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July 30, 2019

A Reboot That Resonates

Jeanine Mason’s role in Roswell, New Mexico evokes, “You go, girl!”

Virginia Pelley
  • Paul Smith
  • Mason and E.J. Bonilla

    John Golden Britt/The CW

Every Tuesday when their show airs, cast members of the CW's Roswell, New Mexico, tweet about the drinking game they play while they watch. It takes some fans of the teen drama by surprise.

"Someone on Twitter said it's disorienting to see a CW cast be of an appropriate age to play a drinking game," Jeanine Mason says. She stars as Liz Ortecho in this reimagining of Roswell, the early-2000s series on The WB. "We love our status as The CW show that gives you a little more range."

Roswell, New Mexico is a romance and murder mystery that spotlights the irony of tourists' fascination with little green men at a time when many Americans openly buy into racist propaganda about foreigners.

The show has the small-town love story that CW viewers have come to expect, but the main characters have aged 10 years, and the show — which has been picked up for a second season — confronts the current immigration controversy head on.

Reimagined Liz is Mexican-American, as she was in the Melinda Metz YA books the shows are based on, and her father is undocumented. After his restaurant is vandalized, he doesn't report it because he fears deportation. In another scene, Liz explains she returned home to Roswell after her research project lost federal funding because, she says, "Someone wants to build a wall."

"When people ask me, 'Why reboot this property?' I go, 'Why not?'" says Mason, a first-generation Cuban-American from Miami. "When there's an opportunity to investigate the story of a Latin woman, particularly a Mexican-American woman living in a border town with undocumented parents — an intelligent, hell-bent activist with a fighting spirit — I want to meet her."

Viewers first met Mason on the fifth season of So You Think You Can Dance. She was both the first Cuban-American winner and the youngest winner ever.

She went on to roles in several series — including Nickelodeon's Big Time Rush, ABC Family's Bunheads and CBS's NCIS: Los Angeles — before landing a recurring role on Grey's Anatomy. A few viewers have complained they prefer their CW dramas sans politics, Mason says, but many more seem excited about Roswell, New Mexico's strong Latina lead.

"I think people are more socially aware," she says. "What's been exciting for me is the people in the Latinx community sending me 'I'm so proud' and 'You go, girl' affirmations."

What goes around comes around: Mason's Twitter feed is filled with support for other women and their projects, and she's a proud member of a networking group for Latinx women in entertainment.

"My favorite thing in the world is championing other women," she says. "And I'm lucky to have come up in the industry [now]. As ugly as some of the divisiveness has been in politics lately, it has led people to reach out to each other and to take care of each other like I've never seen before."

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 7, 2019

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