Starlog Magazine – New Brendan Fehr Article
Thanks so much to MyrnaLynne for sending this in :)
Starlog January 2001 #282, submitted by MyrnaLynne
Brendan Fehr interview, pp. 64-67
“Alien Edge” by Ian Spelling
Five photos: p. 64, (Big pic of Brendan in leather jacket) – Caption: Living in Roswell, Brendan Fehr plays a rebel without a world.”
p. 65, Brendan with Majandra Delfino � Caption: When evil ETs invade “Roswell,” unearthly teen Michael (Brendan Fehr, with Majandra Delfino) alienates all those he cares about in order to better protect them.
Photo from ‘Skin & Bones’ of MrV with Michael in jail cell � Caption: Michael has trouble coping with his otherwordly destiny, and not even foe-turned-friend Sheriff Valenti (William Sadler) can bail him out.
p. 66, Photo of first season Michael, sitting on floor of phone booth, spiky hair, worn-out boots � Caption: Passionate sparks will continue to fly on “Roswell” but Fehr maintains that in season two “you’re go8ing to see the SF elements drive the show.”
p. 67, Big second-season cast group photo � Caption: Can these “Roswell citizens (Sadler, Jason Behr, Katherine Heigl, Shiri Appleby, Nick Wechsler, Emilie de Ravin, Delfino, Fehr) survive both harsh aliens and uncertain ratings?
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The Grim Reaper came ahunting, but somehow � wrong directions in Albuquerque? A detour in Santa Fe? � he bypassed “Roswell.”
“We were pretty close to getting axed,” acknowledges Brendan Fehr, who co-stars on the WB’s SF series as Michael Guerin. “I’m not sure that we should have been that close, really. Many people watch “Roswell.” The right audience, the one who the WB wants, that right demographic, watched the show. The whole Tabasco sauce campaign that the fans [of crashdown.com] got going must have helped. I really didn’t get why we were so close to getting canceled. We seemed to be doing fine, especially near the first season’s end, when the ratings went up over the last few episodes. Actually, I would have been surprised if we had gotten canceled.”
After keeping fans on the edge of their seats until the last possible moment, the WB renewed “Roswell” for a second season. However, they did so with a proviso. The network ordered just 13 sophomore season episodes. If the first handful now airing tank in the ratings, it would be the death knell for the back nine. Clearly, however, the WB wants “Roswell” to succeed. They’re advertising everywhere, on buses and billboards, on radio and in magazines (even this one). [Starlog ran a 2-page blue Pod Squad poster ad for the second season premiere.] And the “Roswell” cast and producers are out and about chatting it up. [Note: Elsewhere in this issue, on p. 12, in the Sci-Fi TV pages, it states” At press time…the WB renewed “Roswell” for the rest of the season, nine more episodes.” The interview with Brendan Fehr was conducted before this happened] And the “Roswell” cast and producers are out and about chatting it up.
Thus, this conversation � on a rare day off � with Fehr, who offers a few observations on this year and a look back at “Roswell’s” first season. “I thought that the SF approach we took at the end of last season made “Roswell” a much better show,” says Fehr, who co-stars on the series with Jason Behr (as alien pal Max), Majandra Delfino (on-and-off human girl friend Maria), Shiri Appleby (Max’s human gal pal Liz), Katherine Heigl (fellow alien Isabel), Colin Hanks (Alex, Isabel’s beau), William Sadler (Sheriff Valenti), Nick Wechsler (the Sheriff’s son, Kyle) and Emilie de Ravin (Tess).
De Ravin plays a recently uncovered young alien whose presence (along with that of shape-changing Nasedo) threw the semi-ordered lives of Michael, Max, and Isabel into total chaos. “The SF aspect is what separates us from the rest of the shows out there, especially the teen-oriented ones. We’re a little more focused on science fiction now, which is good. We’ll try to do that without ignoring the relationship stuff, because people like that, too. Many people watch the show for the relationships.
