Based on a young adult book series by Melinda Metz, Roswell was a series about a group of teenage aliens posing as humans in present day Roswell, New Mexico, trying to keep their identities as extraterrestrials a secret from everyone other than their new human friends and lovers.
During its three seasons on the air, the series acquired a devoted, cult following thanks to its unique mix of teen drama and science fiction. The intense starring performance of Jason Behr, and the efforts of future stars Katherine Heigl, Shiri Appleby, and Colin Hanks, didn’t hurt either. On the 15th anniversary of the series' finale, we're taking a look back at the cult series.
1. THE BOOK SERIES AND TV SERIES WERE DIFFERENT.
Melinda Metz wrote the Roswell High book series. Metz and her editor Laura J. Burns were hired as staff writers during the show’s third season. The two were credited as TV writers for the first time in the episode “A Tale of Two Parties,” which aired on New Year's Day in 2002. Metz and Burns noted that the books were aimed at 10- and 11-year-olds, whereas the TV series was for 17- to 18-year-olds. Also, Liz’s last name was changed from Ortecho to Parker, Alex from Mannis to Whitman, and the character of Jesse was created exclusively for television.
2. HEATH LEDGER AUDITIONED FOR THE ROLE OF MAX EVANS.
Executives were hesitant to hire Ledger after the failure of his short-lived series, Roar. Jason Behr was chosen instead, in part thanks to his performances on other teen shows 7th Heaven and Dawson’s Creek.
3. SHIRI APPLEBY AUDITIONED FOR ALL THREE MAIN FEMALE ROLES, MANY TIMES.
She got the part of Liz at the end of her sophomore year at USC; she spent her time in the waiting room before her fifth audition studying for a final exam.
4. BRENDAN FEHR MOVED FROM CANADA TO PLAY MICHAEL.
The Winnipeg-raised young actor was shocked when a burger he ordered on his first day in the U.S. cost him $15. "I couldn’t stop talking about it for weeks,” recalled Fehr.
5. THE PILOT WAS THE HIGHEST TESTING PILOT AT 20TH CENTURY FOX IN HISTORY.
It was shot on a $2 million budget in 12 days. Director David Nutter was happy he was able to shoot something that was like a high school version of The X-Files (which was another show he directed on occasion). The pilot was shot in mind for the Fox network, but The WB offered a 22 episode order, leading creator Jason Katims and producers to decide to go to the new channel instead.
6. NICK WECHSLER WAS NERVOUS DURING THE PILOT.
The actor was not sure how to play Kyle Valenti in the beginning. "I would try to entertain myself," Wechsler explained. "I would find moments to do weird sh*t, or give it a slightly weird read … I look back on this time so fondly, because I loved not knowing any better."
7. JASON KATIMS ADMITTED THAT THE WRITERS DIDN’T SPECIFICALLY PLAN A LOT DURING SEASON ONE.
The general beats of the inaugural year were plotted out. On a day-to-day basis though, the show's creator/executive producer admitted that the writing staff was “totally winging it.”
8. STAR TREK'S COMMANDER RIKER WAS AN EXECUTIVE PRODUCER.
9. A FAMOUS STAR TREK LOCATION WAS USED IN THE SERIES.
The Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce, California was where the Metrons staged the Captain Kirk/Gorn showdown in the episode "Arena." The location was used for three other episodes of the Star Trek original series, and it was planet Vulcan in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Blazing Saddles and many other TV shows and movies also shot there. It’s where Max, Isabel, Michael, and Tess crash landed. Most of the rest of the series was shot in the California town of Covina. The Crashdown Cafe is now a Casa Moreno Mexican Grill.
10. AFTER WRITING FOR STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, AND BEFORE RUNNING BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, RONALD D. MOORE WAS BROUGHT ON IN SEASON TWO.
Katims and company wanted, and succeeded at, putting in many more science fiction storylines to the series in the second season. To help, Katims assembled an almost completely new writing staff. The new writers believed it would ramp up the stakes for the personal relationships, too. Ronald D. Moore ended up writing 10 episodes of the series, including a co-writing credit with Katims on the series finale. He also became a co-executive producer.
11. THE TABASCO SAUCE WAS ACTUALLY V8 BERRY SPLASH JUICE.
The aliens on the show enjoyed putting Tabasco sauce on their food and in their drinks. Fehr claimed the actors usually tried to avoid actually eating any food in any scene. Once, the actors tried to use the actual Tabasco sauce. The take ended with the actors in tears and running for water.
12. FANS SENT NETWORKS TABASCO SAUCE TO KEEP THE SHOW ON THE AIR.
In an attempt to convince the WB to renew the show for a second year, fans sent bottles of the stuff to network executives (in addition to spending $2,500 on a full-page ad in Variety.) The next year, a reported 12,000 bottles were sent to UPN to convince them to pick up the series.
13. ALEX WAS KILLED OFF BECAUSE COLIN HANKS NEEDED TO FOCUS ON A MOVIE.
Tom Hanks’s son was killed off in order to co-star with Jack Black in Orange County.
14. THE ACTORS DATED ONE ANOTHER.
Behr and Heigl played siblings on the series, but dated in real life. Fehr and Majandra Delfino (Maria) initially didn’t get along, but ended up having an on-again, off-again relationship for two years.
15. FEHR ONCE PEED HIS PANTS ON SET.
Fehr was too lazy to get up to use the facilities, and Behr said he would pay Fehr $100 if he went number one in his pants. Delfino was an accidental witness to Fehr following through and earning his money, which he still has framed.
16. SNOOKI FROM JERSEY SHORE IS A HUGE FAN.
She traveled all the way from New Jersey to Austin, Texas to witness the show’s reunion at last year’s ATX Festival. Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi asked the cast if they believed in aliens (Appleby and Delfino said yes).