Katherine HeiglLeading

Acting Alien: Great Katie interview

Thanks to Nerie for sending this in!

From Sci-Fi tv magazine, April 2000 issue

Acting Alien
By Ian Spelling

Katherine Heigl knew Roswell was a hit when–well, when her sister
called. “She said, `The show was great this week!’ “ Heigl recalls.
“She would get into it and discuss things about the show and ask me
questions. It was really weird that my sister, who lives across the
country, was watching me on Roswell. It was strange to realize that I
was on TV every week. I had always done film. And, going into the show, I didn’t think it would feel that different from doing film. But it is.
I’m getting calls from my sister, my friends. I go out and I’m recognized so much more, and that’s because Roswell is on every week. Before that, I would be recognized occasionally by someone who knew me from My Father the Hero and Under Siege 3 or maybe Bride of Chucky. Now, when I go out to the mall, people will say, ‘Hey aren’t you on that showRoswell?’ The whole thing is weird. Because I’m in their living roomsn every week, people feel like they know me. I love it. It’s so nice to know people like the show and I have a job for at least the nine next months.”

Roswell, for those who don’t know by now, centers on Isabel Evans
(Heigl), her brother Max (Jason Behr) and their friend Michael (Brendan
Fehr), three aliens growing up in Roswell, New Mexico, as average human
teens. The three live in constant fear of being found out, something
that could easily happen at any moment, particularly given that Max has
revealed both his powers and the truth about himself to Liz (Shiri
Appleby), the high school girl he adores, and that Liz’s pals, Maria
(Majandra Delfino) and Alex (Colin Hanks), know the trio’s secret and
tend to open their mouths at inopportune moments.

In a season that saw so anticipated a genre show as Harsh Realm flame
out after three episodes, what is it about Roswell that appeals to the
audience? Heigl thinks she knows. “It’s a little bit more mature and
sophisticated than just any regular teenage show,” she reasons. “We’re
dealing with the Fugitive aspect, the alien aspect. Our lives are in
danger. Because our situation is so delicate, anybody involved with us
or around us is suddenly in a dangerous situation, too. There’s that
element to it, that suspense, and there’s also the chase and the constant search for some sort of knowledge or information, so that we can figure out what the heck we’re doing here on Earth. That makes it a little more interesting than just dealing with the day-to-day high school stuff.”

Though many Roswell fans revel in the often heart-wrenching Max-Liz
relationship, there’s something to be said for the edge that Isabel lends
to the proceedings. She speaks her mind and displays what can perhaps
best be described as smug inferiority complex. And, taking into account
the fact that Isabel does indeed possess superior otherworldly powers,
it’s hard to begrudge Isabel her imperiousness. “Initially, I thought,
`Is this just an insecurity of hers? Maybe that’s why she behaves this
way.’ And then,” Heigl notes. “I thought, ‘No, it’s really not.’ Isabel
knows that she’s unique. She knows that she has something over everybody else, and she’s confident in that and confident in herself and who she is. This secret–even though it’s dangerous, even though she’s afraid of it–makes her aware of just how unique she is. She’s so above it all. It’s great, but in future episodes, you’ll see that toned down just a
bit. It’s also a defense mechanism in some respects, and they don’t want to overdo it.

“Isabel is one of those great characters that I’ve always wanted to play.
She has such complexity. She’s the girl who wants to be like everybody
else. She wants to fit into the normal high school scene and be popular,
have boy friends and wear cool clothes. At the same time, she has these extraordinary powers, this big secret. She is special. So, she wants tomfit in, but she’s really different, and she’s fighting between these two sides of herself. Obviously, the stakes are a little higher, because she could get killed if her secret gets out.”

Just as Isabel struggles daily to find balance, Roswell’s writers and
producers must strike the right balance on a weekly basis between kitschy humor and urgent drama, between SF and action. And given the built-in cheeesiness factor of setting a show in Roswell–what with its Crashdown Cafe, alien trinket stores and 24-7 fascination with visitors from other galaxies–it’s no easy task. “It was a concern at first,” Heigl admits. “Initially, the show was going to be called Roswell High, which I felt was even more cheesy. That put the two together, the fact that it was a high school show and about this kooky town of Roswell. I’ve never even been to Roswell, which is absurd, so I don’t know if the town itself is quite as extreme as we make it in the series.

