Jason Katims Interviews & AOL Chats
Jason Katims - Executive Producer
I don't have the dates of all the articles, but I tried to put them in roughly the correct order based on content.
(I wasn't always great with saving sources. If I know where and when the article came from it is listed)
Here is a list of the articles and interviews below
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ROSWELL: Producer Jason Katims
Exploring the science fiction mythology of alienated teens.
Author: Edward Gross
Date: April 24, 2000
Jason Katims, executive producer of ROSWELL and the show`s primary creative guiding force, admits that by the time he was able to deal with news that the series was in trouble, the movement from fans to save it was well underway. "I think when you're working on a show like this, you tend to work seven days a week, very long hours, and you're living in a bubble," he says. "You don't have any idea of what it's like 'out there,' what people are thinking about, or whether they're responding to it. But to see what's happening in terms of this support is very surprising and encouraging. And it comes to us as we're in the darkness of trying to finish the season up, and we're all exhausted. But it gives us the energy to move forward and do it."
In their efforts to keep ROSWELL on the air, the fans bombarded the WB Network with thousands of bottles of Tabasco sauce-the drink of choice for extraterrestrials-and let the network know in no uncertain terms that they wanted the show to continue. "It's interesting when you have this kind of loyal fan base," notes Katims. "Even if it's a relatively small fan base, their passion says something not only to us as producers, but it speaks to the network a well."
Things seem to be going well for ROSWELL. On April 10th the show shifted timeslots from Wednesday at 9 (where it aired directly opposite STAR TREK: VOYAGER) to Mondays at the same time, where there was no genre competition. It has improved the WB's ratings in that timeslot significantly, and its dramatic shift in focus-from teen angst to a harder sci-fi edge-has scored with critics and the audience.
It's also cost a lot more to produce. "When we first started the show," Katims details, "the budget was sort of patterned over what the budget of the pilot was. The pilot was not small, but it had one big set piece and it had a few special effects. But we're not melting cheese on tacos anymore. There are huge things happening and there's been a huge change, so, yeah, when we get picked up, in addition to celebrating getting picked up, we're going to have to figure out how to make this show because the demands of doing a show like this are very high and it's not easy. We want to do the highest quality work. There are shows out there that have done it and done it very well, and not on huge budgets either. So we'll cross that bridge when we come to it."
The show's dramatic bridge, however, is something else entirely, and Katims admits that he's pleased the show has changed tone in the way that it has. "I think the dramatic change was a very natural transition," he says, "and if you look at the course of the first season, it's something that makes a lot of sense. I think the first part of the season was filled with a lot of 'what if?' questions. 'What if we found out who we are and where we come from? What if there is a possibility of doing that?' In addition, we were also seeing them beginning to have more investment in their lives in Roswell. Now what happens in the last story arc of the season is that it's no longer a question of 'what if?' Things are happening right here and now. Their search has led them to places, which makes these last six episodes, in my opinion, very exciting and very tense. It really moves the mythology of what's been happening forward. In addition to that, it moves the emotions forward and deepens them. The stakes are higher. So it's a very natural progression, because at the beginning they didn't know that much. All they had was a picture of a silver handprint that Liz saw in the sheriff's office. That's what started everything. Now, all kinds of things are happening, and over the last six episodes they come face to face with the fourth alien-who they didn't even know was out there. To me, it's very natural that we've come to this place in the show." Like everyone else involved with ROSWELL, he doesn't feel that the heavier emphasis on science fiction will come at the expense of the relationships that have driven the show through most of the season. "The reason I don't think so," he explains, "is that the writers on this show are interested as much in the relationships as they are in the science fiction. To us, in moving the mythology of the show forward, in moving the science fiction aspect of the show forward, it's only interesting in how it's affecting the characters and their relationships. What we found is that as we're doing these episodes that move us much further into our mythology, it's much more emotional. It's pushing these characters to become more adult, in a sense-to make bigger decisions of life and death, to deal with their sense of destiny. These are all things, to me, which are issues about characters.
And dealing with the other people in that universe. Fans who were watching the show and into the relationships might be a little concerned, but when they see these episodes, they're not going to turn away from the show. I think it's just the opposite. The other side of it is what happens when you're doing a teen ensemble drama. In the kind of climate there is now, when there are a lot of young, pretty faces on these shows, what differentiates us from other shows is the mythological aspect of it. It's different, and that's what gets us, as writers, jazzed and excited about writing this stuff. We're in territory that you're not seeing on other shows." BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER creator Joss Whedon has often discussed the fact that his series has managed to take on a life of its own, moving through a season in ways that he never could has expected at the beginning of the year. "That's interesting," says Katims. "I would say that's true for us as well. First of all, that's one of the things that's exciting about doing episodic television. There's a certain sense of improvisation to it. You have certain ideas, but you see an episode and you feel something from the actor and how he portrays a character, and you write toward that. That's what's exciting about doing it. Weirdly, it has this feeling of doing Repertory Theater, where as writers we're writing toward a cast that we're learning about as we go along. So things change according to that. For example, the minute we put Michael and Maria together in a car in [the episode] '285 South', we knew we had to move forward with that relationship. It was definitely our plan to do that, but seeing that natural, electric kind of rapport they had with each other, we moved it ahead faster. One thing we did change in terms of the season is that we got much further with our mythology than we had intended. That has come out of what we talked about earlier, which is this movement toward more of this fascination people have with the mythology we've created, and the science fiction elements of it. People have been, I sense, really craving more of that, without losing the other aspects of the show. So we moved further than we initially intended on going. "Originally," he continues, "we were intending on going to a season finale that now occurs four episodes earlier and takes it further than we otherwise would have gone. I think we still have a good cliffhanger. To me, it's moving forward in a way that is very exciting. The further we go with this stuff, the more possibilities there are, as opposed to feeling like, 'Wow, now we have nothing left.' By bringing up that discovery-the discovery of another alien among them-it just immediately raises all of these great questions that we get to play out over four episodes. As to the second season, we definitely have an idea of what we want to do. Usually I love to talk about this stuff and tease the audience, but I don't want to do it because where we're going in the second season is basically set up in the final moments of the season finale." Katims, who previously served as executive producer of the critically acclaimed drama MY SO CALLED LIFE, was drawn to the show by the premise (three alien teenagers that live life among humans) as established in the ROSWELL HIGH young-adult novels. "Not only did I think it was a wonderful pilot," he says, "but it was the kind of pilot that held the promise of telling hundreds of stories from it; it would branch out in such a way that there were so many places to go with it. That's what really drew me to the subject. I also feel that this combination of what is, at its heart, a story about these teenagers trying to find their way in the world, but has the twist of being about aliens and having aliens and humans interacting, was dramatically powerful. That twist is what made it different and exciting. It's different than anything I've done before. Of course, that's always exciting because it's a new challenge and new territory to cover as a writer."
The jury will be out on ROSWELL's future until mid-May when the WB announces its fall schedule. "The situation we're in," Katims notes, "is that we haven't gotten an order for more episodes yet. I think that we have a good chance to get picked up, though I don't think it's a foregone conclusion. It could go either way, but I really feel if this show does get picked up for a second season, the movement by the fans will have played a very large part in it."
What planet is Jason Katims from?
By Patrick Lee Science fiction weekly
The WB's teen alien series Roswell is closing in on the end of its first season, with startling revelations in store for Max, Liz, Michael, Maria, Isabel and Alex. But the bigger drama is playing out off-screen, where the series awaits word from the network on whether it will have a second year. The show's ratings have been lackluster, though it maintains a strong cult following, particularly on the Internet. In an effort to boost those ratings, the network plans to move the show from its current Wednesday 9 p.m. time slot to Monday nights at 9 p.m. starting April 10. That will take it out of the line of fire of NBC's hit The West Wing and UPN's Star Trek: Voyager, and place it comfortably in the wake of The WB's hit 7th Heaven.
Meanwhile, fans of the show have mounted a campaign to save it, sending miniature bottles of Tabasco sauce to WB executives and planning to take out a full-page ad in the April 6 issue of Variety. Tabasco sauce plays a key role in the show: it's the condiment of choice for the teen aliens.
Jason Katims, one of the series' executive producers and its "show runner," is grateful for the fan support. He took a few minutes to speak with Science Fiction Weekly about the show and its prospects and to offer some spoilers (you've been warned) for the end of the season.
Have you received any indications from The WB about the future of the series? Has it been picked up for next year? When do expect to hear?
Katims: We haven't got any official pickup yet. My understanding is, we'll probably not know officially until May, when [The WB] announces their season. ... We're hopeful, but you never know for sure. The WB has been real supportive of the show, beginning first of all with buying the show when it was originally developed for Fox, then giving it a really strong launch and really being behind it. ... And they haven't changed that. You don't know for sure until you get the pickup, and a lot of factors are involved that have nothing to do with me. ... So we're just going to work really hard and make these final episodes of the season great and make it impossible for them not to pick it up.