“You’re going to see the SF elements drive the show,” Fehr says, “but with the relationships carefully intertwined. I like that much better, though it may not be as teen-oriented as it was before. We’ll be tying up some of the threads from last season. Tess is back. We’ll get more information about the aliens and who’s supposed to be with whom. The alien stuff is great fun to play. I have an idea of what’s going to happen with my character, but I don’t know everything. I don’t like to know too far in advance. Sometimes my curiosity gets the best of me, but usually I like to get a script and play what’s there. More often than not, I like what they come up with.”
“Anyway, in this season, the relationship between Michael and Maria is severed, sort of,” the actor continues, “We’ll talk. We’ll have our scenes together. The scenes are still funny and fast-paced, which is the stuff that everybody likes. But Michael feels that Maria is just another person now. He has put on his blinders. She’s not just another person, of course, but that’s what he wants to feel, that’s what he wants her to feel. They’ll have discussions about their relationship. I don’t want to give too much away, but they’ve got their problems. I like the scenes with Majandra. She’s a friend and extremely talented. She knows how to do the funny stuff and she can do the dramatic stuff as well. When we have scenes together, it’s great fun. You can feel that. We have good chemistry together.”
“What else can I tell you without giving too much away? We, the aliens, are developing our powers,” Fehr adds. “We’re discovering new powers and refining the ones we’ve already used. We’ll definitely continue in the same vein as the last few episodes of the previous season. The writers will throw in all the alien quirkiness. That’s what sets the show apart.”
Michael, of course is the show’s edgiest character. He has the hot temper. He won’t flinch from confronting Max when it comes to protecting the aliens’ secrets. He doesn’t mince words. and he has both Fox Mulder’s snarky sense of humor and more than a passing resemblance to “The X-Files” erstwhile G-man. “Michael is a lot more mature now than he was when the show started,” Fehr notes. “His social skills aren’t fully there, but they’re certainly much better than they were before. He’s a little more willing to open up to the people around him, to the people he trusts. He has softened up a bit. You’ll see this season that he’ll willing to let down a wall. You’ll see him crack a smile, which he didn’t do all that much during the first season. He’s willing to do that, but it’s a contrast to what he needs to do in terms of all the alien stuff.”
“When he has to get down to business, he will be right in the thick of it. That’s part of the reason he’s distancing himself from Maria. The relationship is distracting him from what he needs to do. Actually, he has always been in the thick of it, but now he’s more mature about it. He’s still a bit of a loose cannon, but he’s better at controlling his anger. You can see the anger trying to boil over, but he can put a lid on it when he needs to do so. I’m happy about the changes, because I wanted him to lighten up a little.”
Portraying so serious a character, particularly during the first season, was both easy and tough for Fehr. It was easy in the sense that he read his lines in a straightforward fashion and simply didn’t smile. On the other hand, he never wanted Michael to come across as a one-dimensional character. “That would be very boring,” Fehr says. “In many of the scripts, Michael’s lines were orders or threats, which made it hard not to play the same character over and over again. You want to play the same character over and over, obviously, but you don’t want to give the same performance over and over. That’s what I’m trying to say. As an actor, it’s more fun to play variations of the character and, for the audience, it gives them something different to look at. It was a challenge, but it’s the kind of challenge you get on many episodic shows. I’m happy that they’re loosening him up at least a little this season.”
Fehr laughs when asked what he doesn’t yet know about Michael that he’s eager to learn. “I don’t know what this character is doing besides watching sports on TV,” Fehr explains. “Whenever you see him, until someone needs him to do something, he’s watching a game on TV. I don’t even know what kinds of games he’s watching. I don’t know what he does to enjoy himself. I don’t know what he does on his time. I have no idea. Does he play solitaire? He lives in that house of his by himself. There are weights and things in there, but, really, what does he do all day? He has a punching bag, but I don’t know what he has that for. He has a new dirt bike this season, so I assume he’s spending some time riding around on it. I guess I would just like to see a little bit more of his life outside of Maria, Max and Isabel.”
