The following interview was conducted with Jason Katims on the set of Roswell at Vasquez Rocks during filming of the Season 3 finale, “The Graduation,” on March 8th, 2002.
Crashdown: Is there anything you want to say to the Crashdown internet fans?
Jason Katims: The thing that I would want to say first and foremost is thank you. Because I think that the Crashdown, I believe first of all, was a big part of what kept the show going as long at it has, so we owe them a great deal in that sense, and also, it’s really much more than that. Crashdown has sort of been our bridge to the audience, and has been our way of sort of finding out how we come out on the things we have been doing on the show, and more importantly has been the way that we have been able to be tuned into this great, passionate audience that we have and to know that they are out there, and to know that this show is meaningful to them. We all work very hard on the show, long hours and long days, and come long distances and to weird places to do the show, and to know that we have that kind of audience who cares so much is really a wonderful thing. And it’s not something that every show has, and while we don’t have a huge audience by television standards, we have a special audience, and we all know that. We are always well aware of the fans of the show, and that’s something that has been great. Even as recently as a couple of weeks ago when we had the soundtrack party, there were fans of the show that were able to attend, and I talked to a few of them. Just seeing their enthusiasm was really, really meaningful, because this is kind of a bittersweet time, because in all likelihood, the show is not going to come back next year. So it was just very heartwarming to get that sort of input, and it really meant a lot to me. That’s probably a really, really long answer to your question. This is something I was really wanting to say. I was thinking of writing a letter to that effect, but since I’ve just said it, that’s fine for me…
Crashdown: Do you think the campaigning, like has gone on the last few years, is going to help this year, and should we keep it up?
Jason Katims: I hope so. Absolutely, keep it up. I’ll tell you, the campaigning that they have done from the first two seasons, I really do think is responsible for the show coming back. Not to try to overstate it, but I do think it is responsible. When I went in to meet with the networks in both cases, both the WB and UPN, it was made clear to us that the passion that the fans have was clear to them, and it’s what might have put things over the edge for us. It’s hugely important. I will say in all honesty that this year it seems less likely that we have a chance, and in all honesty I’ll say that, but absolutely, I think that if there is any chance for the show, it’s really up to the fans’ support.
Crashdown: I think people will be really glad to hear that. We’ve been getting mixed signals from different directions. From comments the cast has made at different events there seems to be an opinion out in the fandom that the cast is just really sick of everything and wants it over. Do you have any comment on that?
Jason Katims: There are people I know that are also doing television shows that are coming to their third or fourth year, and it’s somewhat common for actors to get frustrated around this time. We have this wonderfully talented cast, and I said before that any number of people on our cast could be leads of shows, and they are on our show with eight or nine players, and it’s an ensemble show. I think there are frustrations from that point of view. They’re young and have very bright futures ahead of them, and I think there’s frustration to doing the show. It’s tricky, because in our case, we are in our third year. We’ve basically only survived the three years, not flourished by television standards, and I’m talking [about] viewership. In all honesty, there wasn’t a possibility for things like renegotiation of their contracts, which will sometimes happen in the third year of the show. So I think there were some frustrations for the actors along the way. We are one day away from the last day of shooting now, and I’m talking to the actors, and the people that I’ve spoken to are basically of two minds about it. And I don’t blame them for that. There’s part of them that wants to see the show come back, and part of them that wants to move on, and within that, there’s probably a continuum, depending on the actor, for which ones would want it to come back more or less. But I think that’s kind of natural after this length of time. When we were casting the show, Majandra was 17; Shiri was 19. So these are young actors who have a very bright future ahead of them, so part of them wants to be able to get on with their careers. You would have to speak to the actors themselves to get a better idea.
Crashdown: Do you think it’s a good sign that the UPN’s two new comedies (As If and Random Years) tanked this week?
Jason Katims: (Laughs) Well, honestly, I have no idea. There’s recently been a change at UPN, as everybody knows, with CBS involvement, and with Dean leaving, and I have not… As of a month or two ago, the feeling was very much that we weren’t coming back. As to whether the performance of these new shows changes that, I have no idea. There’s been nothing that has been said that changes anything, so I don’t believe it does, but as I’ve seen from my involvement (which is almost four years now with Roswell), it ain’t over ’til it’s over. So who knows what could happen.
