In tonight’s episode two of Roswell, New Mexico season three, we officially meet Mr. Jones, played by Nathan Dean, who’s pulling double duty this season as the protagonist Max Evans and this new maybe villain, Mr. Jones. Jones gives us a lot of information about the aliens’ home planet, but secrets still abound, and the question remains—should we trust everything Jones says?
A full review of tonight’s wonderful episode can be read here. Below, I got to speak with Nathan Dean himself, who dove into what it was like acting against himself, that Max and Liz reunion, and the most important question—is Max ever going to be okay?
The Young Folks: Is Max ever going to be okay?
Nathan Dean: *laughs* That’s a great question. I don’t know, he has a lot going on. I mean, ultimately … he’s very good at avoiding his problems and they just all seem to catch up to him. And so now they’re kind of catching up a little bit right now. So, hopefully he’ll be able to hold it together.
TYF: As an offshoot of that question, he’s been on the brink of death or dead since the end of season one. How is it either playing a dead body, or playing on the brink of death all the time?
ND: Well playing a dead body is easy, you just try not to blink or breathe too deeply. On the brink of death, that has been a theme. And at some point maybe people will stop liking to see Max die, but for now, it is sort of the running joke among the crew, “How are we going to kill Max this week?” He’s in a tough spot.
TYF: This season you also have dual roles this year. How have you approached playing two different characters and are there any particular nuances that you wanted to give Jones that distinguishes him from Max?
ND: Absolutely. To start with, when I was first approached about the idea of playing two characters, I didn’t understand what the extent of that was. I was so grateful to the writers that they actually trusted me to do this. It took me a while to kind of find it, but what I really loved about it and learned was, with Max, who spends so much time on Earth trying to suppress what he is, trying to be human, trying to not explore what his potential is. But with Jones, he never tried to suppress who he was or what he could do.
He grew up with no limitations, whereas Max has put all of the limitations on himself. So having that as a baseline, different dynamic, you can see what Max could have been or could become. And it was also really unique to meet all of these characters in Roswell that I’ve known so well, to meet them again for the first time through someone else’s eyes. And whereas Max has his feelings about Michael and Isobel, and obviously Liz, and he has experience from childhood ground in sort of feelings about people, whereas Jones doesn’t have that. So he’s approaching everyone for the first time and it was really fun to meet everyone in that sense. It was a blast, I love being able to have both sides of that coin.
TYF: Do you have any favorite, I’m not really sure what to call them, but I guess dual performances from other TV shows? Where other actors also had to play a doppelganger of themselves that you watched for some research?
ND: I definitely did. There was the show Orphan Black. I really watched that because I know the lead actress on that, she was playing every character. I watched a little of that. JK Simmons did something similar at some point. There’s been a few, but I was wondering what that was like and what it’s actually like to get through it. It’s a crazy, crazy experience having to do scenes with yourself.
TYF: I was really surprised by how nuanced Jones was, because I think I was expecting evil twin energy. He seems really genuine in his storytelling, but still—how much should we be trusting him and the story he’s telling Michael and Isobel?
ND: Well, Jones is … He’s trying to tell the truth here. He’s telling the truth of his experience, and you know, how that might affect Isobel, or however that plays out in the long run, we might have a different opinion later. But for him, it’s absolutely the truth.
Keep in mind, this is someone who until the end of season two, he was imprisoned. Now, he can finally speak to his people again. So yeah, I think it’s ,”Thank god I’m out, even though I’m still in a cage at the moment.” I can speak, I can articulate again and speak to people that are the closest I have to family on this planet. Because we’re all strangers here. I can finally have that conversation again. I think for Jones, I want to talk to these people, I want to tell them where they’re from and what their life is for, I want to tell them all this stuff. It’s whether or not they want to hear it, but that’s a different story, but at the moment, I just want to talk to them.
TYF: There’s also a lot of secrecy in the show. Obviously, season one established that early, but there’s even more this season. You all are keeping Jones a secret from the rest of the main cast. You kept the secret from Michael and Isobel about your health situation. Tonight, Michael doesn’t even tell you that Jones is awake. Do you think the siblings will ever learn that keeping secrets doesn’t really help things? How might we see them navigate their relationships with each other and also their friends throughout the rest of the season and amidst all of these secrets?
ND: *laughs* Yeah, I don’t know if the siblings will ever figure it out. They’re always kind of a mess. But this is a very good example of what we try to do a lot with season three—we’re sort of starting from this, I don’t want to say juvenile, but seasons one and two, all of the characters were … like you said, they were keeping things from each other in season one. Season three, we’re learning to become more mature with each other and become more respectful with the other characters. I think the whole growth that were trying to achieve with Max and with the siblings is, try to be good to each other again. Try to get back to being good, and being open and honest. That’s something we’ve struggled with for three seasons now.
This season, I think we really work towards opening the door to that and just being good to each other, treating each other respectfully as adults, and having mature relationships with each other instead of these hybrid high school relationships that we alluded to in the flashbacks in the first couple seasons—it was very high school in that way, a lot of it. Now this season we’ve finally woken up and are trying to learn how to be good to each other. That’s a really big part of all of the character’s arcs this year.
TYF: One of the things I love about the show is that I feel like every single character’s actions are really understandable, whether you agree with them or not. Especially in season two, with Liz wanting to continue her research—I also understand Max’s decision to torch the lab at the end of season two. It’s understandable they’re angry at each other for those things though. They reunite at the end of this episode, but it’s still been a year—how is Max feeling about Liz’s research a year after not seeing her, and what can we expect from their relationship moving forward?
ND: Well, the research is always going to be a hard thing for Max. I told her, scene one, that my biggest fear is science experiments, but she wants to continue her work. At the end of the day, she’s kept our secrets. She’s not the scientist that I was afraid of when I first talked about it in season one. She’s something different. It’s still not an easy pill to swallow seeing yourself as a little guinea pig.
But she went to LA, she’s moved on. She’s doing other things, she’s trying to help Maria. And, of course, I want to help Maria as well. The science is always going to be a little iffy, but I think we’ve come to a better place with that. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter—we’re in each other’s orbit. There’s no escaping each other, even though we try. She goes to LA, I crash down from space and they still found each other. There’s really no escaping the two of us. It’s this constant push and pull. We’re just in lock and we can’t really escape each other, as much as we try. Eventually something is going to come pulling us back together and it’s good and bad. But ultimately there’s one person in the world that Max will throw everything away for and that’s Liz. Always. Even if they’re not on the same page at the same time. They’re always going to be orbiting each other. That’s just their nature.