Can you give us any spoilers about the season-ending cliffhanger or arc we can look forward to?
Katims: I think that [it started] with an episode that aired recently, "Blind Date," where you see this shadowy figure walking through the fire at the end. ... And in another episode, "Independence Day," where you see someone protect Michael by shape-shifting into Hank. ... What we'll do by end of the season is [have the characters] discover the fourth alien they've been searching for all this time. The cliffhanger at the end of the season is how certain people of the group become divided because of the presence of the fourth alien, and it splits them up. ... Once this begins to happen, the stakes become extremely high, and there's a lot of danger and a definitely potential for people to die.
What changes can we expect in the show? New writers? New actors? Can you give us an idea of surprises we might see?
Katims: There is one new character introduced this season: Tess, a new girl in town, who comes in and upsets the apple cart for various reasons. ... She'll be in every episode for the rest of the season. She's played by a young Australian actress named Emilie De Raven. ... One of the male characters in our show is sort of drawn to her, despite himself. And it kind of creates some problems. ... It's too early to talk about [changes in the writing staff].
We're just trying to get to the end [of the season]. I have great writers working for me; for next year, we'll just try to put together a staff that's going to be able to handle this particular show, which is really about being able to embrace both genres, to write SF, but to do it never losing track of the emotional center of the stories.
Do you have any plans for the hiatus?
Katims: I'll probably be sleeping a lot. ... I don't have anything else in the works right now. We wrap shooting on April 12. ... If we get picked up, we'll probably start again in late July.
Roswell has been described as a hybrid of your earlier show, My So-Called Life, with The X-Files. How do you feel about such characterizations? How did you approach the material?
Katims: That characterization is great as far as I'm concerned. I feel like it's a series that has both a really strong SF element to it, and also characters who are rich and diverse and three-dimensional. And we as writers approach it by trying to service both things. ... We do so by integrating the two genres as much as possible, so we don't feel like, "Now we're going write an SF scene, now a relationship scene," but that both of those are melded and activated at once. ... What I like about it is that the SF element of the story and all of the mythology and the danger that they're in all gives you a lot of great story stuff to play. But the fact that we get connected to and invested in the characters humanizes the stories so that they become emotional as well. That's what we've enjoyed about the show when we write it.
How many of the episodes have you written yourself?
Katims: We have a staff. I will probably have written by the end of the season ... a third of them. The way we do it is very much a collaborative process. We all work together on stories, and go off in splinter groups, and work on stories and scripts. So a lot of times, in TV who gets credit is actually ... not always indicative of who did the writing. But basically, we approach it from the point of view of working together.
Do you feel you owe something to shows that have come before, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and The X-Files?
Katims: Definitely. Those shows have pushed the genre in different places and allow for the possibility of shows like Roswell. I'd like to think that Roswell has had the opportunity to ... move forward because of those shows, but also that we're our own thing, and we exist in our own universe.
How has the show evolved or changed since its earliest conception? Did the chemistry among the young actors play a part in how quickly things heated up romantically, or was that always the plan?
Katims: The thing that I really like about episodic TV is that ... in a movie, there's just one story, and you work on that one thing. In TV, you tell many stories, and it allows you to have your characters change and grow and develop, and you see different sides of them. What's exciting to me is when ... they sort of overlap ... and when the lines get blurred between who your characters are and the actors who are playing them. We've had a lot of fun basically drawing from when we ... see what the actors do, and see their strengths, and see where they live. We have a lot of fun writing toward that. ... That to me is an excitement and joy you get from writing for TV that you don't get everywhere. ... The Maria-Michael relationship is the most clear example. It's really fun watching Majandra [Delfino, who plays Maria,] and Brendan [Fehr, who plays Michael,] in real life. ... The way they relate to each other has all this great humor in it, and it's so charming. It's something that we feel when we're writing it; we feel excited about it, as there's such great chemistry between them. That didn't exist in the pilot: It's something that developed over the course of the season. ... [There's] not a lot of improvisation on the show. I'm talking about when you hear the cadence of people's voices and the way they talk and relate, you take that and use it in the writing of those characters.
Which character do you identify with most strongly?
Katims: It's kind of a tough question. It's kind of like asking a parent, "Who's your favorite kid?" It's really hard to answer that in terms of a favorite. ... I was obviously very drawn from the pilot and continue to be to the deep connection between Max and Liz, and the vulnerability that comes out of them because of that. ... Similarly, on the other side of things, the idea of writing ... the scenes between Maria and Michael, where they're so alive and have such a great sense of humor between them, is also great. ... And similarly, the dynamic between Isabel and Alex. Isabel, who ... seems on the outside to be so tough and strong, and there's this wonderful vulnerability in the actress [Katherine Heigl] that's under the surface that I love. And Alex has this incredible charm that Colin Hanks brings to his role.
How do you feel about the strong fan and Internet following? Do you like being lumped with Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other WB shows in the teen area, or do you feel the audience for Roswell is broader?
Katims: Unfortunately, I have little time to explore it. But we definitely have a lot of people in the office who keep up with it and let us know what's going on. I feel great about it, because it's so great to get feedback and to know there are people who are interested in it. And second, it's good for us, in terms of developing the stories, to know what people are thinking. ... We know what people respond to ... and sometimes what they don't respond to. ... I wouldn't look solely to the Internet, but the general direction that we've gone is to move more into the mystery and mythology of what's going on. It's been a natural progression for us, where at the beginning of the season, it was more about the discovery of aliens existing, and the weirdness of aliens existing in a normal place. But as we move toward the end of the season and make all these discoveries, it becomes a world that's a little more alien. [Now,] anybody who walks into the show, you're not quite sure who they are. ... There [was] a fan party ... which we're very excited about. Some of the people in our office arranged for them to get a tour of the sets. ... When you do this stuff, you're working in your little vacuum, and you're just this little company plodding along, doing your shows. So to know that there are people out there who feel strongly enough to ... get on a plane and come here and converge ... you get a real charge out of [it].
Are there any plans for a feature-film version of the show? Has this been discussed?
Katims: None that I know of. I think it's a little bit early for that. We'll try to get the TV series going full force before we start thinking about that.
The WB Session with Jason Katims
Date: Dec. 18, 2000
The following is the session transcript from Monday, December 18. It has been edited for spelling and grammar.
TheWBAndrew: Our special guest today is Roswell Executive Producer Jason Katims. He's here to answer your questions about the show, and give a hint as to what to expect in Roswell universe.
TheWBAndrew: We received over 600 questions in advance of today's chat, so let's get started.
TheWBAndrew: Perhaps the most popular question asked is about Max & Liz and Michael & Maria
TheWBAndrew: let's take care of those right away...
The only thing on my mind is the situation between Max and Liz. I just want to know if they are getting together. Or is their relationship totally over?
Jason: It's hard for me to say if and when they get back together because I honestly don't know yet.
Jason: What I can say is I consider the Liz and Max relationship the central love story in the series.
Jason: Even the deepest of relationships has its ups and downs, so what I find interesting is to track their relationship even when they're not technically together.
Jason: For example, the moment between Max and Liz at the end of the Christmas episode seems more poignant with them being apart than it would have been if they were together.
Are there any special Michael and Maria moments coming up that you can tell us about?
Jason: Always. There are 2 episodes in particular coming up (airing 2/5 and 2/12) which throw Michael and Maria together - first on a road trip of sorts and then living out the fantasy of being rich and famous.
How did you feel when you realize that Roswell was getting more popular?
Jason:I would say that I think that when I first realized that the show had this passionate fan base was when we were in danger of not getting picked up. It gave me this great feeling through all the campaigns.
Typically, how long does the cast have from the time they first get a script until the final shoot of an episode?
Jason: We shoot every episode in eight days...they'll get the script between a day or two or a week before we start shooting.
Do you consider the Roswell High novels as canonical in regards to the television show?
Jason: I read the first book and I used that as the model for the show and that after that we kind of took into our direction and I haven't read any after that unfortunately. The show has taken a life of its own so the book and the show are two separate living things.
Michael and Maria are the main reason I keep watching the show. Without giving us any spoilers, do you think we're gonna like tonight's eppy?
What's it like having Commander Riker direct?
Jason: haha... I think that Jonathan, who hasn't directed yet this season...he's also an exec. producer so he knows the cast and crew very well...to have him is great and comforting for the crew...he came in with such a confidence and grace about how he approached things that it's great to have him.
Will it be possible for our beloved pod squad to keep their true loves and fufill the destiny that was handed to them by their mother?
Jason: ...I don't know...=) That's a big question and the answer might go beyond this season.
Where did you attend college? How did you get your start in writing?
Jason: I went to Queens College in NY and after that pursued playwriting...I got my start in TV writing on My So Called Life.
How will the powers of the aliens continue to evolve?
Jason: As we have each one develop a different power, the power defines - in a way - who they are and vice versa...Isabel's power is more about intuitiveness and getting signals from people (dreamwalking). Michael is explosive and a little out of control so his powers have materialized...with Max it's his healing power and it's the thing that most defines the person he is.
