Starlog – Shiri Appleby
Thanks to MyrnaLynne for this. I’ll post the pictures tomorrow that accompany the article.
Submitted by MyrnaLynne
“Starlog” December 2000 pp. 72-75 Interview with Shiri Appleby – and Crashdown FanForum party pictures and mention in the article!
Down-to-Earth Shiri Appleby educates “Roswell’s” alienated Liz Parker
by Bill Florence
There’s a new Liz Parker in town. The teenager left her home town of Roswell, New Mexico for the summer to get away from the alien situation and reclaim her life. Now she’s back, and she has certainly changed.
“Liz has decided to be much stronger than she was last year; she wants to be very independent,” says Shiri Appleby, the actress who plays Parker on the WB’s teen-alien adventure Roswell. “She wants to separate herself from that world, because she wants to live in a world that’s safe and productive for her.”
Roswell fared well enough in last year’s debut season to earn a 13-episode renewal, so Appleby finds herself back on the set for more teen angst and alien intrigue. “We worked for 18 hours yesterday,” she sighs. “That was pretty intense. Today I only had to work in the morning, which was nice.”
As for this season’s stronger, more independent Parker, Appleby says producer Jason Katims is responsible. “One of the things he stressed with me was not to let Liz become so vulnerable. He wants me to let her feel things, but also to have her stand up for herself more. Liz is dealing with all this alien stuff, though, and her life and her friends’ lives are always in jeopardy. Those were really huge situations. The only way I could translate those to a 16-year-old girl’s feelings was to be scared – scared for my life and other peoples’ lives. This place [Roswell] is not safe territory. I think that’s why Liz became so vulnerable.”
Now Parker is 17, and a junior at Roswell High. After spending the summer with her aunt in Florida, she has taken a job working for a congresswoman who comes to Roswell. “We find out she’s not necessarily a congresswoman,” says Appleby. “In the season’s first few episodes, Liz is pushing Max away. He’s ready to jump into the relationship again, and Liz needs time to adjust to being back in town and being her own person.. She went away and decided this [relationship] wasn’t the best thing for her. So she’s fighting off the love of her life and going in this new direction with a new job. Meanwhile, they’re all back at school, too.”
The safe and normal life that Parker tries to create for herself won’t endure, of course. “No, but it lasts a few episodes,” says Appleby, who’s currently working on the sixth episode (due to air this month).
“I’m happy with the way Liz is growing up,” adds the 21-year-old Appleby. “I’ve never been a part of something for such a long period of time, so it’s wonderful to see how this other person is evolving. She’s still very young and girlie, but now she’s interning with a congresswoman. It’s nice to see her doing something else, becoming rather professional. She’s making stronger choices in her life.”
Appleby admits she occasionally chafes at her character’s naiveté. “I’m a little more spunky than Liz. She is just very sweet and innocent, and that’s sometimes a problem because I want to make her more outgoing. I can be shy and vulnerable at times, but those are not the dominant characteristics of my personality. I want to put a little more of me into her. It has been nine months; it’s not like a film where you only do the character for three months. So that has been challenging for me. I’m a different person than she is. The things Liz says, I would never say. She’s from a small town, and she has only been exposed to so much. I was raised in Los Angeles. So Liz is a little more sheltered than I am. She’s outgoing and funny when she needs to be, but because her life is always in jeopardy, Liz isn’t the normal 17-year-old kid.”
Parker finds herself in a situation that is completely, no pun intended, alien to Appleby. But that’s just another challenge for the actress. “Nobody that I know has ever been in Liz’s situation, so I can’t relate it to anything in my own life. That’s difficult. But at the same time, I can try to translate it into typical high school feelings of being left out and alone.”
Appleby originally auditioned for all three of Roswell’s main female characters – the other two being Isabel Evans (now realized by Katherine Heigl) and Maria de Luca (Majandra Delfino). “When I first got the script for the pilot, I was reading all the roles to myself in my apartment. I really liked [the part of Liz], but I didn’t want to push. As an actor, you convince yourself that you can do any of them. That’s your job. So I found different parts of my own personality for each character. But in the back of my mind, I had to admit…it’s fun to be the lead.”
Interestingly, the show’s casting director wasn’t too keen on Appleby for any of the roles. “She didn’t want to bring me to the producers, but a friend of mine is friends with David Nutter [who directed the pilot], and he gave him my picture and resume. So that’s how I got in the door. I’ve never done that before; it felt really weird. I didn’t want to push anymore and ask to read for the lead.”
