One of the best things Roswell, New Mexico has done is bring back Rosa Ortecho from the dead. Not only is Rosa one of the best characters on the show, but she’s also portrayed by Amber Midthunder, who imbues Rosa with a lot of strength, sarcasm, comedic timing, and a vulnerability that’s hard to look away from. When she’s not calling out the aliens on their bullshit, Rosa’s offering a steady kind of wisdom to those around her, whether to her own sister Liz, or to Wyatt Long. At other times, Rosa learns how to be gentle with herself. And this is all on top of waking up as a 19 year old who’s been dead for 10 years.
A lot has happened to Rosa Ortecho on Roswell, New Mexico. I got speak with Amber Midthunder over the phone about the majority of it, including her hopes for Rosa as Season 3 comes to a close next week.
Not transcribed in this interview are the first couple of minutes where we talk about how much I love fall (after our general hellos and how are yous, Amber starts asking me questions, which is very kind of her but not at all interesting for those of you reading this interview) and about how much I enjoyed her performance in The Wheel, which premiered at TIFF a few weeks ago. Keep your eyes peeled for when that eventually releases wide.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
The Young Folks: Rosa’s very heavily influenced by songs from the ’90s and early 2000s. If Rosa had to update her playlist to today’s top hits, what would be on it?
Amber Midthunder: Oh, man. Honestly, I feel like with her coming back, that has already happened and I feel like she’s so committed to what she is. I feel like she’s the girl who still listens to Courtney Love, you know what I mean? That’s just who she is.
TYF: One of my favorite scenes from the season was between Michael and Rosa, when he acknowledges his part in covering up her murder, which led to years of racism and hatred toward her family. How important was it to include this moment, and what were some of the conversations you had with the writers, Alanna Bennett and Danny Toli, the director, Rachel Raimist, and Michael Vlamis to prepare for the scene? Especially since it happens between two characters who haven’t had a lot of interaction up until this point.
AM: That’s a great question. Honestly, I feel like our writers do a great job of incorporating real-life conversations, and making sure that the story is relevant to what’s happening in the world. So in general, we just have a great team, we’re very prepared and that’s nice.
I think between me and Vlamis, it was just like … first of all, we got to have scenes together this year, kind of for the first time ever, which was really fun. He’s a very fun scene partner to have. And that scene, in particular, was actually quite fun, in a heavy way, you know? It was really on him, which is I think true to life, as far as repairing or building a bridge between people that have a hard history together, it is true that it’s on the person in his position to do the reconciling.
We didn’t have a whole lot of conversation. I think that was intentional. And I think it was not necessary for us to talk about it because everything was there on the page. When it was time to go, I felt like I had a scene partner who was there with me and he’s a very present actor—what he gives you is different every time. So it was just easy to allow myself to be affected. And in turn, I feel like I was able to give the same. So, it was honestly just fun for us to go out and just experience what was written.
TYF: In both Seasons 2 and 3, Rosa’s been trying to find her place in this world that’s similar yet totally different at the same time. As well as learning she has new powers. How do you think her discovery of her alien powers contributes to her journey toward sobriety and finding herself again?
AM: Honestly, I think that it’s been really fun to see Rosa as somebody who battles so much with her sense of self-worth at times. It’s really fun to see her learn that she not only has a place but that she has a responsibility to herself and the people around her who she loves and cares for.
Her thing for so long was and has been that she feels as though she failed Liz, and she failed her family, and that she’s not good enough. She tries and she fails. But I think for her to finally, especially in this season, in the last few episodes with Isobel and Maria, and then with Liz, realize that she has importance and that she contributes and that she can help because that’s all she wants to do, is help. I think for her to see that she has that significance inspires her to know that she, in fact, can be good. It’s simple and kind of heartbreaking. But for her to realize that she really can do well just being good, is, I think, huge for her to stay inspired to be sober.
TYF: Another one of my favorite parts of the season with Rosa is that she does have a lot of conversations with Liz and also Isobel and Maria, to support her in that journey. In 3×11, again, Rosa teams up with Isobel to find a way to stop Jones. What do you like about the friendship between Isobel and Rosa? And why do you think it’s so strong despite their history in season one?
AM: First of all, I just love that you pointed that out. The girl gang, I love all the girl gang moments that we get to have. It’s so cool and so fun. I love those scenes because I love these women, and I love getting to work with them. I love when our characters get to support each other.
I think that [Isobel and Rosa] have the bond of being victimized by the same person. They have a history, whether it was through mind control or however it came. They do have time shared together. I think initially it was a triggering experience to be in the presence of Isobel. But Rosa obviously has done a lot of work in herself in that way and how she responds to triggers and trauma. And I think she and Isobel have the common bond of being victimized by the same person and they have far more to relate to in their personalities and their experiences than I think people realize.
TYF: Rosa’s had a pretty interesting storyline with Wyatt this season. What’s important about showcasing the similarities between Wyatt’s and Rosa’s situations, where they wake up in an unrecognizable world? And what do you wish people to take away from this storyline?
AM: I think it’s just an interesting debate. I think people have a lot of feelings about it one way or another, and I think that all of them are correct because it is an insane situation. What’s fun about this show is that we get to explore this crazy “what if,” that otherwise would never be real.
You can’t really experience, “what if one girl died but only for 10 years and then this guy is left insane, but then gets his memory erased,” right? That’s what’s cool about what we do. But, I think their relationship is fun just as people, because I think that they relate on a level that is surprising. They both have the experience of feeling outside of their communities. I think it’s always exciting when you find somebody that relates to your deep thoughts or the things that you don’t tell people. That they had that history and then they get to explore it again. I think that’s always exciting.
TYF: What are your hopes for Rosa as we head towards the Season 3 finale and beyond?
AM: I’m excited for her to continue realizing all the things that we talked about. Her relationship with everybody and her place in the group, and beyond that. She’s doing something very important, which is she’s investing time in her greater good and then the big picture of her life to ultimately benefit those around her. And so I’m excited to see where everybody takes that.
Roswell, New Mexico airs Monday nights at 7 p.m. CST on The CW.