Crashdown: When the show moved to UPN, what did you think of them pairing it with Buffy rather than Star Trek, which might have been a more natural pairing, given the involvement of Jonathan Frakes, Ron Moore, and William Sadler?
Jason Katims: It maybe goes under 20/20 hindsight, in a weird way. When we first were given the time slot behind Buffy, we really thought it was a great time slot for us, and it’s one of the biggest disappointments that I’ve had that we didn’t do better than we did behind Buffy. Before we aired, there were all kinds of indications that our audience sort of mirrored Buffy’s — that we had a similar audience (though we were smaller). It broke down demographically in similar patterns, so we were hoping we could capture some of their audience, and we didn’t, or not enough of it. There’s no way of knowing, but it would be untrue for me to say I’d hoped for that. I was very happy to be paired with Buffy, and thought that gave us a good opportunity, and there’s nothing really to say other than it was a disappointment that we didn’t do better.
Crashdown: There are a lot of charity activities and a lot of extra curricular activities that go on with Roswell fans, different from what you see with most TV shows. What do you think about that?
Jason Katims: I think it’s one of the most moving things about my involvement in the show. I’m blown away by that. The most recent charity involvement is with Garrett’s son, and that’s something I just learned about a couple of days ago, that this had been happening the last week or two. I don’t know what to say, other than it’s very moving to me, and I don’t really know why it is that it happens. I don’t know why it is, but it probably speaks to the type of people that are watching the show, and their hearts and generosity and the types of people that they are. It makes me feel really honored to be a part of something that got that going. So yeah, it’s something that I’m constantly blown away by, and I think it’s fantastic.
Crashdown: There seems to be a really close relationship with Roswell between the production staff and cast and their fans on the ‘net. Do you see that as a sign of things to come, or is it something that is just special with this show?
Jason Katims: I’m hoping that it is. It’s interesting, because I also worked on My So-Called Life, and that was a show that also inspired this big passionate fan base. But at the time, the internet was very new, and not as pervasive as it is now. And television’s audience was not as sophisticated as it is now, and this Crashdown audience is such a sophisticated audience. I used to joke that if I wanted to know what was going on with the show, I’d log on to Crashdown and find out, because they seemed to know more than I did about what was going on. And often they did. So I think that it is a sign of things to come, in a certain way, and the communications and closeness between the people making the show and the audience is a way of closing that gap, and is a good thing. But I also think that there is something particularly special about this particular show and Roswell’s audience. I wouldn’t expect that if I move on and do another show, it would happen again. I think there’s just something special about Roswell’s audience in their passion.
Crashdown: I think the Roswell fans will follow you.
Jason Katims: (Laughs) I hope they do.
Crashdown: Just one more, then I’ll let you get back to what you need to be doing. You mentioned that at least some people from the staff follow the website. Has there ever been a case where fan opinion has changed some direction of the show?
Jason Katims: The fans definitely have an influence on us. It’s not like I’ll log on and see that the fans didn’t like the way someone acted in an episode and I’ll change that. Frankly, that would drive me insane. It’s hard enough to deal with the amount of opinions that I already get. So to add a few thousand to that would just be too much to bear. But in the grander scheme of things, how they feel about larger arcs and [the] overall direction of the show is something that we definitely hear and take in, and does work its way into our thinking. But at the end of the day, you have to do what you feel in your heart, and hope that people get it. The one thing I would say to that end is that sometimes there are a lot of passionate feelings, and sometimes those passionate feelings aren’t positive ones for some of the things we’ve done. We are, as the writers and creative producers of the show, only trying to make the best possible show. We are trying to present the best possible version of the show to our audience, and we have the best interest of the fans at heart when we do that. I will say that the one time I really thought directly about the audience was with this last episode. I did feel like I wanted to, because I don’t believe the show is going to come back. I wanted to give a real sense of closure, and I felt the audience really deserved sort of an ending, and wanted to give them that. Our original plan was to make it a two-hour finale, and that didn’t happen, so things got a little condensed. But we still wanted to make sure that every character got a sense of closure, and it is also a somewhat nostalgic episode. For example, we went back to Liz’s voiceover to start. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but we wanted to have a sense of resolution for the Max/Liz relationship. For all the relationships, but especially the Max/Liz relationship, because that’s how we started. In that regard, [the episode is] sort of a love song to the show itself, to how we started. I’m hoping, of course you never know, but I’m hoping that the audience responds to it.