Any actor’s directorial debut is daunting. But for “Roswell, New Mexico” star Michael Trevino, things were significantly easier thanks to his leading lady, Jeanine Mason, who apparently was “saving” him on the daily.
In Monday night’s episode, directed by Trevino, we meet Outlaw Liz (Mason). She’s a parallel version of the Liz Ortecho we’ve come to know and love, who acts on her darker impulses. Thanks to the chemical compound she inhaled, Liz is trapped in her mindscape, battling for dominance. That mindscape, of course, is an old western town, in which Liz is the sheriff, haunted by Outlaw Liz.
Mason took on double duty for the week and according to Trevino, needed very little direction from him.
“I literally was just behind the monitor, because I know how talented she is,” Trevino recalled to TheWrap. “And then I see her play this completely different character, making complete opposite choices, and they’re believable, and she’s making it look easy. And I know it’s hard, but she’s making it look so easy. I was so, so thankful for — I remember everyday just being like, ‘thank you’ because she’s saving me!”
Of course, a little advice from a seasoned vet didn’t hurt either. Because for Trevino, this directorial debut has been a long time coming — he shadowed his old “Vampire Diaries” friend Julie Plec way back on the “Roswell, New Mexico” pilot. So he made sure to pick her brain on some key aspects. But more on that shortly.
For now, Trevino is just basking in the excitement of his episode finally being out in the world.
“It’s never easy. But when it’s all said and done and you get to that final day, it all comes together? There’s no better feeling,” he said.
You can check out TheWrap’s full conversation with Michael Trevino below.
Note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Michael, I always like to begin my interviews the big question. So, tell me what it’s like directing your character as a horse?
(laughs) You know, working with animals can prove to be difficult. But I will say, working with Kyle the horse, like myself, just the utmost professionalism on set, ever. Greatest horse ever. And the performances were all there. It was easy. Very easy.
More seriously though, this is your directing debut. This is huge for you. Is it something that has been in the works for a while, that you’ve wanted and you waited for?
It is something that I’ve been working so for a while. I have, since our pilot episode — I shadowed Julie Plec when she directed our pilot. And since the pilot episode, I communicated to the powers that be, and made it very clear that if this show were to go for a few seasons, I would like an opportunity to direct. And they said, “OK, we’ll see.” And I said, OK, well, I’m going to stick around video village, and I’m going to be around on days when I’m not working, filming. And I’m going to learn.
So I did that for the four seasons. But to prove that much more that I was that serious, I shot a short film after season three in Albuquerque with some of our crew that we use on “Roswell.” And I think after that, they saw how serious I was and they gave me an opportunity in season four here to finally get behind the camera. It is, you’re absolutely right, it is a big deal. I don’t take it lightly. I’m just so grateful and happy that it finally happened, that people are going to see this episode. And now hopefully, this leads to more opportunities from another TV show.
I really like your approach of, “I’m just going to be present. I’m just going to be next to you until you decide to give me a shot.” Because that’s how I approach things as well, and it’s good to know that it works.
Yeah, I’m telling you! It’s like, you don’t have to ask — show people, right? Actions speak louder than words. And so like, there were days where they’d just look around and be like, “Oh, he’s still here!” Even crew was like, “What are you doing?” I’m like “Shadowing,” and they’re like “Huh!” So it’s also that level of respect that you get. So when I finally got my shot, I truly believe it was earned. And I had the crew’s respect and support when you get up there.
Absolutely. And I mean, shadowing Julie Plec, what a terrible way to start right? I mean, if only they’d given you someone more experienced… Come on, that’s amazing!
Yeah! I mean, if you’re gonna shadow anybody, Julie Plec’s a good person to shadow to let her know how serious you are about directing.
Well, tell me about shadowing her. What was the biggest thing that you picked up from her? Because that’s not an experience everyone gets, to be next to her as she’s doing these things. So what’s the one thing that stuck with you?
You know, I’ve known Julie Plec for so many years here now. We go back to Vampire Diaries, and she wasn’t directing then, but now she is. And I do remember on the pilot, you know, it is about story for her. But also, it’s about these relationships. So when there is the romance or that connection, we really want to see those beats, and moments very, very clear. And we want to fall in love with this couple. So when they fall out of love, we’re just as hurt and damaged because of it. So those moments, they need to be very clear.
