts about aliens and UFOs, probably in every single interview. But what were your thoughts about them going in and was there something in the plot of Roswell, New Mexico, that altered those beliefs one way or the other?

I feel like I’ve always believed, have been curious and daydreamed about, but making this show and connecting with the alien-enthusiast community makes it even more fascinating. Meeting with them and authors on the subject, I’m just more and more convinced that there’s something more out there.