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ROSWELL: Ronald D. Moore
The STAR TREK alumni talks about the first episode of his new gig, airing Monday October 9th.
By Anna L. Kaplan
October 09, 2000
Ronald D. Moore, speaking from his new office where he works as co-executive producer on ROSWELL, is happy to talk about his job. After leaving STAR TREK and working for a stint on the short-lived series GOOD VS. EVIL, Moore was approached to see whether he was interested in joining the ROSWELL team. 'My agents called me,' recalls Moore. 'I knew that Jonathan Frakes was working on it, but I had never actually seen the show. So I said, 'Why don't you send me some episodes?' They sent over about a half dozen from the first year. I watched, and I started to really like it. I found it to be endearing and smart. Then I met with [executive producer] Jason Katims. He asked what I wanted to do and what was important to me on a show. It was very important to me that I worked on something that I could be proud of, and that I felt that I could do good work on, and that was what I really liked about working at STAR TREK. I wanted a close writing staff. Those were my two primary objectives. That dovetailed pretty nicely into what he was looking for. At that point I hadn't seen the last couple of episodes of the season, and he said, 'You should definitely watch them, because the show changed in tone and direction towards the end of the year.' They sent those to me. I saw where they were going, and I liked the direction. Then it was just a matter of making the deal.'
Moore joined the staff in May of 2000. He was back at the Paramount lot where ROSWELL is filmed, although not in the same building as the STAR TREK offices. For the second season, Katims assembled a new team. Moore says, 'There is a brand new writing staff. Jason obviously created the show and he is back. Toni Graphia, who is a consulting producer this is year, is also back, but she is just on a consulting basis. I am co-executive producer, the number two guy. The rest of the writing staff is all new. There's Fred Golan, a co-producer. Then there is a team, Gretchen Berg and Aaron Harberts, and they are co-producers. They used to be on 90210
. There is Breen Frazier, who is a staff writer. He was the script coordinator last season. It was all of us getting together, and getting to know each other, and establishing a working relationship. It was a very promising beginning to the season.'
As Moore explains, the writers have settled on a direction for season two, following the finale of season one. He says, 'There is a balance between the relationship aspect of the show and the science fiction elements, and when those elements are in balance, the show really has hit its stride. If you watch the first season, you can see them, like any show in its first year, feeling their way and deciding what direction the series is going to go. Eventually, they realized that they needed to bring more science fiction into the series. Where we are right now is just in a really good place, where the heart and soul of the show is still the relationships among the characters, and especially the relationship between Max [Jason Behr] and Liz [Shiri Appleby]. But now the stakes are higher. There is a stronger alien presence going on. There's a bigger canvas to tell stories upon, and it just makes everything, all the relationships, even more important and more crucial. It's like there is this little group of teenagers in Roswell that share a secret, and they are thrust into these situations. Because only they know the secret, it strengthens the bonds between them, and it makes those relationships more complicated when things aren't working out.'
He adds, 'We are slowly creating the alien mythology. I wanted to parcel it out and not rush too much of it. Jason completely agrees. Mostly what I have been doing is writing and producing, keeping my hand in and delivering the show that is in Jason's head. It's really a great working relationship between the two of us. I have brought certain science fiction elements into the show, and had some ideas on how to do certain things. Like I did at STAR TREK, mostly what I concentrate on is character work, dealing with the relationships and characters, and how to tell the stories. I guess maybe I take it for granted, because I will throw out some sci-fi elements into some episode, and they'll all look at me like, 'Wow, really? We can do that?' It's no big deal. I don't really think of it as my strong suit. I guess I just have those muscles developed, and I add it into the mix when we need it.'
Season Two picked up three months after the end of Season One, with the episode 'Skin and Bones,' which aired October 2nd. Notes Moore, 'The end of the last season, Pierce was killed. Liz walks away, and then Nasedo goes off to infiltrate the Special Unit. He took on the aspect of Pierce to go deal with the Special Unit. In 'Skin and Bones,' no aliens have come to Roswell, and the kids are feeling like maybe nothing is going to happen. A geologist out in the desert accidentally digs up the bones of Pierce, the body that they had to go and bury, and they start investigating. Once they look at the body, they say, 'Oh my God. The bones of his rib cage have been fused together. What could have done that?' At that very moment, Pierce has completely disassembled the Special Unit, and this threatens to reawaken the whole government. The Sheriff [William Sadler] is definitely with us, and Kyle [Nick Wechsler] is in on it, which changes in a fundamental way their relationship with everyone else. The Sheriff has made the journey from antagonist to protector. Now you have the Sheriff in a sort of moral dilemma, where he is confused, going to protect these kids from his position as the Sheriff. But that occasionally means he is going to have to cover things up, and break the law. For a man who has worn a badge all his life, and comes from a law family, it kind of puts him in a difficult position, which I think is really interesting.'
