Roswell raises teen alienation to cosmic proportions

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“So, in that sense there’s a comparison, but when you take in the age factor and all the rest of it — high school — it’s got a little different twist on it.”

That twist revolves around an infamous 1947 UFO crash in Roswell, N.M., where teen aliens Michael (Fehr, 21), Max (Jason Behr, 25) and Isabel (Katherine Heigl, 20) live with their adoptive human families.

It appears that after an incredibly long gestation period, they were born in human form and found wandering in the desert as children. And despite a few personal quirks — they have an insatiable thirst for Tabasco Sauce — and some convenient superpowers, the trio blend in with their high school crowd.

But the jig is up when Max falls for a human named Liz (Shiri Appleby) and gives her life-restoring treatment after a shooting at her father’s alien-themed restaurant, the Crashdown Cafe. When the local sheriff becomes suspicious, the aliens and Liz join forces to throw him off their trail and in the process discover that a fourth, and possibly evil, alien also survived the crash.

Fehr, 21, says the teens will be on a continuing quest to find that alien and discover where they came from. And along the way, they’ll have smaller adventures in which their unusual talents will come into play.

“In the next bit we find out a little bit more about my powers, which I don’t want to reveal, but it’s a very interesting twist on it. I think it’s very appropriate for the character and I think the audience will really kind of go, ‘Aah, that was a really smart move.’ ”

The series, which also airs on WGN Ch. 68 Wednesdays at 8 p.m., is executive produced by Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation), who appears in the pilot as a guest speaker at a UFO convention. It was originally created for Fox but moved to teen-friendly netlet The WB, also home to Dawson’s Creek and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, when Fox couldn’t fit it into its fall schedule.

Loosely based on the Roswell High books by Melinda Metz, the series takes the teen alienation theme to the ultimate degree, but that’s one aspect of the show Fehr says he doesn’t relate to in real life. A graduate of Winnipeg’s Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute, he says he always felt he fit in with his high school crowd.

“I did not feel alienated. In high school we didn’t have really popular groups. I mean, every high school’s got groups and cliques and the rest of it, and in a lot of high schools some are more popular, some are less popular. But in ours … everybody knew everybody and everybody was friends. It was really great in that sense.”

As a teen growing up in North Kildonan, Fehr, who now lives in L.A. with his rottweiler Opa, modelled for local flyers and catalogues.

During a trip to visit his father and attend a wedding in Vancouver in 1997, he snagged a guest role on the series Breaker High and later worked with Roswell co-executive producer David Nutter on the feature film Disturbing Behaviour.

When Roswell came up, Nutter remembered him and he was the first actor cast last September. Fehr says he tried out for the roles of both Max and Michael but felt the edgier “rebel with a cause,” Michael was more suited to his look and style.

His co-star Jason Behr says he’s like to take a cast trip to Roswell, N.M., to scope out the alien scene, but Fehr says it doesn’t matter to him if the truth is out there or not.

“I wouldn’t say it’s arrogant to say we’re the only life form on the planet. In that sense I don’t agree with a lot of people, because we may be,” he says.

“I don’t really care whether they exist. I think it makes life more interesting if you believe that there’s that possibility.”