‘Roswell, New Mexico’: Heather Hemmens on Directing, Why Maria & Jones Are ‘Very Well Matched’

Heather Hemmens directing Roswell, New Mexico
Q&A
John Golden Britt/The CW

Just as her character Maria DeLuca was being challenged on Roswell, New Mexico (blame the alien Jones, played by Nathan Dean), Heather Hemmens was as well (blame the weather), stepping behind the camera to direct the September 6 episode, “Goodnight, Elizabeth.”

“It was one of those moments where you’re challenged to do time management beyond the hours in a day, but it was a really, really great experience for me that taught me a lot of skills that now that I’ve done it, I can take forward and conquer with,” Hemmens tells TV Insider of the experience.

“[It] came about from hours and hours and hours of shadowing behind the scenes, directing short films, so this was years of preparation meeting opportunity for me,” she continues. “It really was a great time to grow within the show especially behind the camera. So I’m really excited to do that on my home court.”

Heading into the episode, Maria remains in a coma after her encounter with Jones (not Max, also played by Dean, as they’d all thought). But at least everyone knows who they’re really dealing with now… right? That doesn’t mean it’ll be easy to stop him.

Below, Hemmens talks directing — she’ll helm another episode later in Season 4 — before previewing the rest of the season and Maria’s slightly reckless behavior.

Where does this episode find Maria in her fight against Jones?

Heather Hemmens: We find them very well matched where she has unexpectedly met him in the mindscape, but she is holding onto her powers for dear life. Right now she’s just buying time until she can outsmart him. They’re very well-matched because Maria’s strong-minded and determined and she’s just as good as Jones as evil, so it’s going to be an epic battle between them.

Jeanine Mason, Lily Cowles, Michael Vlamis, Amber Midthunder in Roswell, New Mexico

John Golden Britt/The CW

What’s everyone else up to now that they know they haven’t been talking to Max, but to Jones?

Everyone is frantically searching around for the real Jones and trying to stop him from whatever he’s set out to do. It’s a really fun storyline where the Scooby-Doo gang is setting up traps and different schemes to try and get ahead of Jones’ agenda. At the same time, they’re trying to receive psychic messages from Maria, helping them figure out what his motives are and also to help them get her out of this coma. This all is going to culminate with showdowns and explosions and big reveals that people who have been watching the show for years will never see coming. And it’s just going to be jaw-dropping turns that will take us into the rest of the storyline for the season.

There is quite a bit going on in this episode – the Jones storyline, Alex [Tyler Blackburn] is trying to get answers, Rosa’s [Amber Midthunder] still figuring things out about herself. What were your favorite and the most challenging scenes to direct?

My favorite scenes were Rosa and Isobel [Lily Cowles] in the cave where they have a real sisterhood bonding moment. That was such a joy just to have a scene where it wasn’t about special effects or anything sinister. It was just about two women connecting and having this great dialogue. It was really just such a joy to work with both of those actors, who are my close friends, and we had a lot of fun with that.

Heather Hemmens directs Roswell New Mexico

John Golden Britt/The CW

One of the more challenging scenes is this showdown. There’s so much going on. There’s a bunch of characters in the scene. There are explosions, special effects, all kinds of things happening, and it felt like a major movie set. It was really, really fun to film and we got rain right in the middle of it. We ended up being more crunched for time than I was supposed to have, and I was just really happy that I had prepared for that day in a way that I was able to still finish one of the most important scenes of the episode without having to sacrifice.

The scenes that I was in as an actor had special effects in them. And I also had to make time to watch playback and spend an hour and a half in hair and makeup before I got into director mode. So those were also challenges that I was happy to explore, that new skill set for myself, and just try to enjoy it along the way.

Speaking of great scenes with two women this season, one of my favorite relationships right now is Maria and Isobel’s. Are we going to continue to see more of those two together?

Absolutely. These two strong women are realizing that they’re even stronger together. They have such a fun dynamic. They have witty banter and they have great ideas and they also still have that competitiveness that makes them really fun to watch. I’m happy for the storyline and for the characters that the catty nature of their relationship has been overcome and now we’re into seeing two empowered women support each other. I just think that’s a really beautiful dynamic, and we’re going to see a lot more of it throughout the season.

Heather Hemmens, Jeanine Mason, Lily Cowles in Roswell New Mexico

John Golden Britt/The CW

It seems like Gregory [Tanner Novlan] has adapted pretty well to everything going on in Roswell. What can you say about his and Maria’s relationship?

I think the reason that Maria loves hanging out with Gregory is that he’s so easygoing. He has taken everything in stride. He’s been a support system. He’s been a really warm presence and just a good friend throughout all of this and Maria really needed a rock. He’s very stable. So I think that is the initial attraction and it could be budding into something romantic. I think it’s at a good starting point in friendship to be able to grow into that. … He may be crushing a little bit harder than her at the moment. But I think when he’s showing his true colors that he really cares for her and he has her back when she’s not well, that could go over pretty good with Maria when she catches wind of it.

We saw how far Maria was willing to go to trigger another vision earlier in the season, and she’s in a coma right now because she couldn’t sit and not do anything. Will we continue to see her push herself to or beyond her limits?

Absolutely. Maria is now on her own journey with her alien powers and with this alien storyline, whereas in the past seasons, we’ve seen her really supporting the other characters’ experience of this. Now she is on a rampage to fulfill her own destiny and discover what that is for her powers, so she’s willing to go pretty far to figure it out. I think she feels that no matter what the danger brings, she can’t not know.

Nathan Dean, Michael Trevino, Heather Hemmens in Roswell, New Mexico

John Golden Britt/The CW

I love Maria and everything she’s doing this season, but at the same time, I’m like, where’s your sense of self-preservation?

Yeah, she’s gotten a little bit reckless because she’s in dire need of answers. I think sometimes the hardest thing in life is not knowing and that can outweigh the expense of any maybe physical harm that she can endure and survive. But the most important thing to her is just having those questions answered that constantly plague her mind.

Everything’s building up to this funeral with the Valenti crest on the coffin. What can you tease about that funeral and what we’re going to see going forward?

It’s one of those mysteries that everybody comes together as a group because not only do they all care about who could be in the coffin, but it could be them. They still have no clarity that any of them is safe, and so in order to protect themselves, they also have to protect each other. That’s just one of the more lovely storylines that bonds them all, this group effort to keep everybody safe.

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How certain can we be of anything that we’ve seen in those visions?

I’d say that they present accurately, but hindsight is 20/20. So just because they’re presenting accurately doesn’t mean that the supporting evidence doesn’t change the dynamic.

What else can you preview about the rest of the season and how it’s going to set up next season?

This Jones character is very determined to wreak havoc, so he’s not going away, and they’re going to have to battle it out with him for the next chapter of this story. They find different ways to do that and each character comes in to fight that beast. That’s a really, really fun storyline that plays out. And we’re gonna dig a little bit more into Maria’s family history as well and how it connects to everyone else and how it gets specific with this day in time that Jones is trying to find a memory for. Maria has a very big role in whether or not he gets that that piece of information he’s searching for.

Roswell, New Mexico, Mondays, 8/7c, The CW