For Kyle, it is a different situation too. Laughs Moore, 'I think Kyle has a wackier take on the whole thing. Kyle's attitude towards the aliensthe 'little green men,' as he calls themis just a lot of fun. It gives us something to play against the seriousness of it all.'
The audience will see Kyle for the first time second season in 'Ask Not,' written by Moore. The episode focuses on Max, picking up from the end of 'Skin and Bones,' in which Nasedo was killed by a 'Skin.' Says Moore, 'There is an alien killer on the loose in Roswell. Max is studying in history class. They are studying the Cuban Missile Crisis, and as he is learning about Kennedy, and he is trying to apply that to his own situation, because he is a leader who is grappling with a crisis. It's not literally the Cuban Missile Crisis replayed in Roswell, but there are thematic ties between the two. While that is going on, there is also the Kyle-Tess runner happening, and we are also playing things with him and Liz. There is a lot happening in that show. But it's mostly a Max episode.'
Moore laughs, 'Tess [Emilie de Ravin] is going to move in with the Valentis in episode two, because of Nasedo's death at the end of one. Kyle's got one of these 'little green people' living in his house, and she's this sexy babe. So he fears her, and he lusts for her at the same time. We found a great rapport, a great chemistry on camera, comedically, between him and Tess.'
Moore adds, 'There are a lot of new characters introduced. Milton has sold the UFO center, we discover, to a new character. You start wondering if this new character is a good guy or a bad guy. We cast Desmond Askew in the role. He was the British guy with the wacky hair from GO . But he plays a more intense, serious character for us, and he is really good. J.G. Hertzler is in the episode. He plays the history teacher. He was perfect in the role; he has that perfect voice.' (Hertzler has been in many STAR TREK episodes but is best known to DS9 fans as the Klingon Martok, the Chancellor of the Empire.)
The cast is all strongregulars, recurring and guests. Says Moore, 'The guest cast in the first three episodes, I think you'll be very surprised and pleased with. The whole vibe down on the set is tremendous. The cast is just wonderful. The thing that drew me into the show more than anything else when I was watching those first tapes was the strength of the acting. Jason Behr is just wonderful. I was so drawn in to Shiri [Appleyby]'s performance, and Liz's dilemma, and the relationship between her and Max. Majandra Delfino [Maria] is funny and great, and Brendon Fehr [Michael] has this interesting screen presence. Colin Hanks [Alex] is a delight, and Nick is funny, and Bill Sadler is always great. Katy Heigl [Isabel] is this drop-dead bombshell, who is actually a very good actress. It's just a great cast to work with.'
Heigl's Isabel is featured in the third episode of second season, scheduled to air October 16th. Enthuses Moore, 'Episode Three is a really big Isabel show called 'Surprise.' It centers around her 18th birthday. She goes on this journey, and where she ends up by the end of that episode, you never see coming. She has this wonderful scene at the end where she is all by herself. It's a monologue, and you can't take your eyes off of her. She blows you away.'
Episodes 4 and 5 may air towards the end of October or during November sweeps. Says Moore, 'Episode 4 is called 'Summer of '47,' and we revisit the events of the original crash in Roswell for the first time. The device is that Michael is talking to someone who was there. Charles Napier plays a guy named Hal Carver, who was an Army Air Corps officer in l947. As he is telling Michael the story of what happened, we go into Michael's mind, and we tell the story as Michael hears it. Michael casts himself in the role of Hal, and he casts the rest of our cast in the other roles. So we flash back with our cast playing all the primary roles, and we watch the story play out. It's a really different show, and it finally tells you our version of what happened in Roswell.'
Moore has to laugh about the casting of Charles Napier, who played the General in the DEEP SPACE NINE episode 'Little Green Men,' wherein the aliens were Ferengi. He was also the space hippie Adam in the original STAR TREK series 'The Way To Eden.' Says Moore, 'I wasn't in that casting. They cast him, and then I found out. I dug out pictures of him in the uniform in the DS9 episode. They used some of those same places at Paramount. It was really funny.'
Episode 5, called 'The End of the World,' has Liz confront her worst fears. Episode 6, called 'Harvest,' shows the group visiting the den of the other alienstheir enemies, the Skins.
Overall, Moore thinks ROSWELL is heading in the right direction. He says, 'You won't tune in and go, 'This is a whole new series.' You'll tune in and go, 'These are the elements I've always liked about the show. It feels more confident.' Everyone on the production is just very happy, and we all feel like the show is really hitting on all cylinders. The network is happy, and the studio is happy. There is a really strong sense that we are there, that ROSWELL is really clicking along and we have really found it.'
As of the beginning of the season, only 13 episodes had been ordered. The WB Network will be looking at ratings to decide on whether to order more. Moore hopes to receive a request for more episodes some time in November or December.
Roswell airs Monday nights at 9PM.