Teen Alien – Jason Behr talks about being Max

From Starlog magazine, March 2000, #272,
pages 84-87, contributed by MyrnaLynne

Teen Alien {Jason Behr Talks about Being Max!!},
by Ian Spelling

Photo Captions: �Here�s Jason Behr�s secret: He feels alienated at Roswell High.�

�Roswell�s Max Evans (Jason Behr) and Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) share a bond-after all, he saved her life-but they also share a secret: Liz is human. Max, an alien.�

�Though Max shares his alienness with sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and friend Michael (Brendan Fehr), they are still Roswell�s distinct minority.�

�Star-crossed passion. Max feels love, but he won�t pursue a romance. �How can he really get together with Liz?� noted Behr. �He doesn�t know himself.� �

�E.T. trials. The dynamic between the humans (including Majandra Delfino, left) and the aliens is one of the things that makes Roswell so successful.�

�Are they among us? Behr doesn�t know from aliens, but about great co-stars, he�s quite effusive. �These actors,� he says, �are giving, honest and willing.� �

Quotes: �The more the relationship evolves, the more difficult the decision becomes.�

�I looked like an alien Elvis.�

* * *
Jason Behr has just wrapped a long, long day on the set of Roswell. The young actor has been immersed in the episode �The Toy House� and in his character, Max Evans, for nearly 12 hours. So maybe he knows what�s going on. Maybe, just maybe, he can answer the questions that are mercilessly killing off the precious brain cells of many a Roswell fan: Are Max, his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl), and their good friend Michael (Brendan Fehr) actually the aliens that crash-landed in Roswell? Or are they the descendants of those aliens? Oh, yeah, and do the aliens, whatever they are, age?

Behr, sitting in his trailer, smiles.

�That�s the beauty of the story,� he explains. �It�s the wonder of Roswell.�

Yeah, yeah. And the answer is�?

��We don�t know,� he finally says. �As an actor playing this character who is completely clueless about what�s going on, it�s OK for me not to know. As the scripts come in, as I learn more about Max and where it is he comes from, it�s fine not to know for sure because it�s new information for everyone. I�m finding out about the character pretty much at the same time the audience is, and that�s the case for all of us in the cast. It�s a little cryptic, and I think that�s good. You can�t tell the whole story too soon, because then you don�t experience it as it happens. What we do know is that the three aliens believe that they�re from this 1947 crash. They don�t know if they�re descendants of aliens on the ship or whether they were on the ship.�

�Do they age? It seems as if they do. They�ve been in human form since they broke out of their pods, and they have aged in regular human time. But how long do they live? I don�t know. And that�s great. We do not know. At any moment, things can change. I guess the moral of the story would be to live every day as if it�s the last.�

HUMAN PURSUITS

Of course, Max, Isabel and Michael live each day in fear for their lives. If they�re not being pursued by the dogged Sheriff Valenti (William Sadler, page 78), then they�re praying that Max�s simmering relationship with Liz (Shiri Appleby), whom he saved in the series pilot by using his E.T.-like healing powers, doesn�t leave them vulnerable to discovery. And if the Max-Liz union doesn�t blow their cover, there�s always the possibility that Maria (Majandra Delfino) might run off at the mouth in the wrong place at the wrong time. To date, Roswell has done an exemplary job of mixing it up, of exploring personal relationships and delivering a compelling combination of SF, thrills, suspense and romantic longing.

Behr, who spoke briefly about Roswell in SCI-FI TV #8 {another Starlog publication}, believes that the show has made considerable strides since the pilot aired on the WB in fall 1999 to strong reviews and impressive ratings. �The first episode didn�t utilize all of the characters,� he notes. �It had one main story and that was the one about Liz and Max becoming aware of each other in this new light. Because we know that we have a season ahead of us, we�ve been able to pick different characters and try to explore their personalities, emotions and relationships. In the second episode [�The Morning After�], we really got to know Michael a lot more than we did in the pilot. We explore his feelings, what his motivations are, where he�s coming from. We know he has a foster family, that he doesn�t think his life in Roswell is so great. So, he has more of a motive to leave Roswell, to want to go elsewhere, than the others.

�Then, in �Monsters,� we got a chance to see Maria, her paranoia, how she sees us. I thought her dream sequence was interesting. It was a very telling way to get her perceptions of us. She sees us as these monsters. So, what I like most about the way the show has evolved is that we�ve been able to explore individual characters from episode to episode. Now that we�ve gotten to know most of the main characters pretty well, we can go ahead and tell stories. And the words, all the inflections and all the little looks means so much more at this point, because the audience knows the characters, knows more about them. As characters, we�re constantly searching to find out more about our past, about where we came from. In searching for that past, we might actually find a different kind of future. So, the more we care about them, the more interesting their search is.�

TEEN TROUBLES

At this point, about a dozen episodes into Roswell, we know that Max, who works, ironically enough, in a UFO museum, is a terribly conflicted young man/alien. He�s frustrated and confused as to what�s the right choice to make when it comes to Liz. And he�s worried that what might be right for him may not be right for Isabel and Michael. �He�s very aware of other people�s emotions and feelings, and he tries to take them into account,� comments Behr, who considers the �Route 285� – �River Dog� two-parter the show�s best outing to date. �He knows that Michael does not want to be in Roswell anymore, that he�s the one most actively seeking the truth. Max understands that. Max knows that his sister is the polar opposite. She likes her life in Roswell. Although she might have a tough exterior, she�s a very sweet and loving person. She just tries to put up this facade and not let anyone else in, but she really does like Roswell. So, she doesn�t necessarily want to know the truth, though some part of her probably does.�

�Max is stuck somewhere in the middle. He�s in love with Liz, this girl he knows he can never be with because they�re just so different. He doesn�t know enough about who he is to allow himself to move forward, honestly, in a relationship. If he doesn�t know himself, doesn�t know his own capabilities, where he�s from, what emotions he�s capable of, or what physical things he is or isn�t able to do, how can he really get together with Liz? Procreation? How do you do that? There are questions hanging in the air and, hopefully, we�ll answer them all over time. There�s actually a lot I would like to explore. There�s a great deal just in that conflict about his relationship with Liz that interests me. If he allows himself to love, where does that put him? He opens himself up to vulnerability. If, in fact, Michael, Isabel and I are exposed, and we had to leave Roswell, I would now have to leave behind one more person I really, really care about. The more the relationship evolves, the more difficult the decision becomes.�

�Also, if we do find the truth, if somewhere down the line we do find out where we came from and possibly even how to get back to our home, how does Max leave not only his family, but also Liz, this woman he has come to love in a different way than he has ever gotten to experience? I think that Max realizes that the closer he gets to the truth, the closer he is to losing her and the more uncertain his future is in Roswell.�

�For me as an actor, it�s a challenge,� Behr continues. �For a while, it wasn�t that Max was stagnant, but he was not really actively looking for the truth or pursuing the relationship. He was just kind of sitting there. Lately, they�ve allowed Max to become a little more proactive and to actually do something. Mostly, Michael has had that proactive feeling about him. He has gone out and done something about it. Max, for a while, sat there conflicted about everything. Finally, he realized that he can�t do that. And he made the decision: �You know what? I do want to know about my past. I do want to know where I came from. When it�s time to make decisions, I�ll make them then, but right know I need to know.� �

Making most of the behind-the-scenes decision on Roswell is the tandem of David Nutter and Jason Katims, both of whom serve as the series� executive producers. Nutter, of course, if the X-Files veteran who has directed several episodes (Starlog #268), while Katims is the former My-So-Called Life producer-scribe who oversees the writing. �David is the heart and soul of Roswell,� raves Behr. �He�s one of the most gifted and brilliant men I�ve ever worked with. He has a heart of gold. He really, really cares about you. He cares about this show. And you can tell that, just by talking to him. He�s so passionate about Roswell. Jason is the brains behind it all. He has a wonderful knack for writing situations that are honest, that are real. What he does helps me understand everything, so that I can try to do my best with it. I don�t know where the show would be without him. The premise is such that Roswell could be made in a very bad way. It�s a good combination of people, David and Jason.�

Behr speaks of his co-stars with enthusiasm. �We were very lucky to get the people we got for this show,� he notes. �These actors are giving, honest and willing to work hard. If we�ve backed ourselves into a wall somehow, everybody is willing to work it out in order to make the show as good as it can be. And they�re all good people, too, so I feel very lucky.�

ALIEN ENDEAVORS

Tomorrow, Behr will be back on the set with his fellow actors, but chances are that nothing for along while on Roswell will compare with his strangest day yet. The day unfolded a few months back, during production on the episode �Monsters,� which featured a rather memorable-to watch and to shoot-dream sequence. �They dressed me up in this horribly cheesy green jumpsuit, painted my face green and put this really nasty wig on me,� Behr says, shaking his head at the memory. ��I looked like an alien Elvis. Then, they gave me these really cool alien eyes. I guess it worked out in the end, because it was all about how Maria saw us. She�s a little quirky, a little abstract, so she projected her personality onto her dreams of us.�

�It made sense that her visions of us were a little left of center. I had to sit in this costume all day. Everything I touched in my trailer became GREEN. For the longest time, I just sat there in my chair and didn�t move, didn�t touch anything. By the day�s end, I was so sick of it, so sick of doing nothing, that I was using my phone, touching things on purpose and reading scripts. By the time I went home that night, I had green palm prints everywhere.�

As the interview nears its end, Behr contemplates both his current good fortune and the impact of Roswell on his present and future. After all, every actor years to latch on to a hit series that can then, potentially, serve as a springboard to even bigger and better things. Doors often slammed in an actor�s face suddenly open with ease. Yet, except for that tiny window of opportunity called hiatus, actors on TV shows rarely have time to maximize their newfound star power. An actor, in a sense, can be trapped by the very vehicle that raised his profile in the first place. Then there�s the loss of privacy and the crazy hours spent filming a show, not to mention the time and energy that�s spent promoting it and one�s self.

Behr listens to the bittersweet scenario and nods his head in agreement. He can, no doubt, relate to much of the above, but he�s not looking for anyone to shed tears over his plight. �You wait, you starve and you try really hard to get work,� Jason Behr concludes. �And once you get work, you long for free time, just to take breath every now and then. But it gives you such opportunities. It does open doors. You just have to find a way to make it work, to make the vehicle work. Right now, though, it�s all about the story and the people that you work with, at least that�s what it is for me. If it�s not interesting and fun, it�s not worth doing. If you can�t tell a good story and tell it as well as you can-and in the process enjoy who you�re with and where you are-it�s not worth doing.

�So far, Roswell has been a treat. Hopefully, whatever project I take on next, whenever that is, will be with people I think are interesting and, hopefully, it will have an interesting story.�

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