Close Encounters! (contains spoilerish material)

This is one of the best stories I’ve seen lately as far as upcoming details of the show! Thanks to Janet for sending this in!

Close encounters
Behind-the-scene conversations with members of some popular, teenoriented television shows

By Nancy McAlister
Times-Union staff writer

LOS ANGELES – As dusty diners go, the Crashdown Cafe is a cool place to pass the time. There’s plenty of reading material, what with all the newspaper clippings on the wall about various UFO sightings in Roswell, N.M.

But I can’t recommend the food. For one thing, the cakes and pastries under glass at the counter are too perfectly iced to be true. The fake confections are part of the illusion on the Roswell soundstage at Warner Brothers. Studio in Burbank. The details are specific, right down to the glow-in-the-dark alien toys and sink filled with dirty dishes.

Set visits to Felicity, Roswell, Popular, Angel and Star Trek: Voyager turned up further evidence that TV’s game of makebelieve is a crafty art. The most high-tech set of the group, Star Trek’s ship interiors, are bounded by yards and yards of hoisted black velvet studded with small, shiny crystals. On camera, they’re starry space. But woe to any cameraman who doesn’t see a wrinkle in the fabric. It can mean reshooting an entire scene.

That’s because eagle-eyed fans would definitely spot it, said Kate Mulgrew, who plays Voyager’s Captain Kathryn Janeway.

And you know those scenes inside Kennedy High School on Popular? Any glimpses of the school’s outdoor campus are the result of a gigantic photo mural hanging behind the set. Popular’s lockers are real, but the school restrooms are unusable. And try to ignore the fact there’s no ceiling, the better to accommodate the technical gear.

Of course, the most important scenery on all these shows are the actors who walk and talk around the props and various backdrops. While TV critics toured the sets at Warner Brothers, Disney and Paramount studios, they were primarily interested in talking with some of the star players. Here’s a snapshot of some of those conversations.

With its story of three aliens who enter the world of Roswell High, Roswell (9 p.m. Wednesdays, WB) has proven to be ratings magic. An episode in production has alien Max (Jason Behr) getting drunk from one drink. When he and his human love-interest Liz (Shiri Appleby) start to get romantic, the unsuspecting human begins to see into his life.

The whole idea of searching for a fourth alien really starts to heat up, according to creator Jason Katims. There are signs he/she is aware of the presence of the other three. ”The fourth alien may not be all good. It complicates the search when we really don’t know what his motivations are.”

Other new plot developments include the introduction of a new girl at school who takes a certain interest in Max and vice versa. Stories will also explore Sheriff Valenti’s (William Sadler) relationship with his father to help explain his current attitudes toward UFOs and aliens.

One member of the perfectly chiseled cheekboned cast soon to get more storytime is Alex, played by Colin Hanks. Hanks, 21, is the son of Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks. Roswell marks his professional acting debut. The California native said he doesn’t ask his famous father for help too often, but Dad watches the show ”a lot” and sometimes calls in feedback.

Deciding to go into the acting field was ”a no-brainer,” he said. ”It’s so much fun. And I don’t have to wear a suit.”

Like Roswell, Angel (9 p.m. Tuesdays, WB) is a ratings success since its debut this season. A spinoff of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the hour tells the story of a centuries-old vampire with a conscience. Angel, played by David Boreanaz, is pining over Buff. But the two of them are separated now so they have time to grow, said co-creator David Greenwalt. Still, he said, ”we want to do more crossovers.”

Boreanaz said part of getting used to his new fame is reading things that aren’t true about himself. No, he and Sarah Michelle Gellar were not together on Christmas Day. He was in Philadelphia with his parents (he misses his hometown’s famous cheese steaks).

Playing the part of Angel has been a unique experience, particularly since the character of a fallen vampire is so unusual in prime time. ”He’s got personality. He’s got depth. I feel comfortable with this character because he is so old. I can tap into all his personalities.”

One of those is apparently on the sinister side. ”I’d love to go evil,” Greenwalt hinted.

”I always like shows with very clear-cut villains,” says one of the producers of Popular, another WB teen show that’s caught on this season. On the 8 p.m. Thursday drama, one has to look no farther than Nicole Julian (Tammy Lynn Michaels), the high school girl who enforces the rules of popularity with vicious delight.

In a couple of episodes coming up, Nicole tries to do nice things. But then fellow A-lister Brooke finds out she’s responsible for something particularly heinous. And Nicole is forced to summon up all her powers. For Michaels, all this means playing against her own high school experience. She was a ”theater geek” who wore tacky white flats in ninth and 10th grades.

”I had no money. I was not popular,” said the actress, whose villainy has acquired a following since the show’s start this fall. ”I listened to John Denver.” Despite the differences, she knows where her character is coming from. ”She just wants to be loved. She’s never gotten it. That’s where her stingers come out.”

Fans can expect to see the prickly relationship between Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and Sam McPherson (Carly Pope) blow hot and cold. In this week’s episode, the two fight over Josh in a plot revolving around the Sadie Hawkins dance, which also prompts a diet competition between three of the girls and Sam’s purchase of an inflatable bra.

Producer Ryan Murphy called Popular a satire about how superficial things like body consciousness are. Soon after, he talked about the show’s specific fashion consciousness. No jeans are ever worn, for example. Murphy and his partners are partial to colors of the early 1960s. ”It’s more high fashion. It gives the actors great things to play off of.”

On Star Trek: Voyager (9 p.m. Wednesdays, UPN), Captain Janeway’s job is to find her ship’s way back to Federation space. But during an informal tour of the show’s set at Paramount Studios, Mulgrew made it clear her bosses are the ones at the helm. She speculated that next season may be the show’s last.

”Seven years – that’s the lucky number,” said the actress, referring to how long the other Star Trek spinoffs – Star Trek: Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – have lasted.

”It’s good for the franchise.” Clearly, though, Mulgrew will miss playing the part of the first woman to command a Federation Starship in the 32-year history of Star Trek.

”Initially, I felt overly scrutinized. Was I going to pull this off or not?” But during the past five seasons she has grown into the job. She loves wearing the uniform, by the way, although standing all day on 4-inch heels requires ”a certain kind of discipline.”

Janeway, she said, has the eccentricities of a scientist and the heart of a humanitarian. The character must be rubbing off. Mulgrew’s current read is the life of Galileo.

When asked about the sevenyear scenario, co-executive producer Brannon Braga was noncommital. What has been discussed is bringing Voyager home this year to open up storylines. He also confirmed that a new Star Trek spinoff is in development. ”It’s got to have something about it that is going to give people a different reason to watch.”

By the way, Braga and his colleagues have seen the Star Trek parody Galaxy Quest and thought it was a hoot. ”I laughed hysterically. It’s making fun of Star Trek and sci-fi fans, but it did it very well.”


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