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For me it's all about telling a good story. Something that whether or not you agree or disagree with that it's trying to say, it pro-vokes thought and some type of emotion. --Jason Behr

pg. 40 Behr Essentials

Jason Behr is being kept very busy. Filming the eighteenth episode of his new series, Roswell High, under the direction of executive producer Jonathan Frakes, he appears in virtually every scene, which means that he should value every free moment he gets. Instead, he's sitting cross-legged on an easy chair in a side room off the soundstage at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, chatting easily about his new role.

The twenty-six year old verteran of over 75 commercials, numerous stage performances, and TV guest appearance, including a major stint in teen angst drama Dawson's Creek, is clearly having a great time. He stars as Max Evans, outwardly a normal teenage boy, who hids a mysterious secret -- along with his sister Isabel and friend Mike, Max is a survivor of the alien spacecraft which crashed in the desert near Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947. When he saves the life of human teenage Liz Parker, Max chooses to share his secret with her, just as other people are starting to become suspicious and their love affair unfolds alongside the drama of the pursuit of the aliens.

You've done an extensive number of guest roles in very popular shows on television. How did you feel when you found out that you'd got a lead in a new pilot?

I found out about Roswell when I was in North Carolina shooting Dawson's Creek. The script came my way via the normal channels. When I first read it, I thought, 'Here's a great idea'. There's a lot of teenage shows out there right now, but this one definitely separates itself from others because of this science fiction spin to it. What I immediately responded to was the characters and the story, but initially I thought in the wrong hands it could be done either very well or very badly. After I found out about [executive producer] David Nutter being involved, and [producer] Jason Katims being involved and Jonathan Frakes being involved, I knew that we were in very good hands, so there was no decision to be made. I felt I really wanted to be a part of it.

How do you feel now that it looks as it it's going to be a resounding success?

It's been pretty amazing. The response has been wonderful. People have really responded well to the show, and that's been very rewarding for everybody on the set. You work really hard, put a lot of long hours into it and you just really want to tell a good story, and the response has been very nice. It's a great feeling. It's a bit surreal at times.

Are you getting much chance to pursue your other interests outside acting, such as sports?

I'm a big basketball fan. There are actually two nets here on the lot, and every now and then you can get a good pic-up game in the gym, but they don't relly wnat you to do too much physical activity, especially when you're at work here. 'Stay in your amke-up. Stay in your trailer. Don't sweat anything off, and above all other things, don't hurt yourself.' When I get time, I play basketball. I spend a good amount of time with my family.

I don't have that much free time. We're either on stage here or on location, so the free time I do have I like spending with my family and my friends... and catching up on sleep lost.

You've had a chance to do independent movies, working with people like Dean Stockwell. Did you enjoy the experience?

I had a great time on Rites of Passage. We shot that film in 21 days. It was real tight. A lot of emotional, long, character-driven scenes, just a lot of dialogue. A lot of night scenes, so for about three weeks I spent a good part of my life in the dark, which took a little bit of time getting used to, but once I acclimated to that schedule, it was fine. I didn't mind living like a vampire. The movie itself is a testament to what you can do if you really are passionate about something. Everyone worked really hard on that in a short amount of time to really make a good film.

 Working with Dean was great. He's the consummate professional. Always knew his lines, hit his mark, walking backwards blindgolded. He was just incredibly well oiled -- he knew exactly what he was doing. He's a damn good actor too, so I had a great time working with him. Victor Salva directed and wrote it. I found out earlier today, it's doing the festival circuit now, and it won the Grand Jury Prize at the Santa Monica film festival, so that was kind of cool. It's nice -- the icing on the cake.

Would you want to work on something outside the studio grind during the hiatus?

In a perfect world, I'd be on the beach of Tahiti, doing some kind of movie, but I don't thing that is going to happen. For me, it's not about where I'm shooting. First of all it's about the story. For me it's all about telling a good story, an interesting story. Something that whether or not you agree or disagree with what it's trying to say, it provokes thought that some type of emotion. (Hopefully it's positive. You can't presume on the story.) Secondly, it's the people I'm working with. I want to work with people that I respect, that I find interesting or intriguing, because you're going to be spending a vast amount of time with these people and you want to make the most of it.

Location doesn't mean that much to me. It would be great if I could spend every day in the sun sitting on the sand on a beach in Tahiti, but if it's in the middle of the night in a studio in Los Angeles downtown somewhere, it doesn't matter to me. The most important thing is to find a really good story and tell it the best way that I can.

