What to Watch

What to Watch with Shiri Appleby

The star of UnREAL and Roswell reveals that Russian Doll episodes are in her viewing queue and she has "Pretty Little Liars" on binge. She also talks about moving from acting to directing, aliens and reboots, and the new episode of Roswell, New Mexico she directed.

by | March 19, 2019 | Comments

Noam Galai/WireImage
(Photo by Noam Galai/WireImage)

Shiri Appleby has been on TV since before she was a teenager. Early on, she guest-starred in shows like 7th Heaven and Baywatch, and more recently, she headlined Lifetime’s acclaimed Bachelor-skewering drama UnREAL. But the actress’ game-changing role was the lead in 1999’s Roswell — a sci-fi drama series that began with her character, New Mexico high-schooler Liz, being shot and brought back to life by an alien.

Now, Appleby is stepping behind the camera — and returning to one of her most iconic roles to do so. She’s directing the Tuesday, March 19 episode of Roswell, New Mexico, a reboot of her late ’90s series. Both iterations of Roswell feature aliens, romance, and feelings of otherness, but in the new series, the characters are 10 years older and their conflicts are much more contemporary.

“You know, [in] our show, these kids were in high school and the alien theme was about how everyone felt in high school — you felt out of place and you didn’t feel like you belonged,” Appleby told Rotten Tomatoes of the original Roswell. “In today’s story, these kids are in their late 20s and the alien is about illegal immigration. It feels very timely and very relevant.”

Her upcoming Roswell, New Mexico episode, “Songs About Texas,” will be a first for Appleby. In the past, she’s directed TV episodes in which she also starred. This time, she’s staying behind the camera, but that doesn’t mean she’ll stop acting — she says she’s just “taking a minute” to find the right long-term role.

Ahead of the episode, Appleby told us about what she’s been bingeing lately and what’s coming soon for her career — both in front of and behind the camera.


What’s appointment viewing for you?

Byron Cohen / Touchstone Television / Courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by Byron Cohen / Touchstone Television / Courtesy Everett Collection)

The last time I did that I was watching Felicity… That should tell you how many years it’s been. I used to love that show. It was my absolute favorite. There was nothing better than Keri Russell. Right?


What’s in your streaming queue?

Hulu
(Photo by Hulu)

Right now I’m watching Russian Doll. I love Russian Doll … I have been watching Light as a Feather on Hulu. I’m going to direct two episodes of it, so I’ve been really bingeing on that show. I think it’s so charming and wonderful. I was also watching a lot of Pretty Little Liars because I just directed an episode of The Perfectionists. And, I am going to go — which is so funny — to my Netflix account right now so I can tell you what else I’ve been watching.

I love to watch a lot of documentaries. I was watching, let’s see, I watched the Fyre documentaries on both Hulu and Netflix. I still watch Stranger Things… I like watching My Next Guest [Needs No Introduction] with David Letterman. I love that.


What shows are on your DVR?

Courtesy of Netflix
(Photo by Courtesy of Netflix)

I don’t watch real TV anymore! I watched Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and I’ve been cleaning out my closet obsessively since then.


What’s coming soon that you’re excited for?

ABC/Eric McCandless
(Photo by ABC/Eric McCandless)

The Fix. My best friend, Robin Tunney, has a new show premiering on Monday night on ABC, so I cannot wait to watch every single episode of that.


Sophie-Marie Prime for Rotten Tomatoes: Did you go back and watch any of the original Roswell while preparing to direct your episode?

Well, I had made every single episode, so I felt very confident that I didn’t need to watch it again and see myself as a 20-year-old. I was just going to let myself go and be immersed in the world that they’ve created.

Have you been in contact with any of the original cast at all? I know Jason Behr sent you flowers on your first day.

Yeah, Jason and I are still in touch. I’ve been actually texting with Katherine Heigl a lot. Colin Hanks I see, and he’s texted. Majandra [Delfino] lives maybe three blocks away from me so I run into her. It’s such a small, little, tiny community. When you think about that experience, it’s like friends from high school. You know, you kind of pick up right where you left off.

We all came from such different backgrounds and we’re going through this really out-of-body experience together. It’s kind of fun to get back to each other and see each other. Everyone has kids now, and [it’s fun] to see what’s happened with their lives and their careers.


20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection)

What do you and the rest of the original cast think of the reboot?

It’s like building a legacy. It’s a complete compliment. I just feel incredibly flattered.

What was your first impression when you saw the pilot for the new series?

I thought they did an incredible job of having some very iconic moments that we share: like Liz getting shot in the Crashdown Café and Max coming over and saving her life — those really big moments that were very much a big thread of the original series. Then very quickly it becomes its own show, which I thought was so smart, and it tackles these bigger topics.