Who picks the music for each episode? How much thought is put into it?
Jason: We have great music supervisors who continually feed choices to the editors.
Jason: The editors - who all have incredible instincts with music - then put songs into the early cuts of the episodes. Finally, I look at the cuts and make adjustments from there.
Do you have any advice as to how a young writer can get noticed?
Jason: From my own experience it took a long time to get noticed so I may be giving bad advice...but what advice I have is to write what is personal to him/her and what you're passionate about...if you can find a reason to write that isn't just about being successful, your chances of being successful are greater...hope that helps.
How did you select the different actors for their respective roles?
Jason: All the actors in the show auditioned and we saw dozens of actors for each role and the leads we saw over close to 100 for each role. You just try to find the people who you think you connect to the material and who have some special with good chemistry yet be different enough to make it interesting.
Can we expect to see Isabel falling for anyone this season? She's so alone.
Jason: I think that we're definitely dealing with the fact that she's alone and that her own frustrations with being alone and what she does about it. It's something we thought about to give her a love interest...but there are some obstacles...we're addressing it by having Isabel ask the same thing you're asking.
Jason, is the total order for season two 21 or 22 eps?
Do any of the writers read comments from the Crashdown site?
Jason: I can't speak with the other writers but the office staff definitely keeps up with it. I don't read them that often but I'm kept apprised of what you're saying and what you're responding to.
Will Tess ever go away?
Jason: hmmm...Where do you want her to go? =)
What can we do to help Roswell to a third season?
Jason: I think the best way is to keep watching the show. The support our core audience has shown has gotten us where we are so far. The network's awareness of this core audience is really helping us to continue.
Will tonight's episode offer a storyline that is significant to the entire season, or is it just a holiday episode independent of the ongoing stories of the season?
Jason: Tonight's a pretty stand alone episode and I think it's less interconnected than the other episodes that we've done that have contributed to the storyline. What I really like about it is that it does stand alone. You really never have had to seen an episode of Roswell to enjoy it and I'm really excited about that.
Is Majandra going to sing on an episode again?
Jason: Yes, she does a little singing tonight...and we're planning an episode now where she sings.
Will Max ever find out that Liz and Kyle didn't really sleep together and about Future Max? If so from who?
Jason: That is something I think will happen before this season is over. I don't know yet from who...=)
Has Colin Hanks' role in Star Wars II affected his role on Roswell? He seems to have dropped into the background this season.
Jason: Well actually he was doing Band of Brothers with his dad. He's now back in the cast and starting with episode 12 - 1/29 - he returns.
How do you feel about the cult-like status Roswell has received in such a short time period?
Jason:I'm really surprised and excited about it. What I found is that fans of Roswell defy the demographic of The WB and the demo you would expect the show to appeal to - both the older viewers and the really young viewers - although there's a small cult appeal there seems to be a broad appeal to all sorts of people and that makes me happy.
Do you feel confident about a third season?
Jason: I haven't really thought too much about it but I do think that we've been doing really well this year and as long as we continue to get the numbers we've been getting and we continue to build on those numbers, we're in good shape.
You were talking about how each have unique powers, will they be developing any new ones in the coming episodes?
Jason: Right now there are no new powers. We're focusing on the powers that already have and how they develop. We don't want to have them have too many powers or else we run into the danger of having them be like superheroes.
Do you have the next couple of season's arcs planned out or are you mainly focused on getting through this season?
Jason: haha...I'm just concentrating on this season. What happens with a show like this that tends to be serialized...it's difficult to think that far ahead because you want to see how the arcs play out before you jump to the next thing. The more you can see what's working and be improvisational makes for more interesting storylines.
What made you decide to do a Christmas episode for Roswell?
Jason: The idea of Max unleashing his powers to help these children was a story I've been wanting to tell from the inception of the series.
Jason: As we started to think about the episode more it just became clear it should be a Christmas episode.
Jason: The themes we were dealing with - those of wanting to use our gifts to help others, personal sacrifice and pondering what our roles are in the human family - are all ideas that fit well with a Christmas story.
Jason: And I have to thank the WB, by the way, for juggling their airdate schedule to allow us to do it.
When are we going to see a Roswell soundtrack?
Jason: We are in the early stages of planning a soundtrack right now. We would love to get it out by late spring, but it might not happen that quickly.
TheWBAndrew: here's a good one...
Why have Max and Michael been so hostile to each other?
What was your first job ever?
Jason: I worked with my brother running a snackbar in a hotel in the Catskills for the summer. We called it A Snackbar Named Desire.
Is the information given on the website at www.silverhandprint.com considered to be part of the canon of Roswell, or should we just draw our conclusions from what we've seen on the show?
Jason: Good question.. All of the information on the website comes from the episodes themselves and information received from myself and the rest of the writing staff.
Jason: While I haven't been able to cull through every piece of information put out there, it should serve as an accurate appendix to the show.
Jason: For example, we'll be revealing the homeworld planet's name on silverhandprint.com probably next week.
Do you find it difficult to maintain all of the characters on the show?
Jason: I can barely even remember all of their names.
The Michael and Maria relationship seems to be a little confusing this season. One moment they're broken up, the next minute they're "together." Will there be an episode later down the road to clear up the confusion as to whether they are "together" or not?
Jason: Honestly, it's not all that confusing to me. Think about on-again, off-again relationships you know about. They're all illogical and torturous and wonderful and hard to define.
Are there any plans to bring back some of the season 1 characters, i.e. Riverdog, Eddie, Larry and Jen, etc.?
Jason: Not at the moment, but it's hard to imagine they won't show up at some point. Larry and Jen are particular favorites of mine.
Will we ever see any My So Called Life characters/actors appear on Roswell?
Jason: Actually, there's already been one. Winnie Holzman played the fortune teller in End of the World. Winnie is the creator of My So-Called Life and made several appearances on that show as the guidance counselor.
Jason: Also, Devon Gummersall (Brian Krakow) will be playing a recurring character on Roswell (as Sean). His first episode will be To Serve and Protect.
Jason: This episode airs on 1/22
I love watching Roswell and I was wondering what you do if you have writer's block?
Jason: Weep uncontrollably....=)
TheWBAndrew: haha...ok one last question...
What do you currently like most about the show?
Jason: What I like most is when we do episodes that use the sci-fi aspect of the show to tell emotional stories. I like episodes that capitalize on the potential of imaginative storylines that are about human relationships. I think that tonight's episode is like that...because of that, I think it's one of our strongest episodes.
TheWBAndrew: ok...thanks everyone...
TheWBAndrew: Thanks Jason
Jason: thank you
Jason: bye everyone
In the spirit of "A Roswell Christmas Carol," the producers, cast and crew of Roswell have made a donation to Pediatric Cancer Foundation.
Roswell creator Jason Katims stated, "The Christmas story was very much about reaching out and trying to help. The spirit of the episode inspired me and the cast & crew to want to help in whatever small way we could."
For three decades, Pediatric Cancer Foundation has been tirelessly raising funds to aid children with cancer and their families. In addition, Pediatric Cancer Foundation makes substantial contributions to research hospitals and institutions leading the way toward finding a cure.
Says the Foundation's official statement: "Pediatric Cancer Foundation finds this an exciting time - we are truly on a roll. We believe that people are concerned with the success of the Foundation and seriously accept the challenge to maintain the momentum that we have created to... hold the hand of a child. Pediatric Cancer Foundation is a nonprofit organization which funds treatment, research and state-of-the-art equipment in pediatric cancer since 1970.
"The support that each of you bring is an inspiration towards success and in the spirit of new year's resolutions, PCF resolves to do special things and set high goals. Your participation is vital in order for us to achieve our dreams and meet our commitments to the doctors... so that they in turn may keep their promises to the children.
"For information call 914-777-3127 or visit our website at www.pcfweb.org. A copy of our latest annual report may be obtained upon request."
Copyright 2000 The WB Television Network
Jason Katims- Roswell creator, Executive Producer and writer
Jason Katims is the creator, Executive Producer and main writer of Roswell. Interviewed at the start of season three, he spoke about his vision for the show, the fans, and favourite episodes.
How did you get into the television business?
I basically was a playwright in New York, a struggling playwright and I got a phone call kind of out of the blue from Edward Dewitt. He's a director/producer, and he had read one of my plays. He asked me if I was interested in writing for television and film and that's how I got out to LA and that's sort of where this all started.
Roswell was originally a young adult novel called Roswell High. Somebody from the studio showed it to me and I thought it just seemed like a sea of possibility, and the kind of story which would just naturally have this life, and there'd be a lot of stories to tell.
That's how I got involved with the project.
How much is the television series based on the Roswell High books?
Well the first book in the series was the one that I sort of fell in love with and that first book is what I based the pilot episode on.
So the pilot episode is very similar story-wise, and then I felt once we did that, it was a decision that I made just at that point let the series take on a life of its own and have it just become its own thing. So [the book] was very influential on the first episode and from there we just kind of riffed on it.