And on top of that, transitions. And what I mean by that is going from one scene to the next scene, make it as seamless and cohesive as possible. But also let your frames and your shots be beautiful. So just let the transition, so the episode flows as neatly and tightly as possible. Work on those transitions to go from scene to scene. If we’re leaving this scene, and this is what we’re ending with, what are we coming into in the next scene? She is a stickler for those and so you got to really be on top of that.
And you get a really fun setting to do those transitions in. You get to direct an episode with the wild, wild west mind scape. What were your thoughts upon finding out that part?
Well, it was mixed feelings. It was the feelings of joy and excitement that like, “Wow, this is a huge episode, and this landed on 4×09, which was my episode.” And then just as much of it feeling daunting, and me a bit terrified of like, “How the hell am I going to shoot this? What am I doing?” And so you just go to work. You get that week of prep, and you use every minute of your life to plan out each scene as best as you can. And you have a plan in place to do the coverage and to tell your story.
So, yes, I’m very lucky. I don’t know if that was a gift, or I just got lucky with 4×09 being a big episode. Or maybe because I’m a member of the family, as a director for the first time, they were like, we’re going to give you a big episode. And they trusted me with that, which I’m still to this day, extremely thankful for it. But it is a big episode.
Well let’s talk about being a member of the family. Because not only do you get to direct the rest of your Roswell family that you’ve been working with for four seasons, but you’re also directing some new friends, because you’ve got new characters this season. So some of these people, you know their ticks, but then the others are a little bit newer. How did that stretch you?
I do. I do. And for me, I just was very transparent with the cast, who are my friends, but also with them saying, like, “Whatever you need from me, let me know. Or if I’m coming at you in a way that doesn’t work for you, let me know. Let’s get ahead of it here.” And everybody was just very supportive and helped me out. If there was ever any moments of me struggling to give a note or to find a moment or beat in the scene, we were all on top of it. Just super, super collaborative.
And you know, our newcomers to this season are just such professionals and awesome, and it’s been a joy to work with them this season. But I would say we have a very special guest star for this episode in Shiri Appleby.
I was going to say! She’s a legend.
Yeah, who has been the OG member of the Roswell family. And what’s more amazing is, you know, we all know she’s directed a few episodes for us already. But this is the first time with her in front of the camera, in our world, playing in the sandbox with us. And so that was just such a special moment and super thankful for her for making it out, being a part of the show for us. But it is a big moment where we have our two female leads in Shiri Appleby and Jeanine Mason, and I think it’s very special.
Yes, let’s talk about Jeanine Mason. She’s incredible. And you get to introduce dark Liz in this episode, which I think is an actor’s dream to play an evil version of themselves.
But from your directing standpoint, is there pressure to introduce this villainous version of our hero, who people have come to love over four seasons? Was there was there any apprehension there?
No, Jeanine was super excited. Because like you said, you play a character for at this point, four seasons, four years. And now you’re able to play the same person, but like, complete opposite? She was incredible in this episode.
Because I have to tell you — man, I mean, being number one on the call sheet and working day in and day out, it’s tough enough already. And for you to play two characters on top of that, doing scenes opposite yourself, you’re learning the lines of two separate characters who are totally different from one another. It is incredibly difficult. And she did an amazing job. I literally was just behind the monitor, because I know how talented she is.
And then I see her play this completely different character, making complete opposite choices, and they’re believable, and she’s making it look easy. And I know it’s hard, but she’s making it look so easy. I was so, so thankful for — I remember everyday just being like, “thank you” because she’s saving me! You know, it’s my first time directing an episode. I gotta make sure not only is this story being told through the lens, are these performances being told? And she came in so prepared. Which isn’t a surprise, but you just, you see it on a different level of her playing two characters, playing Liz and then having to go change, put on different makeup, change and become Outlaw Liz. And just knock it out of the park.
“Roswell, New Mexico” airs on The CW on Mondays at 8/7c. You can stream the latest episode online.