“At this point, the show’s tone is funny, quirky and endearing. I mean,
the Crashdown Cafe. Everybody’s always saying, “I’ll meet you at the
Crashdown.’ The kids who live in the town [on the show] are so used to
this stuff. to them it’s just their world, their life. They don’t even
think about it. They’re not saying, `Oh, isn’t it ridiculous that we
have a UFO museum center here?’ It’s their way of life. They’ve grown up with these tales, in the town with the big secret.”

Some actors love ensemble work, since they don’t have to be on set every day and don’t have to carry the weight of an entire production on their shoulders. Other actors loathe relinquishing even a moment of screen time or, to a less egocentric degree, simply don’t feel they get enough to do. “Initially, I would have to say I agreed with the people who say they don’t get enough to do,” the actress admits. “I was used to doing a lot in the films I’ve done. I sometimes was the center of a film. When I started Roswell, I had to humble myself a bit and realize that the show wouldn’t be carried by me, that it’s carried by everybody. And now I’m so, so grateful that it is an ensemble show.

“One, it makes it so much more interesting that they focus on all the
different characters in different episodes. We each get our opportunity
for a storyline. Two, I love this cast and the characters. Brendan and
Majandra are fantastic, and their characters really spice things up.
Shiri and Jason are great. Colin and Nick (Wechsler, as Kyle Valenti)
are starting to get more to do. When you ork the kind of hours we do,
it’s nice to have an episode where you’re not in the whole thing and you
get three days off during the week. In the beginning, I was like, `Hmm,
why aren’t I in these three days?’ Now, I rejoice. I’m like, ‘I have
three days off! Let’s go somewhere! I’m loving the ensemble aspect of it

And with whom among her co-stars has Heigl become closest? “I’m mostly with Majandra, Brendan and Jason,” she replies. “Majandra has become a really, really close friend. She’s one of those people you immediately know you’ll just love. She’s funny and wise beyond her years. Jason and Brendan are hilarious. Most of my scenes are with Jason and Brendan, so we’re always hanging out anyway. They keep me laughing the entire day. My cheeks were really sore from laughing yesterday, because they were making fun of me. It’s a fun set. I’m really lucky. But talk to me in a year, I could hate everybody.

Just as Heigl is getting to know Behr, Appleby and her other co-stars
more and more each day, so too is Isabel getting to know the people
around her, particularly such new figures in her life as Liz, Maria and
Alex. And then there’s Michael to consider. He’s certainly not a fresh
face in Isabel’s life, but there seems to be a huge window of opportunity
for a romantic relationship to be explored. After all, being alien, he’s
more like her and surely understands her better than any human possibly
could. “In a sense, Isabel feels that Liz and Maria could be her
friends,” Heigl observes. “At the same time, they are a threat. They’re
taking away her two boys and invading her world. So, Isabel is fighting
her need for companionship and her fear of having her bubble busted.

“There’s a romantic thread of some kind with Alex, but I think it will
become more of a friendship than anything else. Isabel really leans on
him as a friend, which is great because she needs a friend. But I don’t
think he’s a love interest. I don’t know why they haven’t made Michael a
love interest. I initially thought that’s where they were going to go
with it, and they haven’t touched it. I’m sort of grateful, because it is
almost too logical a choice. I like it that they’re making things more
complicated. Michael’s almost like a brother to Isabel now, so it would
be weird if they did anything.

“We’ve definitely not explored any love interest yet for Isabel, and I
keep nagging at the writers for one,” Heigl continues. “I’m feeling
lonely, you know? Everybody else has somebody. I would like to see what Isabel would be like in that situation. She has always been afraid of intimacy, of letting someone else in. As it is, the only two people she
has ever really let into her world are Max and Michael. I don’t even
know that they know her as well as they should because they’re men. I
would also like to see her have a real friendship with a woman. It would
be interesting to see where that could go. I would also like to see her
find some humor in herself.”