It was kind of interesting because while we were doing the series the series of books was still being written, so there were these two parallel universes going on at once. They became very different in weird ways. There were some similarities but that's how we approached doing the series.
Romance vs space-ships
Do you tend towards a more romance or more sci-fi driven theme to the show?
First of all, my background is very much in more character driven stuff, relationship driven stuff, and I've never really worked in the science fiction genre at all. So for me a lot of this was the learning experience of getting involved with that world and also coming to discover the possibilities and loving that aspect of the show.
For me it started out more from a character perspective and then we started to introduce more of the science fiction elements as I became more comfortable with that. We just tried to as much as possible combine the best of both worlds.
I feel the show is at its best when it is rooted in some universally relatable theme, something very human in fact, and we use the science fiction premise of the show as a way to differentiate it from other things that are out there. To add to this world something magical.
What happened to all that Tabasco?
Can you tell us about the impact of the fan campaign to save Roswell at the end of season one?
It did have an impact.
It was really interesting because probably about in the middle of the first season I became aware of this fan base out there. Until then I had no idea.
When you do a TV show you kind of are working in a vacuum, you rarely get feedback or know what people are thinking. Usually the only feedback you get is the Neilsen ratings, which is a highly generalised view and they're just numbers. Here we were getting real opinions and seeing the passion that people had for the show. While the show hasn't enjoyed a huge audience here, it's enjoyed a very passionate audience the likes of which I really haven't experienced before.
It was a little bit like that when I was working on My So-Called Life, it also had a cult following but [with Roswell] this is this passionate following but with an incredible sophistication.
The audience, because of the internet, has gotten really sophisticated, they know the business, because everything is sort of getting deconstructed they know what's going on with the ratings themselves. My joke is always "If I want to know what's going on with the network or if I want to know what's going on with the show I log onto the internet and find out from the fans".
So basically I think [the campaign] really did have an effect because we were struggling to find a big enough audience, but I think the network saw that the audience that had found the show was so passionate that there was the possibility for that audience to grow, that the show could eventually find a large audience.
So I think that the fan base and the fan campaign did a lot to help keep the show going.
Roswell Christmas Carol
Is there any Roswell episode that you think is a real top television moment?
To me the episodes that stand out are the episodes that are the most emotional. We do best when we find the human metaphor. [With] that idea of being an alien - we really get to the idea that in a sense teenagers are all aliens.
The episodes that I have really found have worked in that way are the pilot episode, which works really well because that's really, to me, Romeo and Juliet. It's really about two people meeting and falling in love, but not being able to be together, and I think it grabs you in that way.
Another episode we did, in the second season, A Roswell Christmas Carol is an episode that I really love and what's interesting in that episode that there's not a lot of story. It's just this very simple emotional story, where Max has to deal with this idea that if he has these powers to heal, what are his responsibilities to the world in using them.
It's an episode that I feel like I'm going to watch at Christmas, that I'll be able to get the tape out and watch it. At least for me personally it will be one of those Christmas movies that you watch to sort of get you into the spirit of the season.
Skin and Bones.
Can you tell us about writing Skin and Bones?
Skin and Bones was a difficult episode to conceive of and to do because [of the way] we had left the end of the season before with Destiny. I felt there were so many things to follow up in this next episode.
The battle for us was to try to follow up on that, to keep all those things going, and to get the audience grounded in what this next season was going to be about. In it we introduced the idea of the Skins, which is this other race of aliens out there, which I think is very intriguing. We are also sort of tracking all the relationships and how they have fared over the several months following the huge discovery at the end of the first season.
The other thing that happened in that episode which is interesting is at the end when Nasedo, who's the aliens' protector and supposed to be there for them forever, is really the only person they had, is killed. That was really the moment that launched us into the second season and got it started, because it was about [the Roswell Royal Four realising] not only is another race of aliens out there, but we don't have anybody to help us, we're on our own.
The End of the World
Tell us about the writing process for End of the World.
The End Of The World is also one of my favourite episodes of the show.
From a story point of view the show is working at its best when it starts with a very high concept idea. And [here] it's a very science fiction idea, which is that a version of Max from the future comes back to warn Liz away. Basically he comes back to tell her she has to break up with present day Max or else the world will end. It's a huge idea.
But what I love about it is it really becomes about a teenage girl trying to figure out what to do with her boyfriend. It's very relatable and you're very much connected to it. It really brought me back to what I loved about the very beginning of the show on the first season. For that episode at least, it just became about this young girl who was overwhelmed by this news, overwhelmed by what she'd gotten herself into, and I thought that that was really moving.
I particularly remember the ending of that episode when Liz has this dance with future Max after she's done this heartbreaking thing of making present day Max think that she betrayed him. She has this dance with future Max and as she's dancing he vanishes, and in that moment she and the audience realise that she's done it, she's changed the course of history. That version of Max 14 years from now will never exist.
To me that's one of the best moments we've done in the show. It's interesting and complex because she has been successful in what she's tried to do and yet in being successful she's lost both present day Max and future Max and their future together.
That episode is definitely among my favourites of the show.
Hallo, future me.
If you were visited by your future self, would you take their advice?
Well, I don't know because nothing like that's ever happened to me.
What's so compelling about this show is that it allows you to play out stories like that. Kind of like "What if?" stories, which is exciting. I've never done a show like that before and it's really great to be able to play into the fantasies of those kinds of things. What if you could see into your future, what if somebody from your future came back and tried to give you advice.
I just think those questions are fascinating and there aren't a lot of formats or genres that allow you to play in those arenas.
Heart of Mine
You also wrote Heart of Mine - tell us about that?
Heart of Mine is kind of a departure from the show. It was more like a classic teenage story, and didn't really have a big science fiction aspect to it.
What I really liked about that episode was it felt very real to me. I started to feel the relationships start to mature. Between Liz and Max especially, but also between Max and Tess, that triangle, and Liz starting to get the sense that there's somebody else out there with Sean. What I like about that episode is that it felt emotionally very complex and very real to me.
It was tonally slightly different, it was a little bit slower in pace, a little bit more internal than many of the episodes, but I felt that it was very successful and really was the thing that launched us into the final group of episodes from season two.
Finally, what are your thoughts on The Departure?
The Departure is an episode that I'm really happy with.
I've never written an episode quite like The Departure before. We, the writers of the show, had so carefully planned out this four episode arc starting with Alex's death through to The Departure, so specifically that when I was sitting down to write the script I literally knew every scene.
You always do an outline, but then you get it and you start to write the script and you realise "Oh, let me do it this way". But with that episode, everything was connected to things that had happened before, which was great.
What I really loved about that episode was that we were able to deal with the question of "What if they could go home?" We had never really dealt with that before in a big way. So what I tried to do was, while keeping the plot moving along, to keep a lot of story time to deal with that idea. That was what was emotional to me, that was what was meaningful to me.
[There] was the idea of all of them having to say goodbye, forever, to this planet, and to people who they have come to love there, Max saying goodbye to Liz, and Michael to Maria, Isabel to her human parents. That's an aspect of the show I'm particularly drawn to and I was very excited to deal with that question.
Duped by the Dupes
Tell us about the concept of the dupes. Did you think that idea worked?
The dupes were the grand experiment of season two. I think we got mixed results with that.
We were challenging the audience and challenging ourselves with a very wild notion that we discover that there are these alternate versions [of the Roswell Royal Four]. There were two versions of the four pods that were sent down, so for each of the alien characters there's another version running around.
I was most tickled by the notion of looking at it as a study in sociology, because you have the group of pods that were raised in one environment in New Mexico, and then you have these other group of pods, and those guys grew up in New York and were sort of like the street version of our kids. So the most interesting part of it to me was the difference between the two of them.
It was really fun for me to watch, for example, Isabel have a scene with Lonnie, her alternative version, and see how the two of them would relate. I thought that was really fun.
I think that the other side is that it became almost too much for the audience to process. You're already dealing with a lot, which is there are four aliens, they crashed in 1947, they were in pods for forty years, they have protectors, there are people out there who want to kill them, other aliens, we're already dealing with a lot of information. I feel we threw a major curve ball at the audience, we took the whole premise of the show and sort of twisted it a little bit.
I have very mixed feelings about doing that because I think part of television is wanting to know the world that you're in and to have solid footing there. We did something that was very challenging and weird and strange, and it was a fun experiment to do.
I think that the cast were both really excited and really terrified of doing this. The way television works is, unfortunately, often you don't have a lot of time to prepare. In this particular case, for the first of those episodes, the script came in a couple of days before we had to start shooting. So we really threw something at the cast, which was just not nice of us to do because suddenly they were given a script where they had to create a whole new character for themselves, not to mention the challenge of doing an accent.
My hat is off to them for just jumping in and doing it and finding the characters on their way. I think you can see the difference in those two episodes. In the first one it was a little bit us finding our ground, the way you would do when you start a new show. Then in the second one I think that the actors were at a point where they could sort of dive in and have more fun with it.