Anyone familiar with Fehr’s career to date knows that “Roswell” marks the actor’s latest foray into the SF genre. His earlier genre credits include the Canadian horror movie “Christina’s House,” “Disturbing Behavior,” a thriller directed by “Roswell” executive producer David Nutter that co-starred Sadler, the successful film “Final Destination” and two episodes of “Millennium” (‘Collateral Damage’ and ‘The Pest House’). “Disturbing Behavior was an interesting experience, but I had a very small role and the film didn’t come together the way anybody hoped it would,” recalls Fehr. “I also had a bit part in Final Destination. I died 10 minutes into it. That was shot up in Vancouver, where I used to live. that was fun, getting to go home. When I did Final Destination, I had shot the “Roswell” pilot, but the show hadn’t been picked up yet. I also did those “Millennium” episodes in Vancouver. I didn’t really get to work with Lance Henriksen, but it was cool to be on the show.”
“So I’ve done a lot of SF there,” the actor adds, “but that’s probably because so much SF is done in Vancouver. The X-Files was done there for a long time. Millennium was done there the whole time it was one the air. The Outer Limits, Poltergeist: The Legacy, I think Seven Days and a couple of other shows. As an actor in Vancouver trying to find work, you wind up doing a lot of SF.”
When he received the “Roswell” pilot script, Fehr liked it immediately. He didn’t mind the otherworldly element, nor did he feel it would require a leap of faith to believe that three aliens could be living on Earth as teenagers, attending high school, shielding their identity, ferreting out details about their past and future and hanging out regularly at a greasy spoon called the Crashdown Cafe. “It was a TV show,” he says simply. “It was intelligently written. It didn’t play down to the character or to the audience. You had aliens as teens trying to hide the fact that they were aliens. So what could they do? They do to school. They hang out at a restaurant. I didn’t have to make a leap of faith. If you tell good stories and people like the characters and want to go through an experience with them, it doesn’t really matter what the story is.”
Michael, of course, played a major role in numerous episodes. First, there was the pilot, which introduced the character. In “The Morning After,” Michael dealt with the question of how much he could trust Liz and Maria, while “Missing” and the “285 South � River Dog” two-parter found Michael experiencing visions of geodesic domes that could reveal the secret of the aliens’ past and the existence of a fourth E.T. In “Heatwave,” Michael and Maria got hot and heavy, while in “The Balance,” Michael visited River Dog (Ned Romero) at the Mescalero [Mesaliko] Reservation and nearly died after slipping into a hallucinatory state.
“One of my personal favorites was ‘Independence Day,’ just because Michael got to cry and show a side of himself we had never seen,” Fehr notes. “The pilot will always be very cool for me. It was great to get the job. It was fun to shoot. The reaction to it was great. And it’s what got us this far. I also liked the last five first season episodes we did [“Tess, Lies & Videotape,” “Four Square,” “Max to the Max,” “The White Room” and “Destiny”]. They’re the ones that really changed the tone of the series. I have to be honest and say I didn’t see even the finished versions of those five shows. So I don’t know how they turned out.”
Such is life, the actor now realizes, on a weekly series. “It’s difficult,” says Brendan Fehr, who will stick with genre fare for his next project, a vampire thriller called “The Forsaken, “in the sense that many times you’re tired, or you don’t feel well, but you’ve got to do the job and you can’t let anything throw you off. You’ve got to keep yourself on your toes. You’ve got to stay sharp. “Roswell” isn’t a sitcom. We’re on location a lot. We’re dealing with aliens, and some of the dialogue isn’t what you hear on other TV dramas. I’m playing an alien who hangs out with other aliens in a place called the Crashdown Cafe. As an actor, you’re walking a fine line. You want to make it real. You want people to like the characters and to believe in them, so they’ll go on the ride. I like the work. I think “Roswell” is a great show and I hope we stick around for a while.”