You know, our show, these kids were in high school and the alien theme was about how everyone felt in high school. You felt out of place and you didn’t feel like you belonged. In today’s story, these kids are in their late 20s and the alien is about illegal immigration. It feels very timely and very relevant.


Lewis Jacobs/The CW
(Photo by Lewis Jacobs/The CW)

How is it working with Jeanine Mason as the new Liz?

I just couldn’t pick someone better to take over the role. She is so impressive as both an actress and a human being. We really had a great time finding ways to get creative with the performance and doing different things. She was just really up for it all. I had a really wonderful time. It felt very much like passing the baton forward. I love what she’s created with this new Liz.

What role did the original Roswell play in your career as an actress?

Well, it’s so funny, it’s playing a similar role as a director. It really changed my life. I went from a girl that was in high school and I had worked since I was a young kid, but it gave me a career. It really was like everything was “before Roswell” and “after Roswell.”

Now I’ve been making this transition into directing, and Roswell is the first show that’s given me a job directing where I’m not acting. Because they gave it to me, Marlene King felt more comfortable giving me an episode directing Pretty Little Liars, and now Hulu is giving me two more episodes of Light as a Feather. It’s just continuing to build. Again, Roswell has come in and just been an incredible, huge part of my journey as a director.


Lifetime
(Photo by Lifetime)

You’ve had such a diverse career on TV. Do you have any favorite roles that you’ve played?

I have this wall in our house where I have my costumes in frames. I have the Roswell gunshot [costume] framed and my mic from Life Unexpected, and then I have Rachel Goldberg’s T-shirt that says “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” with a green coat and her little fanny pack [from UnREAL]. Those were definitely my iconic roles.

And Girls was an incredible part for me. It really pushed the envelope. To be on a show that was so culturally relevant was really game changing. I think working on Mike Nichols’ movie Charlie Wilson’s War with Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks and Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams and Emily Blunt — to be surrounded by all of these incredible talents and feel like I had a real seat at the table — that really changed things for me as well.


20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy: Everett Collection.
(Photo by 20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy: Everett Collection.)

How and when did you decide to jump from acting to directing? Did you always know that was something you wanted to do?

When I did Roswell, there weren’t female directors. We had 61 episodes and we had one female director on the last episode. I didn’t grow up seeing an image of a female director, so I never thought it was something that I could have. I definitely spent my time in editing during Roswell and asked a lot of questions and paid attention, but during my 20s, you just didn’t see it.

Then when I was on Life Unexpected they brought on a female director, Liz Allen, and it really kind of rocked my world. Through my relationship with her, she was like, “You can do this.” I started shadowing a lot after I got off Life Unexpected. That’s where I was like, “OK, this is something that I can do.”

By the time I did UnREAL, I came to them right away, and I was like, “I have done my homework. I am prepared. I would really love an opportunity.” I’m really grateful to them that in the second season they gave me an episode to direct. I ended up doing four during the course of the series.

What has your experience been like directing a show that you’re also acting in, versus something like Roswell, New Mexico and Pretty Little Liars where you’re not appearing on screen?

The difference is that you’re not really splitting your focus, but at the same time when you’re directing and acting, it’s pretty powerful. You know, you’re really in it and you can really command the energy of a scene because your acting is putting that out. So, you can really craft how you want it to be.

When you’re not acting in it, when you’re sitting back, you can take a breather and really see the scope of the piece. I think it’s incredibly rewarding to work in this space. All this information that I’ve learned and all of these tricks of the trade, of crafting an episode of performance and an episode of TV — to be able to push that information forward and share with these young actors and watch their performance blossom, it is so gratifying. It’s a way of giving back in some ways, and I am just really relishing it.


Lewis Jacobs/The CW
(Photo by Lewis Jacobs/The CW)

It’s mentorship from a totally different angle.

Absolutely. You know, there are directors that come through your career that really give you these little nuggets that change the way you work. I try to give it as much as I can, because I want to have an impact in the few days that I’m with them.

Do you think that there will be an opportunity for you to appear on screen in Roswell, New Mexico?

Carina MacKenzie — she’s so talented — if she wants to figure out a way, I’ll do it.

 

Can you share anything else about your upcoming projects? Do you have any on-screen appearances planned?

I did an episode of Law & Order: SVU and Lucy Liu was directing it. That was really fun. I just did an episode of Drunk History that aired. But, quite honestly, following up Rachel Goldberg on UnREAL, there are big shoes to fill. I’m just kind of taking a minute to find the right thing… because I really want to give it my all and find the next right character and the next right story.

Roswell, New Mexico episode “Songs About Texas” airs Tuesday at 9 p.m. on The CW


Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.