Are aliens among us?
What's your own theory about what really happened at Roswell?
Well, this is not my area of expertise or background, and it was not even my interest before I started doing this.
It's a weird thing to come into as an outsider. It's really been fun and fascinating to start to learn about the history of it and about the people who are involved in it, who believe in it or don't believe in it. I haven't taken a side one way or the other but just enjoyed the fact that there's the mythology that we create about the show, but then there's a real mythology that exists about Roswell. I just love the fact that that exists and that you can call upon that in the show.
We did an episode in the second season called Summer of '47 where we go back to 1947. Some of the characters in that episode are based on real characters, and a lot of that episode is based on the so-called facts about what really happened, but then we mix it with our own mythology where we introduce the idea of the pods. So it's a hybrid between what was real and what the show is.
When I first started to work on the pilot, I went to Roswell, New Mexico on a research thing to see the sites and be in the town and go to the museum and the military base and all those things. Something that's great about being a writer is that you get to go into worlds that you normally would never have access to, or you would never really think about that much. It gives you an opportunity to really explore that.
The future of Roswell
How long do you see the show carrying on, and do you think it might go to the big screen?
I don't know. Personally I love the idea of a feature film.
Though I have thought a little bit about doing that at some point, the show is not yet at the point were there has been serious talk about that. I think that is something that will come in time if the show continues to be successful and to grow.
I'm very very hopeful and excited about the move to UPN, that we will not only bring our audience over from the WB but will continue to expand the audience. There's not a lot of shows where in the third year of the show not only do you get picked up for another season but you get re-launched.
The fact that we are on a new network means that we are going to have more promotion and more publicity than we would have if we were just returning to the same network, so I'm hoping that that results in introducing the show to new people and gaining some new fans.
9:00am ET, 19-July-01
Changes Come To Roswell
Jason Katims, executive producer of the teen alien series Roswell, told reporters that the show will drop some of the harder science-fiction elements and return more to character stories in its upcoming third season, with major changes coming for everyone. "The stories are getting a little bit out of high school," he said during UPN's fall preview for the Television Critics Association.
Katims added, "Isabel gets into a serious relationship and falls into a precipitous marriage. Max goes on a quest to find his child, and Liz goes along with him, and that quest will take him out of Roswell and onto the road. ... Michael basically wants to build a life for himself and winds up getting a job. ... Maria's character begins to pursue her musical career, and that becomes a real thing." He added, "One of the things I'm really interested in playing, starting with the beginning of the year, is the family drama that is here in the show and that we've never really explored. In the first episode, Max and Liz get arrested. ... And suddenly they're in real trouble, and their parents are called in. ... It's not so funny anymore, and it's not like they can go away for two days and say, 'We went camping,' and everything is OK with them. By the end of the episode, Liz is forbidden by her parents ever to see Max."
In an interview following the press tour, Katims told SCI FI Wire, "I felt where we went kind of astray a little bit [last year] was these four-episode arcs, where there was so much mythology, and so many pieces of storylines out there, that it just got too complicated. I think we're on a much better track here. This is really what I've been wanting to do with the show, bring it back to building the season based on character arcs, and we have a character arc for every character in the show."
As part of that, Katims said the show has hired writer Melinda Metz, author of the popular Roswell High series of books on which the show is based, and her writing partner, Laura Burns. "What I expect them to bring is, they obviously have a long history with these characters, with this world. They have a great imagination, and I don't expect them to bring storylines from those books. What I expect them to bring is their imagination and who they are as writers, and I'm very excited about the possibilities here." Roswell premieres on UPN on Oct. 16.
Rpswell Grows Up
'Roswell' grows up, gets new relationships on UPN
By Bill Keveney, USA TODAY
A return from the grave may be a great story line for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it's pretty much the everyday state of affairs for its fellow UPN transplant, Roswell.
In just two years, the story of alien teens who have assumed human form was let go as a pilot by Fox, barely survived its first year after fans mass-mailed Tabasco bottles (an alien delicacy) to WB, and was then picked up by UPN for a third season after WB canceled it.
"There's something about this show that wants to live," executive producer Jason Katims says. "It has had a relatively small audience, but an incredibly passionate audience. There is clearly the potential for growth."
Katims says Roswell (tonight, 9 ET/PT) may get that opportunity at UPN, feeling the network will promote the new arrival more than WB would have pushed a third-year show. Getting the slot after Buffy doesn't hurt, either.
On UPN, Katims hopes to move Roswell toward the relationship stories that appealed to him at the show's beginning, but were sometimes overshadowed by story lines about the alien mythology. More stand-alone stories will make individual episodes more satisfying, he says. He hopes to give a higher profile to the humor that is sometimes eclipsed by the brooding nature of the show.
This season, the three alien teens - Max (Jason Behr), Isabel (Katherine Heigl) and Michael (Brendan Fehr) - are still in high school, but stories will have a more grown-up feel. Michael learns responsibility as a security guard, working the graveyard shift at a pharmaceutical company, while Isabel gets into a serious relationship with a new character, lawyer Jesse (Adam Rodriguez).
Max hits the road to search for his missing son, starting in Utah with his terrestrial girlfriend, Liz (Shiri Appleby), one of the few humans who know the alien secret.
"Max and Liz are together. They've declared their love again. It's what our audience has been waiting for," Katims says, referring to their Romeo-Juliet relationship.
Max and Liz also end up getting arrested, which draws their parents into the story. They will be much more involved than they were during the first two seasons, Katims says.
Max's travels will lead to other adventures, such as a trip to Los Angeles, where he auditions for a role on the latest Star Trek show, UPN's Enterprise (talk about shameless cross-promotion). Jonathan Frakes, a Roswell executive producer and star of Star Trek: The Next Generation, directs and guest-stars in that episode. Joe Pantoliano (The Sopranos, Memento) also appears in two episodes as a Hollywood producer who has information about Max's alien past. "Roswell is at its best when it's telling stories that are a blend of relationship stuff and science fiction," he says. "I'm looking at (the third-year pickup by UPN) as a wonderful opportunity for us."
Roswell, Season 3
by: James Kern
"The stories are getting a little bit out of high school," said Jason Katims, executive producer of the show, during UPN's fall preview for the Television Critics Association in Pasadena, Calif. "Isabel (Katherine Heigl) gets into a serious relationship and falls into a precipitous marriage. Max (Jason Behr) goes on a quest to find his child, and Liz (Shiri Appleby) goes along with him, and that quest will take him out of Roswell and onto the road."
Other story arcs will include Michael (Brendan Fehr) getting a job and Maria (Majandra Delfino) beginning to pursue her musical career.
with these changes in store and new promotional ads going up for roswell on upn ( just saw one on sunday at about three O' clock, interview with series executive producer Jonathan Frakes)
Roswell is sure to pick up those lost sheep that went astray for this year and garner a whole new audience with its lead in show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Best of Luck for your third season roswell!
Roswell Season 3
"We have more freedom," says Roswell head honcho Jason Katims. "What [UPN] wants from the show is what I wanted to do with it. We've added a little more humor. And we've simplified in terms of mythology and sci-fi. I think last season was confusing to people, even if they were watching the show regularly. So, the move has been exciting. It has given us new life."
That new energy will carry over to the characters in upcoming months. Katims hints that after Isabel's (Kathryn Heigl) wedding and fiasco honeymoon (Kivar pops in) next week, the producers are planning lighter fare for Izzie.
"We're doing a whole episode for Katie," Katims explains. "It's our 'Bewitched episode, and we go in between two realities. One is Isabel and Jesse in their marriage, and then we have the '60s sitcom version of the show. We look at Isabel and Jesse as if they were Samantha and Darren Stevens. It's going to be fun."
As for Liz and Maria, they also have some Peter Brady-size life changes coming up.
"Maria will be rediscovering music, and she performs again," Katims dishes. "Her music career on the show will really take off. Maria breaks up with Michael, and, suddenly, they find themselves reevaluating their lives.
"For Liz, we wanted to have sort of a major turning point in her character. It's coming up in February sweeps, so it's a little early to talk about. But essentially, Liz finds out that she's starting to change. She doesn't know what's happening to her or why. It causes her to reevaluate her life and reevaluate her relationship with Max."
Which leads us to the question always at the forefront of any true fan's mind: What does the future hold for Liz and Max? As it turns out, that's a tough one, even for the executive producer of the show.
"That's the constant challenge for their characters," Katims says. "Liz and Max were basically apart for all of second season, and the fans were really pissed off about it. We decided to bring them back together, but we created other obstacles. Her father forbids them to see each other, and Max's quest to see his son gets in their way.
"They will persist and be together, but it's hard to sustain. There is nothing more boring than a happy couple, so we're talking about doing another twist."
'Roswell' Still Kicking On UPN
Nov 20, 2001
by Vanessa Sibbald
Zap2it.com, TV News
It's not often that a show celebrates its fans, but "Roswell" probably owes the fact that UPN picked it up after being canceled by The WB to pure fan loyalty and dedication to the show.
