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June 13, 2000, 9:57AM
“Roswell” actress is out there
By JOHNNY DIAZ
Knight Ridder Newspapers
Majandra Delfino is a little late.
She was serving Unidentified Fried Objects and Alien Blast Shakes at the Crashdown Cafe. And, oh yeah, on top of that, she had to help a trio of teen aliens keep police from knowing their out-of-this-world secret.
Now the 19-year-old can catch her breath on some down time — a rarity these days for the rising star on the Hollywood horizon. Delfino stars in the WB’s sci-fi drama Roswell, a show that has found critics’ praise as well as a cult following.
But what Roswell hasn’t found is its desired ratings niche. To bolster tepid numbers, the WB network moved the show — based on the Roswell High book series by Melinda Metz regarding the alleged 1947 spaceship crash near the town of Roswell, N.M. — from its Wednesday night slot to Mondays, where it will remain next season. But among the teen sci-fi set, the show is as hot as Tabasco sauce.
To keep Roswell from slipping into a ratings black hole, fans shipped the WB network more than 3,000 bottles of the condiment — a food fetish among the show’s teen alien characters, Isabel, Max and Michael.
Die-hard viewers have launched dozens of Web sites to chat about the characters’ out-of-this-world good looks and the program’s alien mythology and conspiracy.
“The show attracts a different sort of fan base, the real science-fiction fan, the REAL devotees,” said Delfino from the set in Los Angeles where Roswell recently wrapped up the season. With its mix of teens and aliens, the drama has been dubbed by critics as a cross among The X-Files, My So Called Life and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Roswell uses teen aliens as a metaphor for youthful alienation the same way Buffy uses vampires as stand-ins for the horrors of adolescence.
“It’s more about the characters evolving and finding who they are than more dramatic things like prom,” Delfino says.
The show’s appeal is the aliens’ fear of being discovered by authorities, the teen-agers’ search for their roots and their relationship with human friends.
Delfino plays one of these friends — Maria DeLuca, the spacey, nervous and hyper Crashdown Cafe waitress and best friend of Liz Parker, another human character on the show.
As DeLuca, Delfino brightens the brooding show about orphaned aliens. She provides the show’s comic relief with wisecracks and pouts.
It’s all in a day’s work of helping friends cloak their inner selves from the FBI.
“She is so into Liz and that is her whole life,” says Delfino of her character, before delineating the differences between herself and her character. “I’m more of a flighty person, and I didn’t come from a small town.”
Hardly. In fact, she was born in Caracas, Venezuela, and moved to Miami when she was 3.
From a young age, the girl, whose first name is pronounced ma-han-dra, had stars in her eyes. She spent three years of ballet in productions such as The Nutcracker. Then there were the 10 years of playing the piano and singing in a band with best friend Samantha Gibb and brother Adam (children of the Bee Gees’ Maurice Gibb).
Then came acting — a discovery Delfino made during her musical theater audition for the New World School of the Arts school in Miami.
“I was really against it. It’s not an easy thing to get into,” says her mom, Mary Hellmund. “But people always told us she would make a wonderful actress because she has a lot of personality and that comes through in the acting. She wanted to try it.”
So Mom gave Delfino six months to get the theatrical bug out of her system.
Within 60 days, Delfino secured an agent and got her first movie role opposite Kathleen Quinlan in Zeus and Roxanne. A few months later, she landed her first TV gig — playing Tony Danza’s daughter in his short-lived 1997 NBC sitcom, The Tony Danza Show.
To support her career, the family moved to Los Angeles where she finished high school last year.
“We were bicoastal for a while,” Delfino recalls of her every-three-weeks visits to Florida to see her grandmother, aunts and friends.
But her trips have been rare these days. Delfino put in 12- to 16-hour days on the Roswell set at Paramount Studios during tapings.
Even if Roswell disappears someday into deep space, Delfino has found steady work. She starred in The Secret Life of Girls with Linda Hamilton (The Terminator). And she will star this summer in the spoof, I Know What You Screamed Last Summer. According to her mom, Delfino was recently cast in the movie Traffic with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Michael Douglas.
All that aside, does Delfino believe in, you know, aliens?
Her response, as if from her character Maria DeLuca, is deadpan. “They ARE out there.”