There is much to appreciate in the new CW drama STAR-CROSSED. First, it has aliens. Second, they have very attractive aliens. Third, it has a lovely dash of romance running through the story. Fourth, it is not just a romance, there is a huge storyline involving rebels on both the human and alien sides who stir up quite a bit of trouble. And fifth, the show remembers to have fun.
STAR-CROSSED features a lively cast of young adults that embody the very essence of the characters created for them. They instinctively know that there is a time to laugh, to cry and to remember that there life-and-death stakes involved for these characters.
When the Atrians first crash on Earth, they were not warmly welcomed. Instead, they were hunted down like invaders and tossed into an internment camp known as the Sector. Only after 10 years of forced-incarceration do humans take the tentative steps to trying to integrate the Atrians into human society. It is done with marked reluctance on both sides as each is fearful of the other. The lack of understanding between the two species demands a level of compassion that few humans or Atrians seem to possess.
At this Winter’s Television Critic Association Press Tour, the producers and few of the stars of STAR-CROSSED provided some answers to what their show is about.
As introduced by Paul Hewitt, the CW’s head of publicity, STAR-CROSSED is described as an “intergalactic love story, where a boy meets girl after boy’s spaceship crashes on the planet’s surface and their budding relationship is tested amid the rising tensions between the human race and the alien species.”
Here are five reasons you should consider checking out STAR-CROSSED:
Sci-Fi vs. Romance
If the show were a straight science fiction series, it would only have aliens, guns and lots of anger and fear. Yet in trying to balance their series, the producers and writers strove to weave together a story that has sci-fi elements while layered with beautiful themes of young love, families adjusting to loss, teens acclimating to high school, and unexpected friendships that arise across all cultures and species. As executive producer Meredith Averill said, “There’s a healthy balance . . . I think the pilot does lean a little bit heavier on the love story, but moving forward, the show very much becomes about how these kids struggle to try to find a way for everyone to just get along. And a lot of that is part of the sci‑fi, the Trags and the Red Hawks, and cool mythology. . . . it’s certainly not just a romance.”
Adding in his perspective on why they chose to tell the tale of seven teens in high school executive producer Andre Nemec explained, “We’ve been asked a dozen questions about what it’s like to be in high school. It’s a hard, pressured time in life when you’re trying to find yourself and you’re trying to grow up. You’re trying to have your first sets of romances and relationships. But these kids in this school, they have this added pressure of this very real-world global event that’s happening. These aliens have crash‑landed on Earth. There’s another species that is amongst us that we’re integrating into society, and it’s not really just played for the, “Oh, should the human girl be with the alien boy?’ These kids in this high school are living with very adult themes and adult problems because this school is the cauldron where all of it is beginning to boil first and foremost.”
To give a bit more background on what challenges the teens will face outside of high school, executive producer Meredith Averill shared, “Roman is the son of the Atrian leader and he has this huge responsibility. Like a foreign manifest-destiny thrust on him. But at the same time, he’s a high school boy, who’s in love with a girl and wondering how do you make all of that work? So we’re not going to just tell a special story on racism.”
Adding her perspective, star Aimee Teegarden revealed, “I feel like throughout the season from episode to episode, there’s peaks and valleys where [the show’s] going through the relationships and integration, and then it will have a great episode that goes sort of into the mythology of the Atrians, and you get to know little pieces about their history and where they come from and how they split into different segregated groups or tribes.”
Without exploring the culture of the Atrians it is impossible to understand their fears and worries in how trying to emulate and fit in with the humans may cost them too much of their heritage and the essence of who they are.
Human beings are just not as warm and fuzzy as we like to think of ourselves. We have turned our backs on and pushed away many other cultures and people from other geographic regions simply because they are different. It is a deeply-rooted prejudice that we have never seem to have conquered – much to our detriment. Thus, we are more inclined to push away, than welcome with open arms.
So when forced to integrate that always leads to some strife, and it is no different in STAR-CROSSED. The Atrians may look a lot like humans, but they are still from another planet and that provokes fear of the unknown. So STAR-CROSSED will look to explore how asking the Atrians to integrate after 10 years of captivity will stir up some natural integration issues. Executive producer Meredith Averill said that for STAR-CROSSED, “Obviously there’s the parallel to the civil rights movement, to integration . . . and certainly when we were talking about what the Sector would look like, we talked about internment camps and those sorts of things. So we have our radical groups on either side: the Atrians, and they have the Trags; and the humans, [and they have] anti‑Atrians, a kind of KKK‑esque group known as the Red Hawks that sort of represent those radical views and they really inform a lot of the story. So it’s certainly a big part of the show.”
Executive producer Adele Lim added, “What we feel is interesting about the Atrians, it is not just a sense of being ‘the other.’ It’s a sense of pride in their own culture, in their own ways that they don’t want to lose being thrust into a whole different world.” She explained, “A big part of it, for the aliens, was that they be relatable to us. And similarly to the struggles of a lot of minority groups. It’s not that the differences are so huge. It’s that they are small and how small the differences are, it’s enough to sort of drive a wedge between you and society at large.”