You've done a lot of diverse work. Is there anything that specifically stands out that you're proudest of?

Generally, I've been really lucky with the people that I've worked with. I don't have any really big horror stories. I think that Roswell is by far the best thing that I've been involved with. It's just been one wild ride! But it's been great for me, just wonderfula all around. I'm working with a great group of actors, a great crew, and the producers. We have such a great opportunity to tell a really interesting story, and given that we're on The WB here, they allow Katims a certain freedom to do what he feels is right. The fact that they gave us 22 episodes meant we were able to spin a web in a way that we didn't have to worry about thinking 'we can only do six, we've got to give all this information right now'. It's not that we're telling a very slow story, it's just it's developing at a pace, not too quick and not too slow. I think that Roswell is so far probably the best thing I've done.

From what we've seen up to now, there's a very definite shape to the season. Have you had any input into the storylining, apart from moulding the characters? Or was it set when you came in?

Oh no. One of the great things about Jason Katims is that he's very very open to your input. I think that he understands that an actor, especially in a series, puts in a lot of time in the character, and eventually knows more about the character than anybody else including him, because they've only got one character to worry about. He's got eight characters to facilitate, and then on top of that, he has to worry about the storyline -- the A story, the B story -- and then the overall arc of the season and production. He's got a lot of things to worry about. So he's very open to people suggesting thigns to him. If it works, great. If it doesn't I'm sure he has a good reason for it. Here it's been a very collaborative effort on everyone's part.

Were there surprises for you when you picked up the scripts -- did you think, 'I didn't see that coming'?

Some things. I can't give away too much information, but some things that will come about here towards the end of the season. . . We're allowed another creative freedom, in that we're not telling a story just about human nature. We're not confined to those rules. We've got alien nature here. We can do whatever we want -- pretty much. How do we know something can't happen? There were certain things that I used to think, 'God that would be so cool, but will the network allow this, will the studio allow this, is that acceptable to the masses out there?' And some of the things I didn't think were going to happen are, but it's told in such a way that you understand. It's not this, 'we thought it was this, but it's completely different in alien nature'. There are things that will surprise you because they surprised me.

I put in a lot of work trying to figure out the possibilities - what can we do here? Do we know how long we live? Could we wither away and die tomorrow? How do we know at some point that we don't completely change into something else? A cocoon-like state? Who knows? There are so many things out there, so many question marks and no answers, but I think the ending of the season will be enlightening for a lot of people. . .

Do you have any thoughts about the possibility of extra-terrestrial lif? Are we alone?

Who knows? I guess the answe is that we don't have an answer. It's still aquestion. It's a big sky out there. If you look up at night, you realise how insignificat we all are in the grand scheme of things. We have no idea what's out there, and we won't know until we have absolute tangible proof. If everybody adhered to the popular rational thought of that time, then we'd be having this conversation with two tin cups and a very long string. You have to believe in something without really having any tangible evidence. You have to have faith without proof. You have to believe in something and I think we have to reamin open minded in our lives or else we aren't going to move forward.

Did you look into any of the background material about what really happened in Roswell in 1947?

I watched this great video, hosted by Jonathan Frakes, called Alien Autopsy [the supposed autopsy of the alien creature found at Roswell]. I was so captivated I had to watch it five, six, ten times! He didn't know I'd watched it; I told him and he just gave a chuckle. It was part of my research, yeah.

I wanted to get a general sense of what was the overall thought about Roswell, the overall conspiracy of this 1947 crash and what it was like for the people growing up in that town to have that as part of their everyday life. Are they destined by it? Are they making money out of it? Are they completely sick of it -- or are they interested? Are they really believers? Just the idea of what it would be like being a teenager growing up in that town, so I did a lot of research on all the theories, all those books, the Alien Autopsy, to make me more informed.

Did you look at the original book series?

Yes, I read those as well, and we have definitely taken a different direction since that. the overall concept, the general idea is still there, but we've deviated form the books.

What about your own future? Do you see yourself staying this side of the camera? Would you like to direct or write?

Absolutely, I write now, and take my camcorder out whenever I can. I ask questions all the time of our director of photography, our camera operator. I try to talk to the directors as much as possible to try to get an idea where they're coming from. I know every actor says they want to direct. . . well, some don't, I guess, but there are a lot out there. At some point yes, it would be wonderful to have that opportunity.