"I do believe that the fans have more to do with the show being on the air than the networks will even admit to," agrees the sci fi series' executive producer, Jason Katims.
So, that's why UPN, Katims and the show's leading cast members threw a party recently to help give something back. The network gave 23 fans of the series a chance to visit the show's set and attend an all-star party featuring a performance by the band Remy Zero, via a nationwide radio and Internet contest.
Not only did all of the show's main stars attend, including Jason Behr, Brendan Fehr, Shiri Appleby, Katherine Heigl and Majandra Delfino, but they graciously spent most of the evening signing autographs and taking pictures with the teary-eyed teen fans.
"Roswell" has a "tremendous, tremendous group of fans and that has meant an incredible amount to me," adds Katims. "It started in the first season, when we came on the air [and] we were struggling a little bit."
In fact, the show's main characteristic appears to be its ability to endure struggling.
"This has been the story of this show from the very beginning. It has been on the bubble from the day it was born," agrees Katims. "It was developed for FOX, wound up moving to The WB, then at the end of the first year there was that whole Tabasco campaign to keep the show alive and at the end of the second year we died. And, just like an alien, it was brought back to life after death. And here we are and we're still fighting."
"This is a show that wants to live."
Since moving to UPN, "Roswell" has continued to struggle. While it now has a great lead-in from fellow refugee "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and more promotion from UPN than they had at The WB, its ratings continue to be low. So far this season, the show has averaged a 1.4 rating/3 share among adults 18-49 and 3.2 million total viewers, while for the same amount of weeks, "Buffy" has pulled a 2.7/7 and 5.6 million viewers.
"The numbers I think, have been a little disappointing to me -- I was hoping to do a little better," admits Katims. "'Buffy' is a tremendous lead-in and I was hoping to hold a little bit more, but I can't think of a tougher timeslot. So, I wish we were doing a little bit better, but time will tell."
The competition he mentions during the 9 p.m. hour is indeed heavy, with "Roswell" competing with NBC's hit comedies "Frasier" and "Scrubs," FOX's "24," ABC's established drama "NYPD Blue," CBS' "Guardian" and The WB's teen hit "Smallville."
Hoping to draw more viewers, Katims and the show's writing staff, have come up with some big new story lines -- involving Maria (Delfino) realizing that Michael (Fehr) may not be a good boyfriend for her.
"We did a really moving episode coming up with Maria examining two things: Maria and Michael's relationship when an old boyfriend of hers from band camp comes to town; and also Maria realizing she's lost that music side of herself and how much she's given up," says Katims.
Also in trouble are the relationships between Liz (Appleby) and Max (Behr).
"Liz starts to realize she's literally changing and she doesn't know why.
Something is happening to her, something alien and she thinks it's from the fact that Max healed her and it's making her change. So she starts to also reconsider everything that's gone on," the executive producer teases. Adding to Liz and Max's problems, the show's writers are toying with the idea of bringing back Tess (Emilie de Ravin).
"We don't know yet. We definitely have that as one of the possibilities of what we may do, we're definitely considering that."
Not to leave out Isabel (Heigl) and Jesse (Adam Rodriguez), who just tied the knot last week (Nov. 13), Katims says they'll also be facing some big issues this January -- but in a humorous way.
"We examine the marriage between Isabel and Jessie, the alien and the human. We go between two realities; one is the reality of the show as Isabel tries to hide being an alien from Jesse, and then we go to the '60s sitcom version. The 'Bewitched' version of it -- where Katie Heigl and everyone else in the cast play as if they're in a '60s sitcom playing themselves. In that reality, Jesse knows that she's an alien."
But what Katims is most excited about this year, is the way the characters have become more accessible.
"What I like about what we're doing this year, and what I'm very proud of, is that all of the episodes are grounded emotionally and that they have some way for us in the audience to connect to them," he says.
"These are stories about people trying to make a life for themselves. To me, that is where the show is at its strongest."
"Roswell" airs Tuesdays on UPN at 9 p.m.
Katims Got Your Tongue?
Author: Ian Spelling
Source: Cult Times Special #23
KATIMS GOT YOUR TONGUE? KATIMS GOT YOUR TONGUE?
Not any more, for Roswell's executive producer Jason Katims is now free to speak his mind about the ups and downs of three years telling stories of the inhabitants of the New Mexico town.
Jason Katims gave it his best shot. As the writer-producer-showrunner of Roswell, Katims did everything he could to craft a show that was part teen drama, part Sci-Fi adventure and something that whould appeal to the widest possible audience. Unfortunately, the show mustered only the attention of a small but devout fan base. And even that fan base dwindled as Roswell attempted to shift gears in midstream, at times putting the Sci-Fi at the forefront and at other times focusing instead on the romance. Hopes were raised when, after The WB cancelled Roswell following the end of Season Two, UPN picked it up and gave it the coveted post- Buffy The Vampire Slayer timeslot.But it wasn't meant to be. Roswell coulden't capitalize on it's lead-in, and before Season Three ended, UPN announced that Roswell wouldn't be back for another year. That, at least, gave Katims and company time to devise a series finale, entitled Graduation that closed out the saga of Max, Liz, Maria, Michael, Isabel and Jesse, their families, friends and enemies. Cult Times caught up with Katims a few weeks after the show faded to black.
Cx: How strange is it to finally be talking about Roswell in the past tense?
Katims: I think in the middle of the third season I felt that it was likely that the show wasn't coming back. That was the feeling I was getting from UPN, that they weren't going to bring us back for a fourth season. It definitely wasn't a total shock when they announced the cancellation. By the time they announced it I had known it was unofficially cancelled. The whole Roswell experience was distinct because it was a show that had several lives, dating back to the pilot. The pilot was made for FOX and it then wound up on The WB.At the end of the first season it looked like it was dead and then it got another life at The WB.And then it was literally cancelled for a few days when UPN picked it up for the third season. It was definitely a show that struggled and kept staying alive for a while. My attitude about it is I feel fortunate that we were able to do as many episodes as we did do. I felt like we were constantly getting new life that was unexpected. I like to think of it in a positive way, which is we weare able to do over 60 episodes of the show and were able to explore a lot about our main character's lives. I'm sad that it didn't go for a fourth year, but I'm happy that we lasted as long as we did. Not too many shows get to go three seasons.
Roswell never did find that broad audience, but you had that small, loyal group, the ones who signed 'Save the show' petitions and sent Tabasco sauce to network executives. How did you personally reconcile that aspect of the Roswell saga?
The fan base, at the end of the day, was the most heartening thing about the whole experience, how many of those fans stuck with Roswell all along, cared about the show, how much they followed the cast and made friendships with each other on the Internet and at parties. They also raised thousands of dollers for charities because they were motivated by the show. That was a truly unique experience that I'd never had before and I certainly have no expectation of ever having an experience like it again. The fans support was a wonderful surprise. In terms of it being a smaller audience, I never quite understood why Roswell wasn't able to get a bigger audience. But I think there were several factors there. One of the factors was that the show was an anomaly in that it was truly a mixed genre show. In any episode you could see a very weird Sci-Fi action sequence and a three-or four-minute scene of two people talking about their feelings for each other. I think thatr was the show's greatest blessing and greatest curse. I loved that about Roswell, but I think it also appealed to a very particular audience. Most people either like one or the other. Or they might like both, but not at the same time. It might have been difficult for an audience to embrace both things in the same hour. I've come to think that might be one of the things that was challenging about finding an audience for the show. Other thinga had to do with the traditional challenges you face, having a secure timeslot, having the show consistently in one place at one time, having the publicity you need to get going. All those things are added challenges, but the show itself made it hard to find an audience.
Not to dwell on the negative, but there's a perception that The WB pressured you into the tone shifts that occurred throughtout Seasons One and Two. What actually happened?
Honestly, I dont point blame on The WB or any network for voicing their needs for the show, because it's much better to hear their needs than not hearing their needs and having them say "Okay, you're cancelled". I don't fault anybody for saying, "This is what we want". It's true that Roswell is a show that could have gone in different directions. Because of the genre elements, it's true that there was a struggle to find what was the best model for the show, the best format for it. There was definitely some, "Go more in this direction, go more in that direction" along the way. For the most part it was not antagonistic between them and me, but it was definitely a struggle and it openly was a negative in terms of viewership. There was too much change. Episodes were changing, the timeslot was changing. The show was gone for six weeks, then back. All these factors add up and make what was already a challenging show more challenging. That's life. There were a couple of things that we did with the show that I wish I hadn't done, but find me a showrunner who doesn't have a couple of things [they'd complain about]. If Roswell had come out of the box and was a huge hit, it whould have been perceived differently. You're always defining and redefining a show as you go along. That's what doing a show is about. It was a struggle with Roswell because we never met people's expections in terms of how it performed ratings-wise. It's not like people didn't like the show. The WB liked the show and they wanted it to succeed. It wasn't a situation, like you have with a lot of shows, where it goes on the air, nobody watches and the network say, "Screw this. We're moving on." It was not like that. The WB was interested in the show. For anything that you can say negatively affected the show, you could also look at things that were extremely positive that came from their guidance. The show was always struggling, and that translated into trying different things creatively to boost the ratings. Some of them worked and some of them didn't. That's natural.