Unfortunately for the Atrians, they have birth-marks that look like tattoos on their faces that mark them immediately as something different. It is impossible to hide when your own face declares that you are a different species. But what is intriguing about STAR-CROSSED is how the more one is exposed to the Atrians, the less the markings are noticeable. In fact, it enhances their natural beauty and quickly it becomes impossible to envision them without them.
“District 9” Comparisons
There is always a temptation to compare television shows with prior show or films and it can be hard to shake them once someone has an image in their mind. One of the more vivid alien films that explored forced captivity and internment was the feature film “District 9.” So hoping to dispel some of the comparisons, executive producer Meredith Averill clarified, “In District 9, with the aliens being the Prawns, you sort of understood right away why there was that fear. And with our characters, them looking so much like humans, it helps so much more with the ‘why can’t they all just get along, why can’t they find peace if they do have so much in common’ types of questions.”
Similarly, executive producer Adele Lim revealed, “It was important for [the Atrians] to be relatable, that we had the touchstone of how they felt and how they looked, and that they’re much more like us than different. So that they’re more similar than different would be the point.”
It is so easy to justify fear of the unknown when an alien species looks so foreign from anything we know. But the issue STAR-CROSSED wanted to explore was what if the aliens looked a lot like humans. How could we justified our fears then?
Envisioning the Future
One aspect that is wonderfully showcased in STAR-CROSSED is how they envisioned life on Earth in the future. They foresaw that people would drive smaller cars because of concerns over gas-shortages and how each person’s green “footprint” was impacting the world around them. They also foresaw that technology would have evolved in the 10 years, such as holographic images would be more widely used. Looking through a prism of time and to foresee the future is a curious thing. Executive producer Andre Nemec explained, “[The time-jump] also allowed us to play a little bit more with the idea that: this could actually be real. So if you put it today, you sort of look out your window and you know that aliens haven’t crashed into Earth today, but ten years from now, maybe this is our reality. So it was one of the key reasons we wanted to push it a little bit into the future as this could exist. This might happen. This might be in our near future.”
Adding to that, executive producer Josh Appelbaum said, “There was a lot of discussion about not making it a dystopian view of the future. Even though this ship has crashed and this camp has been set up – and that’s sort of a dark reality — we wanted the future to seem bright in some ways with technology and innovation. It was making people’s lives better and bringing people together in certain ways.”
From his own perspective, star Matt Lanter added, “It’s really a nice dynamic that we have. Just aesthetically, we have the high school where things are pretty. . . . someone had talked about the cool futuristic gadgets, and we’ve got the holograms and the clear glow‑in‑the‑dark phones and things like that. But then we have the contrasting Sector, which we know as a slum and that is built with shipping containers that are rusted-out and old technology. . . .To kind of what Josh was saying about it’s not too far in the future that we can do that, and we successfully do it by connecting today’s society with an iPhone and we see how that might now look 30 years from now. As for Atrians, they don’t have access to the futuristic tech and things like that. . . The stuff that we have now [in 2014] as a society is actually old tech for the Atrian Sector. So I guess I’m just saying that to say that it all interconnects. It is a really cool kind of juxtaposition as far as the look and feel of the two different places.”
They did not want to just set their story in the future, they wanted to show us what the future could conceivably look like, and it is quite beautiful. If we could only jump ahead 10 years now and see for ourselves!
What is a young adult to do when they find out that destiny is calling them in two different directions? Does one follow their heart and explore the joys of a first love? Or do they face up to the reality that they may have to set aside love to answer a call to duty and to lead their people? As viewers will find out right away, there is a lot of responsibility falling on the young Atrian leader’s shoulders. Star Matt Lanter, who plays Roman, explained, “Roman is a very complicated character with a lot of depth. He’s a leader who is being thrust into that position. I actually always think that’s an interesting thing to play, and I think it’s an interesting thing to watch when you have someone who is maybe not ready to be a leader – who doesn’t maybe even believe that they’re a leader themselves — but they’re put in that position, and that creates a lot of really cool moments.”
Then through the eyes of the humans, co-star Aimee Teegarden, shared, “Emery and the Atrians, you see them both entering high school for the first time and it’s through both of their eyes. You see how differently people perceive them. Whereas, right now, going into high school, being the awkward kid, you’re treated a certain way, you know, getting called names and whatnot. But all of a sudden, all that pressure is off, and it’s all on the Atrians. That, I think, is a really interesting dynamic. I think everyone can relate to feeling awkward and weird and alien.”
To see how both Emery and Roman struggle with their respective destinies and the lure of love along the way, be sure to tune in for the premiere of STAR-CROSSED on Monday, February 17th at 8:00 p.m. on the CW. Destiny is calling. How will they answer?
You can read more about STAR-CROSSED here: “STAR-CROSSED: Introducing An Alien Tale of Forbidden Romance, Forced Integration, and How Its Story Differs from ROSWELL”
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