I want to thank everyone who sent in questions for the Q&A with Roswell co-executive producer and writer Ronald D. Moore. The response was overwhelming and there is not enough room to mention all the names of people who contributed. I also want to thank Ron for taking the time to answer our questions and having me over to take a few photos. Ron wrote the second episode of this season, entitled “Ask Not” and he’s currently working on episode 9.
Ron in his Roswell office
How did you get involved with the writing on Roswell? Had you seen the show before you joined the writing team?
When my agents first approached me about the show last spring, I’d never seen any of the episodes. They sent me a half dozen shows and as I watched them I slowly started getting hooked. There was something about the characters that I found both endearing and compelling on a very human level. The world of Roswell seemed unique and yet accessible to me as a viewer and as a writer I began to see possibilities and opportunities that I felt would be interesting to explore. After watching the tapes, I met with Jason Katims and we spent a couple of hours talking about the show, the direction of the next season, and more generally talked about the way we liked to work. We hit it off and both felt like this would be a good fit for each of us.
What are your thoughts on the first season of Roswell? Did any episode stand out for you, and were there any you didn’t particularly like?
I loved the pilot. It set up the series perfectly and brought me right into the show. I also liked “Convention” “Max to the Max” “Foursquare” and “Destiny” in particular.
Was it hard to find ways to create a new sci-fi edge for Roswell without destroying the romance and the relationships that first captured audiences?
Not really. To me, the sci-fi elements go hand in hand with the character relationships. If you don’t care about the characters and what’s happening to them, the sci-fi stuff will just lie there.
What’s the best way for a fan to help promote the show so it gets picked up for the rest of the season?
It’s all a numbers game. Tell your friends, tell your family, tell your local media, tell everyone you can possibly get to listen that they should give the show a look this season.
Are you worried that by changing the direction of the show you will lose fans and get lower ratings?
Let me be very clear about this: We are not radically changing the direction of the show. The series is progressing from where it left off in “Destiny.” Neither I nor Jason felt that this is a show in trouble or in need of a major overhaul. I think you’ll see that we’ve found a nice balance between the science fiction aspects of the series and the underlying character relationships and that the show has found it’s voice and it’s own way of telling stories.
In creating the alien mythology, will any attempt be made to review earlier episodes and link occurrences from those episodes to events in the new season?
We’re all aware of the existing mythology and we’re making a concerted effort to tie everything together. The continuity on this series is very tight, much tighter than anything we did at Trek.
Who is your favorite Roswell character and why?
I’m still in love with all of them. But I will say that I find the Liz/Max relationship to be the heart and soul of the series. I think that both Shiri Appleby and Jason Behr are tremendous talents and I never get tired of watching them on camera.
With a greater sci-fi focus in the second season, will Liz’s delightful journal entries and voice-overs that tie everything together be lost?
The diary was pretty much phased out by the end of the first season, and I don’t think we’ll be using it again this year.
I have heard that you should never send a “Roswell” spec script to the “Roswell” producers, but instead send a spec script about another show, such as “Buffy”. However, I heard that you got on with “Star Trek” after writing a spec script specifically for “Star Trek”. Is this true? Which course of action do you recommend?
Trek was a whole different ballgame. It was a very specific series and we wanted to see if a potential writer knew and understood the gigantic universe that had been created over three decades. On Roswell, we’re more interested in finding writers who can both find the voice of the show and at the same time have an interesting and unique voice of their own to add to the show. However, unlike Star Trek, Roswell is not open to unsolicited script submissions, so you’ll have to have an accredited agent to submit material.
When writing for a show, and Roswell in particular, do you ever take input from the actors on what their characters are really like or do you tell the actors what their characters are like?
The primary voice comes from Jason and his vision of the characters and the world of Roswell. However, the actors definitely have a take on their own characters and we’re certainly interested in hearing what they have to say and how they see their characters.
What kind of interaction do you have with the cast?
I’m still getting to know most of them. So far, I’ve found them all to be fun and interesting people to work with.
How long does it take to make an episode of Roswell?
It takes eight days to shoot one episode and several weeks of post-production work to complete the final cut. The show is extremely difficult to produce on the budget we’ve been given, but we’re managing.
How is the music picked for an episode of Roswell?
First, the editor will give an episode a “temp track” for the initial cuts that will be viewed by the director and the producers. The temp track will have some songs and some score (from other movies or episodes) in it and that will give everyone a starting point for discussions. Our composer, Joseph Williams, will watch the final cut with me or Jason and a couple of the other producers and the editor during a “spotting session” and we’ll discuss where music is appropriate and what kind of score will be most effective. Our music supervisors, Kevin Edleman & Alexandra Patsavas will then bring in songs and play them for the producers in a separate meeting and we’ll pick the tunes that we want to hear.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard about the Roswell fans, about the campaigns and about how much we love and support Roswell. So what is your perception of the Roswell fans?
Very positive. I had a chance to see a group of fans firsthand during the Crashdown party at the Key Club and I was very happy to see the enthusiasm and genuine affection they seemed to have for the show. As you probably know, I worked for Star Trek for a very long time and while I certainly found Trek fans to be a loyal and passionate group of people, there was also a sense of warring camps within Trek fandom – you know, TNG vs. DS9, Data vs. Spock, VOY vs. everyone, that sort of thing. Part of it is a natural result of Trek’s longevity and its devoted following, but there’s also a sense of factionalism that’s a bit wearying. With the Roswell, there’s still that sense of innocence and discovery among the fans. It’s still their own precious show that they’ve found and that the world at large hasn’t elevated to iconic status. It’s more personal, more intimate.
How are you enjoying working with Jason Katims, the writing staff and the cast of Roswell?
I can say in all honesty, that this has been one of the most profoundly rewarding and positive experiences of my career. This is a very happy place to work. It’s a joy to come to work every day and I feel extremely fortunate that I’m part of a show like Roswell.
Many fan websites of WB shows have recently come under attack from the network/Fox, demanding that fans have no right to display copyrighted pictures and transcripts. Should Roswell sites such as the Crashdown expect to face these problems?
I hope not. I think that kind of thing tends to backfire and creates ill will unnecessarily.
What do you like most about writing sci-fi and fantasy shows? What inspires you and sparks your ideas for stories?
The great thing about science fiction is that is provides flexibility to story-telling and allows you to tell tales on a broader and richer canvas. I think you’ll see that the episodes we’re telling this year would be very difficult, and in some cases impossible, to tell on any non-genre show.
What do you do for kicks?
I read. On my nightstand at the moment are:
Sharpe’s Tiger (historical, pulpy fiction)
War and Peace (yes, that “War & Peace”)
The Bismarck Chase (you know, the Bismarck)
The Sun Also Rises (Hemingway – he’s not just for homework anymore).
As one who aspires to be a producer of television shows, what would you recommend doing to get a good start in the business?
I can only advise you to learn your craft as a writer first and hope to be elevated to producer second. Write as much as you possibly can, read other scripts, take criticism, talk with other writers, learn to be both patient and persistent and then wait for your break. I’m firmly of the belief that everyone gets their break eventually, the real question is whether or not you’re ready for it when it happens.