Instead, Appleby read for Isabel and Maria. “They didn’t want me to read for Liz until the fifth time I came in,” Appleby explains, “because I wasn’t what they envisioned for the part. They kept bringing me back and finally, they said, ‘Why don’t we just have her read Liz?’ So I did, and they brought me back a few more times. Eventually, when they realized I wasn’t right for Isabel, it was down to Maria and Liz. The last two times I went in, I was still reading both parts. When I found out I was going to test for the show, I asked, ‘Am I testing for Maria or am I testing for Liz?’ They said it would be Liz; I was a little shocked.”
Katims and Nutter invited Appleby to their office on the Fox lot to rehearse with Jason Behr, who had been cast as Parker’s alien boy friend Max Evans. “We did it, and they didn’t have too much to say [as far as changes],” the actress recalls. “It happened instantly, which was great. They saw chemistry between Jason and me. Thereafter, when I tested for the network people, I had to read with Jason and when I tested for the studio people, I had to read with Jason. It was pretty cool.”
Now, Appleby has her first season of network television under her belt. She never had such a demanding job in show business before this – in fact, before landing Roswell, she was a student at the University of Southern California, studying English literature in addition to theater arts. So it’s not surprising that the most rewarding part of Season One for Appleby was simply getting through it. “It was long and I was in [practically] every scene,” she says. “I had never made a commitment like that to anything in my life. School never felt like a commitment. Taking this job was my first big adult decision. Suddenly, I was having to do press, and I was only 20 years old. Getting through the season proved to me that I’m a stronger person than I thought I was.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Appleby adds. “I enjoyed every minute of it. But it’s very trying, and you have to grow up quickly. You have to realize you can’t go out to dinner on Sunday nights because you have to get up at 6 a.m. on Monday. It was like, ‘I know I’m a child, but I have to act like an adult.’ You have to maintain all the relationships in your life, but still do good work on set. Balancing this new world that I wasn’t accustomed to was hard. All these people were expecting so much from me, and I want to please them, and I want to please myself, too. But now that I’ve done it once, this season is so much more enjoyable. I’m having a fantastic time.”
Roswell is increasing its quotient of science fiction and action elements this season, a move that Appleby describes as an effort by the writers to focus the series’ format. “The SF drives the series now,” she says. “The relationships are still dominant as the heart of the show, but they don’t necessarily make up every scene. That has made it really nice, because I’ve had days off this season. When I’m at work, I appreciate it more.”
Although she has no interest in SF herself, Appleby believes the new direction is good for the series. “Last year was difficult for the writers, because they didn’t know what was supposed to drive the stories along. Are we an SF show? A love story? Do we have a younger audience or an older one? It was hard to find a happy medium. This year they’ve come up with some really wonderful scripts. The SF helps keep the stories moving, but the relationships are still there, now being tried through the SF problems. I think it’s terrific, because the audience won’t get sick of one thing or another. There are so many different dynamics on the show. This year Roswell has evolved and come into its own, and we all know what we’re doing.”
Does Appleby think Roswell is hottest among teens, or are older adults beginning to embrace the show? “Our audience is definitely a little older,” she opines. “This past summer, Crashdown.com – our major website – threw a huge party and people from all over the world came. All the cast was there, too. Many of the people who attended were adults. It was surprising because you would think that being on the WB, [viewers would be younger]. But it seems like our audience is more mature. They’re attracted to the show because they see those couples who are willing to risk so much for each other, and put their lives on the line for each other. That’s what draws them to Roswell.”
What draws Parker to Max is a little more enigmatic. Sure, he saved her life in the pilot, but according to Appleby, there’s even more to the connection. “It’s the way he looks at her, and the way Liz feels when she’s with him,” she reflects. “Liz feels really safe with Max. It’s a feeling she doesn’t get from anyone else. The just fit.”
Given the number of intimate scenes between Appleby and Behr in the first season, it’s a good thing the two young actors enjoy working together. “Jason is a really wonderful person to work with, very professional and prepared,” Appleby notes. “We’ve become really good friends. Of course, it can be hard, because we spend so many hours a day playing this intense couple. But we’re able to communicate and figure it all out. I like working with him because he’s there for me. When we do scenes that are uncomfortable, like scenes where we’re making out, Jason makes it very comfortable to shoot. I feel lucky to be working with him every day. But no matter who you’re working with, it’s difficult to do that kind of stuff because it’s so personal. I may be playing a character, someone who is not me, but that is still my body, you know? That’s my mouth he’s kissing! Jason is wonderful. He’ll say, ‘Is this comfortable for you? Do you want me to put my hand somewhere else?’ And I don’t feel uncomfortable saying certain things. So I think we’re both lucky.”
