Doubtful At First, Heigl Now a Believer in Roswell

Thanks to Chris Silk for letting us know about this wire story that just showed up!

DOUBTFUL AT FIRST, HEIGL NOW A BELIEVER IN ‘ROSWELL’

By JOHN LEVESQUE
c.2000 Seattle Post-Intelligencer

A few years ago, Katherine Heigl couldn’t have cared less about the
fate of a struggling television show on a small network.

“I was a real TV snob,” the 21-year-old actress confessed during a
recent stop in Seattle to promote a new line of Levi’s products. With a
blossoming feature-film career built on a modeling foundation that began
when she was 9, Heigl watched TV but paid little attention to its potential
for enhancing her career.

Then she was persuaded to read the pilot script for “Roswell,” a
well-crafted sci-fi love story based on the “Roswell High” series of books
by Melinda Metz, about teenage aliens trying to survive in a hostile
environment – Earth.

“I read it hesitantly,” Heigl recalled.

But the prospect of a steady income and regular weekly exposure is
appealing to most young actors, and Heigl gradually warmed to the idea of
playing Isabel Evans, one of three orphaned survivors of a UFO crash in
Roswell, N.M.

By the time Heigl (pronounced HIGH-gul) had been put through TV’s
“torturous” audition process, first in front of producers, then in front of
network executives, she was so invested in the project that her snobbery had
melted under a tide of intense proprietorship.

“At that point,” she said, “I really wanted it.”

And now, after shooting 22 episodes of a series with a cult
following for which “enthusiastic” is a wholly inadequate descriptive, she
really doesn’t want to lose “it.”

The riveting season finale of “Roswell” airs Monday night, but the
fate of the series won’t be officially known until Tuesday, when The WB
unveils its fall-2000 lineup in front of the New York advertising community.

Recent signs are pointing toward renewal, thanks to improved ratings
after the show moved from Wednesdays to Mondays last month. In the Wednesday
slot, it was pitted against UPN’s “Star Trek: Voyager,” a well-established
science fiction drama. On Mondays, “Roswell” is the only sci-fi show on the
mainstream dial, a distinct alternative to the silliness of “Ally McBeal”
and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

Still, location filming and special effects make “Roswell” an
expensive series, so if a cost-benefit analysis is factored into marginal
ratings, non-renewal is certainly a defensible option.

Defensible, maybe, but not wise. Probably the best argument for
renewal is the show’s rabidly devoted fan base. If the network chooses to
cancel, it can expect a backlash the likes of which it probably hasn’t seen
in its brief existence. Fans have created dozens of Web shrines (the
slickest and most authoritative: crashdown.com), and a hard-core group
calling itself AlienBlast raised enough money to advertise its concerns in
Variety. The most visible “statement,” though, was a “Roswell Is HOT!”
letter campaign that directed thousands of bottles of Tabasco sauce to The
WB’s corporate offices in Burbank. (Tabasco sauce is a favorite condiment of
the “Roswell” aliens.)

The WB then mailed some of the bottles to TV critics, but enthusiasm
from the publicity side doesn’t necessarily mean the programming side is of
the same mind.

Heigl, who grew up in New Canaan, Conn., a tony suburb of New York,
thinks The WB would be foolish to pull the plug on “Roswell,” and not just
because she’d be out of a job.

“They need that audience,” she said of the show’s relatively strong
showing among 18- to 34-year-olds. “That’s the demographic they’re lacking.”

Industry-savvy talk comes naturally to Heigl, who has grown up in
front of cameras and now lives outside Los Angeles with her manager/mom,
Nancy. From 1992 through 1998, the 5-foot-9 Heigl, who has always looked
older than her age, made at least one film a year, including 1994’s “My
Father, the Hero” with Gerard Depardieu. Though few people are likely to be
wowed by some of her other films – “Bride of Chucky,” “Under Siege 2,” “Bug
Buster” – Heigl considers it all a learning experience.

The past year on “Roswell” she describes as “stressful but
satisfying” – the stress coming from 12- and 14-hour work days, the
challenges of working with a different director every week, and trying to
fit into an ensemble cast. The satisfaction, she said, comes from seeing all
the characters evolve under the guidance of creator Jason Katims (“My
So-Called Life,” “Relativity”) and executive producer Thania St. John and,
ironically, from working with all those different directors.

A particular favorite is Jonathan Frakes, another executive
producer. Frakes, a veteran of “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” directed
three episodes this season. Heigl calls him “funny, exuberant, a great
actor’s director.”

Heigl, who signed a seven-year contract, can’t imagine the show
running that long. But “another year or two,” she said, is definitely
warranted.

“I’m really impressed and proud of what it’s become,” she said. “I
thought it would be boring. It’s been anything but.”

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