With the premiere tonight of The CW’s reboot Roswell, New Mexico, fans of the original sci-fi drama, which aired from 1999 to 2002, should prepare to find the familiar and the new in the reimagining by Carinia Adly Mackenzie’s (The Originals). The characters have been aged up from high schoolers to adults in their late 20s, and the series has taken on a much more political tone. Issues of immigration (terrestrial and otherwise) permeate the narrative, as do grittier topics like mental illness, addiction and sexual identity.
But there are still plenty of throwbacks to delight Dreamers. The Crashdown Café reigns supreme as kitschy diner extraordinaire, and Liz and Max’s chemistry will still make hearts flutter. That, combined with the shameless 1990s soundtrack that runs beneath the first few episodes, promises a sense of nostalgia that’s present but doesn't run the show.
Here’s a quick guide to the new/old characters on Roswell, New Mexico, and the micro and macro evolutions they’ve undergone in Mackenzie’s vision.
LIZ ORTECHO (JEANINE MASON)
Naïve and curious high school student Liz Parker (Shiri Appleby) has become Liz Ortecho, a biomedical researcher who’s far less romantic than her counterpart. Her name actually comes from the Roswell High novels and Mackenzie’s desire to reverse some of the whitewashing of the '90s adaptation. We get the sense that Ortecho might have once been similar to the dreamy high schooler who led Roswell, but years of family tragedy and rootlessness have made her jaded and skeptical. Her sister Rosa (seen in flashbacks played by Legion’s Amber Midthunder) was a drug addict who died in a car accident that also took the lives of two other innocent girls, and her father Arturo (Carlos Compean) deals with discrimination and vandalism from members of the community who use Rosa’s crime as an outlet for their own racism and xenophobia. Arturo is also undocumented, and Liz is fiercely protective of him, given the elements of persecution he’s subject to despite running a successful and popular business within the community.
As in the original series, Liz is the victim of gun violence in the pilot, and she’s revived by a lovestruck Max Evans. She eventually learns the secret of his alien nature, along with that of his siblings. She’s still fascinated by it, but from a more investigative and less trusting place as opposed to Appleby’s curiosity. The skepticism and self-possession of Mason’s Liz is the biggest difference between Liz Parker and Liz Ortecho, but because of the choice to age the characters up ten years and give them more prescient social and political storylines, it feels like an organic progression of the strong young woman in Roswell had she undergone the hardships her modern counterpart has.
MAX EVANS (NATHAN PARSONS)
Max is perhaps the most unchanged from his original-series counterpart. He’s still the quiet, thoughtful superpowered alien desperately in love with Liz. They grew up together and were friends and lab partners in high school. He works for the Roswell Sheriff’s Department, and leads a pensive, somewhat-solitary life. He cares deeply for his siblings, and is incredibly close with his appearance-minded and slightly controlling sister Isobel. Max is also concerned with appearances, but it's more borne out of fear of what would happen if their identities were discovered. That makes his relationship with Michael complicated as Michael’s struggle to find a workable identity after a childhood spent in foster care results in more than one run-in with the law. More than anything he represents the same kind of “alien” Liz’s father does – a person whose undocumented status doesn’t magically turn him into a criminal; quite the opposite, in fact.
ISOBEL EVANS (LILY COWLES)
Lily Cowles’ Isobel Evans is a little softer than Katherine Heigl’s icy, but tenderhearted alien beauty queen. The biggest change in her character is that she’s married to the adorable and devoted Noah Bracken (Karan Oberoi). The perfect family life Roswell’s Isabel dreamed of has been manifested in her adult counterpart. That said, she’s still exacting and controlling, especially now that she has such a full life to protect. Cowles’ Isobel is a pillar of the Roswell community and isn’t here for either Max’s inviting of Liz into their family secret or her brother Michael’s careless shenanigans. She maintains psychic powers similar to those seen on the original show, just as Max can still heal and revive people.
MICHAEL GUERIN (MICHAEL VLAMIS)
While Max and Isobel were raised by the kindly Evans family, their “brother” Michael Guerin wasn’t. His history of bouncing through foster care for most of his childhood has given him a far more jaded outlook on Earth and on humanity. There’s no alcoholic foster father to torment him; he’s an adult and can take care of the tormenting and self-loathing all on his own (though he does also live in a trailer park). He’s also a little better with his powers than Brendan Fehr’s Michael was. He’s the only one of his siblings actively trying to find a way home, and he’s also the only one of them not to have ever really integrated into society. His discontent manifests in criminal behavior usually surrounding various kinds of substance abuse, but it doesn’t eclipse his brilliant scientific mind. Vlamis’ performance perfectly translates the sad, yet manic energy of someone who feels trapped, but has no idea how to escape or where he’d go if he did.
KYLE VALENTI (MICHAEL TREVINO)
In a change that we found to be the most welcome, Kyle Valenti is not the abusive jock he started out as in the original series. His future/rebooted version is a physician and Liz’s high school ex. He’s still the son of Roswell’s sheriff, but she’s his mother and played by Rosa Arredondo. He also still carries a torch for Liz, but his feelings are largely overshadowed by his recruitment by Jesse Manes, an Air Force officer and Alex Manes’ father who’s taken on the role of the suspicious Sheriff Jim Valenti in the original. All in all, Kyle’s a far more perceptive and quizzical character whose motivations are protective, if his actions aren’t always in the best interests of his family and friends.
ALEX MANES (TYLER BLACKBURN)
The sweet, earnest Alex Whitman (Colin Hanks) is still very much present in his reboot iteration Alex Manes (Tyler Blackburn). Manes is a soldier who’s returned home from Iraq both physically and emotionally injured. His taciturn father Jesse is more interested in his quest to prove that aliens exist and their intentions are malevolent rather than helping his son readjust to life back home.
MARIA DELUCA (HEATHER HEMMENS)
Instead of being Liz’s best friend, Maria DeLuca begins Roswell, New Mexico as the erstwhile close friend of Liz’s older sister Rosa. She does maintain the attitude of tolerance that made her so charming in the original, but doesn’t get let in on the Max, Michael and Isobel’s secret as immediately as her counterpart did. Her role in the first three episodes sees her assisting Liz try to piece together the last night of Rosa’s life as mysteries surrounding the girl’s death arise with Liz’s return to Roswell.
Airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on The CW, Roswell, New Mexico stars Jeanine Mason, Nathan Parsons, Lily Cowles, Michael Vlamis, Tyler Blackburn, Michael Trevino, Heather Hemmens and Karan Oberoi.