Season Three has just started in the UK. Take us through what you were thinking at the outset of production
Ultimately, when you're doing a show, and especially when you get past the first season, you're guided a lot by the cast. By the third season you really know your cast, what they can do, what they're interested in. My sense about this cast was that they didn't feel like high school students to me anymore. Jason Behr was literally 26 years old going into the third season. Looking at Katie Heigl, it was harder and harder to think of this young woman as a high school student. Those were motivating factors in moving the stoylines to a place where we were dealing with a little bit more adult themes. We wanted to do fewer scenes around high school lockers. That was part of the charm at the beginning of the show, but it no longer felt believable by Season Three. And we'd played those stories.
So we had Isabel all of a sudden meet Jesse and fall in love with him and dealing with the fact that she couldn't tell him the truth about herself. That let us explore that relationship and the consequences of lying to the person you love.
Max found out he has a son who's out there somewhere and he basically makes it his mission to find him. That takes him on a journey that's both physical and existential, and it affects his relationship with Liz, who is dealing with adult issues of her own.
The relationship between Michael and Maria is no longer just this sweet, funny relationship, but it's more serious and dysfunctional and complex.
So on all fronts, we were getting into more adult territory. I was interested at this point in seeing our characters function in the world and try to create lives for themselves. I was more interested in that than what alien was coming to attack them that week, especially because we'd done so much of that in Season Two. We pulled back on the alien aspect and made Season Three more about the characters trying to build lives for themselves.
What third season episodes are you most pleased with?
I like [Four Aliens and a Baby], the one in which Emilie de Ravin returned as Tess, because I felt we owed the audience some resolution in terms of Max and Tess and their baby. I felt really good about being able to do that. We pulled it off in a way that was surprisingly emotional.
The Christmas episode [Samuel Rising] was special because it was very personal to me.
I didn't get to write as many episodes this season as I had in the past and I was able to write that one. I also liked episode three [Significant Others] in which we were able to explore the relationship between Jesse and Isabel. Alex returns as a ghost and Isabel is finally able to let him go and move forward with Jesse.
This year Katie had a lot more colours to play than she ever had on the show and I was really impressed by her performance. I thought she came through and always found very subtle colours in the stuff she was given to play.
What was also fun about the third season was that we were able to do episodes like our Sixties episode [I Married an Alien] By the nature of being in the third season of the show, we were all confident about going out and taking some chances. Doing an episode like that was really fun. It was fun from the point of view of wardrobe, set design and being able to pull off a look that we hadn't done before. And it was fun for the actors too, because they got to do something a little different. It was jusy enjoyable to do and, I think, to watch. It was almost like an aside. It was almost like taking a break from the show, to go do this fun episode. Ron Moore and I had talked about doing it earlier and I'm glad we got to do it before it was all over.
Bearing in mind that a good many British fans have yet to see the series finale, what were you aiming to accomplish with that?
I was personally very happy with the finale. Ron [Moore] and I wrote that episode together. Normally, as much as I care about an audience when I'm writing, I dont usually let that affect what I'm writing. If I did it whould drive me crazy because there are so many different factors and people like this character or that character, this relationship or that one.
But on this finale I was very conscious of wanting to clearly give the audience an end to the show. By the time we were in the process of writing it, we were 95 percent sure the show was not coming back. We were able to write it in such a way that it wasn't a cliffhanger and so that it resolved all the big issues. I like the way the episode ends. You get the sense that while the show isn't coming back, the characters are off living their lives and moving on and that they've still got each other. I thought it was very well acted by our cast. Jason gives a speech at the end, where he's thanking his fellow students and family for being there for him, and I think of that as our way of thanking the audience for being there for us. It's basically a love letter to our audience. So the intention of the finale was to close out the show and give the audience what they wanted.
Is the show once and for all dead-dead-dead?
I dont know. I thought it was dead right after UPN cancelled it and somebody called me asking about who owns the film rights. People have brought that up. But I'm the wrong person to ask about any future for the show. It's really up to the actors. This is a very talented cast and they're all going to go on and do different things. Roswell isn't a show like The X-Files, that's driven by two main characters. It's an ensemble. Will there be a time when all of them would be available to come together and do a movie? I don't know. Whould they want to do it? Those are all things I dont know. The other question is that because the show always had, as we've said, a faithful and passionate but small audience, whould there be a viable market for a reunion movie? Whould it make sense for a network or studio to do that? So while I woulden't say it's dead-dead-dead, I think the chances are it probably is.
But hey, it's Roswell and I've been surprised before.
'Roswell' Wraps Up
May 13, 2002
by Paulette Cohn, ET Online Staff
After three years and two networks, "Roswell" is coming to an end on Tuesday, May 14 at 9 p.m. on UPN. ET spoke to the show's executive producer/creator JASON KATIMS, who told us that to him the show's hook was its Romeo-and-Juliet-like relationship between Max and Liz.
Based on the Roswell High series of novels by MELINDA METZ, "Roswell" is a combination of sci-fi and teen angst set in a small town in New Mexico. Created for FOX, "Roswell" beamed over to The WB before finishing its third season on UPN.
ET: I thought you had already written an ending when "Roswell" was on The WB, so is this a second ending?
JASON: When it was on The WB, it was a little bit more of a cliffhanger ending where Tess had left the planet with Max's son, and the cliffhanger there was that he vowed to find his son. So, it was definitely left open. This year when we were writing the final episodes, we had the sense that the chances were strong that we were not coming back. So we decided that our goal was to try to bring the series to a satisfying conclusion, especially for the fans who have been with the show all this time.
ET: So are you more interested in wrapping up the story points, or are you going for emotional content?
JASON: Well, certainly in the final episode it is much more about the emotional content and about the relationships. The episode that aired on May 7, tied up a big story point about Max's child, and also resolved the triangle with Tess as Raven returned. So in the final episode, our main concern was to tie up the show emotionally. One of the things that we did was we framed Liz's voice -- which is how we started the show in the pilot. In many ways I think that this final episode has a good feeling for people who have watched the show from the beginning. It feels like the pilot, and it's also a story about Max and Liz moving forward with their relationship in what, I hope, will be a satisfying conclusion to the audience.
ET: I think the fans want them together.
JASON: I hope they do. It's funny because writers normally can't think about what the fans want to see happen, what they are happy about and what they are not happy about, because you have to tell the story and it won't be what the audience wants. Sometimes you have to keep Max and Liz apart for a while in order to keep the story going, but in this final episode -- I wrote it with RON MOORE, who is also an executive producer on the show -- it was the one time that I really had the audience in mind when I was writing it. I really wanted to do my best to have the series come to a conclusion that would be emotionally satisfying. I am very happy with this final episode. I think that it is a return to where the show started and that is what we set out to do.
ET: When you look back, do you have any idea what you could have done in order to get a season four?
JASON: I don't know if there is anything that we could have done. In a sense, we were on borrowed time this year anyways. The show was literally cancelled for several days last year before UPN brought it back, and, honestly, I think that the writing was on the wall when we premiered (on The WB). I don't think that it had anything to do with the stories or anything that we did this year.
I think, unfortunately, we did not do good in the timeslot. I think that we just got creamed. That is the truth. That was one of the biggest disappointments to me because we had an incredible lead-in with "Buffy."
The competition was incredible. Frankly, the success of "Smallville" was really tough for us because that was essentially what we thought would be our audience.
Again, that happened from when we premiered. From the first moment, the audience never came to check us out. So I don't think that there was anything that we could have done to change that. I think that we did some very strong episodes in the third season, and I think that we set out to do what we wanted. So, I don't look at it like, "Oh, if we had just done that then we would have gotten another season."
ET: Well the fans still have not given up. I understand that there is a fundraiser underway on crashdown.com.
JASON: Our fans are an extraordinary group of people. They constantly amaze me. In addition to the fact that I think they literally kept the show on the air, I really think that without the fans' campaigns both the first and the second year, I don't think that the show would have come back
In addition to that, they have raised thousand and thousands of dollars for different causes over the past few years. For me that kind of support and passion is such a powerful thing and that is something that honestly will always stay with me. I don't know if that will ever happen to me again. It's a very special thing.
ET: Were you into sci-fi before Roswell?
JASON: No, I was not really involved in a sci-fi show. Everything that I had done before this was more relationship driven. I was not even a science fiction buff or fan per se. I was given the Roswell High novel in the book series (by MELINDA METZ) that the pilot was based on.
Before I read that there was a particular kind of show that I wanted to develop, and it had nothing to do with science fiction. What I wanted to do was a show that was based around a Romeo and Juliet romance with two young leads. The obvious setting for that might be a high school, but I wanted to find a Romeo-and-Juliet-type situation meaning there was a really compelling reason why these two people couldn't be together or being together would create problems for them.