Besides Behr, another of Appleby’s closest friends in the cast is Delfino. “She’s fantastic, and she has the best comic timing,” Appleby enthuses. “I love working with her.” Colin Hanks, who plays Alex, is also revered by Appleby. “Colin is a dear friend of mine. He is a wonderful person, down to Earth and fun. He’s really positive and full of energy.” Heigl impresses Appleby with “smart choices. She’s very intelligent. I’m also impressed by how much she reads on set.” Of Nick Wechsler, who plays Parker’s unlucky former boyfriend Kyle, Appleby says, ‘He’s hysterical! Nick is witty and very personable, and so giving. I know he hates his performances and doesn’t watch them. Isn’t that crazy? He’s so good. It has been great to work with him, because he’s always pushing the scene further and pushing himself harder. He won’t accept anything as it is.”
The introduction of the new teen alien Tess (Emilie de Ravin) in the latter half of last season injected some welcome friction into the Parker/Evans relationship. “It’s nice to have that,” Appleby says. “In fact, ‘Tess. Lies, and Videotape’ is probably my favorite episode, along with the pilot. Tess added conflict for Liz and Max. She complicated their relationship. Not that it was easy to begin with, but Tess is an interesting twist thrown in there. Emilie is a really sweet girl and she works hard.”
Roswell is not Appleby’s first foray into the science fiction universe. She had a small role as Brigid Manilla in “The 13th Floor,” the film adaptation of Daniel Galouye’s novel “Simulacron-3” about a virtual reality computer simulation that calls into question the authenticity of our own reality. Appleby played a 1930s burlesque dancer with a secret. “That was one of the first times I was in a film and had something to do,” she says. “It was fun. I only worked on it about five days, but it was wonderful. I enjoyed all the dancing.”
She also appeared as sidekick wannabe Tara in two “Xena: Warrior Princess” episodes: “Forgiven” and
“A Tale of Two Muses.” “Those were great experiences! I had just turned 19, and it was the first time I had ever left the country by myself [Xena shoots in New Zealand]. It was also the first time I had been given a part that big – a huge milestone in my career. The people over there were superb. Lucy Lawless is so giving; she talked to me all the time about following what I believed in and not giving in to other people. She did “Grease” on Broadway, and I like singing show tunes, so I would make her sit outside with me and sing all the time.”
If Roswell were to enjoy a run of several years on the WB, Appleby would be glad to be part of it. At the same time, her ultimate goal is to one day segue into features. “The bottom line is, I want to work,” she says. “I love acting, whatever the outlet. But in films, I can play a person for three or four months and really commit to that, and be part of the process of developing the film. I would like to have input and be part of the artistic development. On TV, there’s not enough time for you to get involved beyond your own character. I would like to be involved in the whole process.”
In the meantime, Shiri Appleby will keep breathing life into Liz Parker, small-town girl with intergalactic problems. And one day soon, she will finally visit the real-life town of Roswell, New Mexico. “I haven’t been there yet,” she chuckles, “but I’m definitely interested in going. I’ve just got to check it out.”
p. 72: One of the things that surprised Appleby, as illustrated during the crashdown.com party, was both the maturity and variety of fans who tune into Roswell
p. 73, Full-page WB photo of Shiri red top, blue jeans, dead branches : As the human element embroiled in the alien action, Shiri Appleby gives Roswell’s unearthly adventures a terrestrial charm.
p. 74, Photo of the cast in the VIP room at FF party: Roswell’s aliens & allies (l. to r.) Jim Ortlieb, Brendan Fehr, Majandra Delfino, Nick Wechsler, Emilie de Ravin, William Sadler, Yvonne Bennett, Appleby, Jason Katims, Katherine Heigl, Colin Hanks & Jason Behr.
p. 74, Very pretty photo of Shiri: As carefree as she is, Appleby understands the gravity of her cosmic role. “Taking this job was my first big adult decision,” she notes.
p. 74-5, photo from the Balance healing/dream sequence: Liz Parker (Appleby, rear) grows up some in season two, but can even she face the dangers that await on the SF-revamped Roswell?
p. 75, Other WB publicity photo of Shiri (bare feet, different red top, sitting on weird driftwood by dead grass): What can Parker expect during junior year at Roswell High? alien conflicts, government conspiracies, a free fifth period…