 

Tag Cloud

space ratings discovery Watching Series twilight Valentine's Day cartoon ABC Family YA WarnerMedia Heroines Mary poppins psycho casting films Amazon Studios Cosplay American Society of Cinematographers ghosts Avengers medical drama sequel Awards Logo spider-man Academy Awards Black Mirror Tarantino Sundance Now name the review Universal Infographic Paramount IFC Apple TV Plus CW Seed 2018 Video Games Biopics mutant cults Fantasy mockumentary romantic comedy indie Schedule 2020 Adult Swim Comics on TV IFC Films finale See It Skip It children's TV Tumblr Shudder 2015 YouTube Red BET Sneak Peek parents E! AMC breaking bad First Reviews Thanksgiving Reality Captain marvel Superheroe E3 Warner Bros. Photos game show X-Men comic Women's History Month Oscars comiccon Grammys Rocky OneApp dceu slashers The Purge Musical Walt Disney Pictures sports dark batman screen actors guild Spectrum Originals vampires Christmas Binge Guide Spring TV serial killer TLC History Family YouTube Mary Tyler Moore Peacock revenge Sundance book Interview FOX Disney+ Disney Plus green book TIFF Action boxoffice Starz doctor who APB Pride Month harry potter Lionsgate Turner unscripted Nat Geo Amazon Prime USA Network christmas movies stand-up comedy asian-american 20th Century Fox Year in Review Esquire singing competition 71st Emmy Awards Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt GIFs werewolf Film series ESPN tv talk Sci-Fi Shondaland disaster Crunchyroll CBS Trailer screenings Tubi independent TV Superheroes 45 theme song best Holiday CMT Pop latino festivals zero dark thirty Musicals 4/20 Dark Horse Comics a nightmare on elm street 21st Century Fox zombies natural history rotten movies we love SDCC Winter TV TCA Winter 2020 Election anime Red Carpet anthology Toys cars Disney Channel VOD DC Universe Star Wars Tomatazos Stephen King Showtime south america Song of Ice and Fire blaxploitation binge Writers Guild of America TCA Marvel award winner video on demand adaptation Rocketman Nickelodeon kids Holidays Crackle Arrowverse dogs NYCC Apple TV+ Amazon Prime Video child's play Comedy adventure Amazon Elton John SXSW Cannes foreign Marathons Columbia Pictures 007 24 frames thriller Pixar Emmy Nominations Sony Pictures BBC America comedies cinemax Awards Tour Chilling Adventures of Sabrina cooking Comedy Central Chernobyl Epix crossover Trophy Talk Discovery Channel Television Academy news mission: impossible National Geographic WGN FX Food Network crime Rom-Com Bravo Britbox crime thriller Syfy Lifetime Christmas movies PlayStation robots dc TCA 2017 Pet Sematary documentaries Comic Book streaming DC streaming service RT History Endgame A&E FX on Hulu Classic Film aliens 2016 Quiz blockbuster Fox News indiana jones Spike spy thriller Hallmark Christmas movies BET Awards dragons TruTV politics spanish language toy story facebook animated TCM Emmys Podcast Acorn TV satire Best and Worst Nominations Certified Fresh based on movie cancelled SundanceTV NBC Mystery movie The Walking Dead Freeform historical drama canceled TBS Fall TV zombie chucky transformers 2017 Horror Western FXX The Arrangement cancelled TV shows Set visit President jamie lee curtis Funimation Polls and Games MSNBC El Rey quibi TV renewals BBC One Martial Arts war DGA Mindy Kaling romance die hard Super Bowl canceled TV shows period drama DirecTV The Witch Extras HBO Pop TV San Diego Comic-Con Brie Larson supernatural stoner video comics spinoff BBC Ovation concert Disney streaming service Lucasfilm Vudu Marvel Television Disney Plus Film Festival joker Black History Month HBO Max dramedy criterion versus Trivia Hallmark richard e. Grant nature Teen Mary Poppins Returns directors Travel Channel Summer PaleyFest The CW reviews Country technology strong female leads franchise psychological thriller social media Music scary movies HBO Go sitcom Animation Lifetime golden globes renewed TV shows OWN game of thrones Box Office YouTube Premium CBS All Access Sundance TV free movies Turner Classic Movies Disney LGBT CNN ABC Netflix First Look teaser Apple Netflix Christmas movies Hulu Premiere Dates Anna Paquin travel Opinion Marvel Studios VICE documentary elevated horror USA Star Trek Baby Yoda police drama cancelled television hist Rock science fiction miniseries political drama reboot Kids & Family RT21 Drama Calendar crime drama VH1 Masterpiece universal monsters ITV Creative Arts Emmys Hear Us Out Pirates all-time Paramount Network Ellie Kemper witnail PBS 2019 MTV halloween TV Land hispanic TNT television sag awards GoT GLAAD Cartoon Network Winners Mudbound diversity spain biography critics movies New York Comic Con A24 MCU Ghostbusters LGBTQ true crime talk show cops docudrama what to watch DC Comics justice league composers Countdown cancelled TV series Reality Competition Character Guide cats BAFTA