When I read the book, what really drove me to the story was that. It was a great relationship where the two heroes had a lot to overcome in order to be together. They were different life forms, so it was exactly what I was looking to do in a very unexpected way. So that is how I got involved in it, and by the end I had learned a tremendous amount about doing storylines that were more imaginative than other storylines that I had been dealing with before that.
ET: So what is next for you?
JASON: I have no idea. (laughs)
ET: Movies? TV? I know you are a playwright also.
JASON: Yes, I am definitely interested in continuing to write for theater and I would like to do another feature at some point. My main goal is to continue with television and probably try to do another show over the next year or two.
ET: Any possibility "Roswell" will become a motion picture?
JASON: People have actually proposed that idea to me but I don't think that anything like that is being planned right now. But we will see.
ET: Do you have enough episodes for syndication or cable?
JASON: Yes, the studio has made a deal with the SCI FI channel which I think starts in January.
JASON KATIMS - ROAD TO ROSWELL
From theWB.com: Once a struggling playwright, Roswell creator Jason Katims began his television career writing for the highly influential drama, My So-Called Life. In the first entry of this two-part series, Katims talks with The WB about writing, his background and what the hell baseball has to do with anything.
How did you get your start in writing?
I grew up in New York, and when I graduated college I decided I wanted to be a playwright, and I just started writing plays and joining playwriting groups and trying to get productions. I didn't really have a lot of success when I first started doing it. I mean I had enough success, and enough people responded to my writing to keep me going, but it was quite a long time before I wound up earning a living doing it. And even though during that period I would have killed for a job, I'm grateful now for that time because I feel like that time helped me develop a voice. And there's something freeing about the fact that nobody cares what you write and what you're writing about. There's something freeing about that because it allows you to really write in a very pure way. You're not servicing anybody, you're not writing for a producer or a TV studio or a network or an actor or anything like that, and you're just writing.
What did you write mostly back then?
I would write one-act plays, a couple of full-length plays. I tried writing a couple of spec features, but predominately I wrote plays. I got my break in television through a play I had written. Ed Zwick, who was producer of My So-Called Life and many other things and a director, had read one of my plays and called me and said, "Do you want to write for television?" And I got on a plane, and that was it, and I've been in L.A. ever since.
Having also written for film, do you find there to be more immediate satisfaction in television?
As hard as it is to do what we do when we write for television, it's really addictive. If you write a play - unless you are an enormously successful playwright - you go and you write the play, and then you try to get a reading, and then you have another reading and then a stage reading and then a workshop, and then you re-write, you re-write, and by the time you get a production of the play it's years later. Same thing with a feature. There's something about writing something that you know two weeks from now they're going to be shooting it. There's a reward to that that you can't deny. It's great training for writers. I learn more with every script that we produce and every script that we write. It's like the quote by Ted Williams about hitting : somebody asked him to teach him to hit, and he said if you want to learn how to hit, you have to hit 10,000 balls, and that's how to become a hitter, and I think it's similar with writing. If you want to be a writer you gotta write - not only write, but you have to sort of have the experience of seeing that stuff played, and it kind of becomes so blatantly obvious when you see a scene being acted... whether it's working whether it's not working, and you learn from that.
What advice would you give to a writer who wants to break into television?
My advice would be to not worry so much about what form you're writing. Do something where you feel who you are can most clearly come out and emerge, whether that's in a play or a short film or a short story or a spec feature... or maybe it is a spec TV script, but I think the advice is you have to really care about what it is that you're doing and invest yourself in it because I think that's how your work will separate itself from other work that's out there. As a producer, when you're reading something where there's obviously passion behind it and there's obviously an individual voice... that's what producers look for.
How has the teen genre developed since My So-Called Life?
When we were doing My So-Called Life, the teen genre was dead. It was totally dead. The network didn't care about a teen show. They didn't care about that audience. They weren't looking to service that audience, so on My So-Called Life, we enjoyed this kind of wonderful anonymity. Nobody paid attention to us. But after the show was off the air it just wouldn't die, and it continues to this day. You flip through the stations in the middle of the night and there it is. We only did 17 episodes of the show, but there's something about it that sort of remained in the consciousness and the imagination of people, and I think that it foreshadowed a lot of these shows that came since. I thought it was a pretty amazing show in terms of how deeply it tapped into adolescence, and so in doing Roswell, I try - not to do My So-Called Life again cause you could never do that - but it is definitely on my mind a lot as I write.
In the second part of this two-part series, Roswell creator Jason Katims talks with the WB about the new season, new storylies, and whether or not he reads the message boards.
What aspect of Roswell gives you the most fulfillment?
For me it's the writing because I'm a writer. At the end of the day that's really what I love to do, and it's what I'm best at. However, the other side of what writers get to do in TV which is so wonderful is we get to produce. We get to be part of the decision-making - meaning everything from casting to looking at visual effects to talking to directors and helping them - guiding them along the way in terms of how we want to see the scripts realised.
What is the hardest part when you have to take off the writer hat and be the Executive Producer of the show?
The challenges for me are being able to let go and realise that another writer's vision for an episode might be different than mine, not better or worse, just different, and to be able to let go and try to encourage that vision and help that vision get to the screen rather than take it over. That's something that has been part of my growth as a producer, and what I've been trying to do, and I have a wonderful writing staff which makes it easier.
What is it about Roswell that has attracted the following that it has?
Last year there was a considerable drop-off in our ratings after we launched, and there started to be some question about whether Roswell had enough audience appeal. When that campaign kicked in, it was more than a message to the network, it was a message to us showing support about what we were doing, and when I say "us" I mean us as writers and producers and cast and crew and everybody because when you're doing a show, you're in this little bubble, in this little world where you don't know what's happening out there, so it was great to feel that response. The only thing I can say as to why they had that response comes from just hearing from them and seeing what they write and say about the show. I think the fans are responding to something where they feel that they are really connected to our characters. And they feel there's a tone and a mood that's different than other things that they're seeing and they're just drawn to it. I just keep hearing about people who are addicted to Roswell, and what's really meaningful to me is that they come from all walks of life. You hear about older people who are into the show. All different kinds of people are starting to find the show, and it's really great.
What are your expectation for the new season?
I'm very excited about this season. I think that the first year was exciting in a way that you were starting something new. At the end of last season, we started to hit our stride and we've carried that momentum into the second season. So I'm very excited about the episodes we're doing. I liked all the episodes last year, but I felt like it took us a little while to find the voice and find where the show would sort of sing and have an energy to it and so it's very exciting to come out of the box this year with really strong episodes.
Now that Ron Moore has been brought onto the show, what do you think he brings to the plate?
Well, Ron has been a great addition to the show and has brought, I would say, his long experience that he's had in the genre of science fiction. He's brought a kind of fearlessness with him about the science fiction stories or the science fiction aspects of Roswell. It's been a wonderful working relationship between us because I think our strengths really complement each other, and he's as enthused, by the way, about the relationship aspects of the show and the human relationships of the show as he is about the science fiction, and I think that's the only way it can work. It not like I'm the relationship guy, and he's the sci-fi guy. I know that's the way it looks on paper, but in fact, we're both working on and juggling both aspects of the show.
What do you mean by fearlessness about science fiction?
Well, one thing is we would have conversations when we were first starting to break stories where an idea would come up, not necessarily from him, but an idea would come up about what if... and whatever, and I would say, "Well, you know, I don't know if you could do that," and Ron would say, "Why not?" I think because he's been down this road before and he has experience in this world. There's fearlessness in sort of going into that terrain. We're really playing into what I'm thinking of as imaginative storylines this year - a lot of "what if" type stories. For example, we're doing the episode where we revisit 1947 - we revisit the time of the original crash which is something I've always been wanting to do, and this year we found a way to tell that story. In another episode, a version of Max from the future has travelled through time and comes back to our present-day Roswell. He comes back to Liz because he need to, in some way, change what's about to happen. We're doing a lot of stories like that.
Do you and the staff ever read the internet message boards, and does if affect storylines?
You know, it does affect us. It's not in a way where every day we go online and see what the audience thinks of an episode or a character and make a decision based on that, but in terms of larger trends. For example, there was a poll on what they wanted the show to be - very simple. It was part of the sci-fi versus relationship show, and the overwhelming majority of people wanted it to be a 50-50 mix. They were very concerned about losing the relationships, but they didn't want it to just be a relationship show, and that's something I've actually sort of taken off as a model for what I want the show to be. That doesn't mean that literally it's 50-50 like in every episode we'll have half of the scenes be about relationships and half the scenes be sci-fi cause it doesn't work that way. Some episodes will be more driven by story and mythology and science fiction and some episodes more by relationships. But I think that the audience's desire to have that mix of both things - they're saying to us that's what the show is to us, and that's what we're responding to. And I definitely do get that message.
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