Most of the actors on the show cite the “Route 285” and “River Dog”
episodes as Roswell’s finest hours to date. And Heigl concurs, though
she goes on to mention several other installments. “I would say that
‘Route 285’ and ‘River Dog’ are my favorites so far, but I liked ‘Heat
Wave,’ too. It spiced things up,” she notes. ‘285’ was really
interesting. Shiri and I had some great moments, which I really liked
getting to do. You saw everybody’s vulnerability in that one. Jonathan
Frakes directed ‘River Dog,’ and he did such a great job with it.
‘Monsters’ had a totally different feeling than the ones before it. We
were introduced to this weird power Isabel has, which is going into
people’s dreams. That has been my most interesting power so far. That
episode also showcased this potential relationship between Maria and
Isabel, and we’ll see where we go with that.

“I also like ‘The Balance.’ It’s very SF. We think Michael is dying,
and I love what happens to everybody in this situation, how everybody
reacts. I freak out, and it’s the one time Isabel really loses it. Up
until then, even in the most extreme situations, Isabel had kept her head
about her. In this instance, there was one scene in particular where I
really just lost it. I loved that. [Co-executive producer-director] David Nutter and I talked about the scene. He initially thought that the
character should remain strong, cool, calm and collected. I said, ‘But
she has been through so much. FBI agents are chasing them. So many
people know their secret. Max was just in a car accident [the week
before]. I think it makes sense for Isabel to lose it for a minute.’
It’s just one scene. It’s not like she’s on the floor, catatonic or
anything. We’ve also done an episode called ‘Toy House,’ which is really
cool. It’s about me, Max and our mother [Mary Ellen Trainor], and our
secret almost coming out. It’s really touching, and that’s why I love
the show. We go into deep stuff as well as the really fun, supernatural
SF stuff.”

And where’s that episode in which other aliens –be they of the trio’s
species or not of their world — arrive in Roswell? Heigl laughs.
“Soon,” she says coyly. “Soon, It’s coming. I haven’t read a script
yet, but every script I’ve been reading seems to be leading up to it.
So, we’re getting there.”

Raised in Connecticut, she has been working professionally since she was nine years old, first as a child model, then as an actress. TV
commercials paved the way to features, and Heigl counts among her credits That Night, My Father The Hero, Under Siege 2, Prince Valiant, Bride of Chucky, and Big Buster. Of the later two vehicles, Heigl considers Chucky “a cool movie” and reports that she “doesn’t remember much” about the low-budget Big Buster. Acting, she says, is the be-all and end-all for her. “There’s something about the camera, something about playing somebody else, figuring out who the character is, that I love,” she enthuses. “I love discovering new people and becoming them. I’ve always loved doing that, and acting is second nature tome now because I’ve been doing it since I was little. It’s like a foreign language. When you learn it young, you just know it. It becomes a part of you. Acting is just a part of me.

“Sometimes I’ll sit on a set and complain because I’m bored and it’s
taking forever to get to a scene. I’ll think to myself, ‘Why am I doing
this if it’s so boring all the time?’ Then, I’ll get in front of the
camera to do a scene and I’ll have two minutes of dialogue. And for
those two minutes, I’m someplace else, I’m someone else, and I totally
forget about everything. That makes up for all the hours of working, all
the tedium, and I think, ‘This is why I love acting. This is why I’m

And no doubt Heigl could be around the Roswell set for years to come.
That would mean lots of sitting around, plenty of tedium and, on the plus side, hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of opportunities to flesh out Isabel. Heigl weighed those pros and cons very carefully prior to
agreeing to a potentially long commitment to Roswell. “Before you even
go into a room to audition, you have to sign a seven-year contract. It’s
a big deal,” Katherine Heigl concludes. “I remember sitting there and
thinking, ‘This is what I’ve avoided all of these years, because I was so
afraid of getting stuck on a show and playing a character I would
eventually get so bored with.’ But I just went ahead and auditioned for
Roswell. Now I’ve got this character I continually get to develop and go
different places with. Hopefully, that will continue. I want the character to grow and develop, and that’s always interesting. You can’t get bored with that.

“As far as five or six years of it, I don’t know. At this moment, I’m
looking forward to our break. I think after some time away from the
show, I’ll miss Isabel, I’ll miss the rest of the cast. If I’ve got
something to do during my hiatuses, like a film or theater, that’ll
always keep Roswell alive and fresh and that will always keep me alive
and fresh, too.”


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