It’s been fifteen years since the cult favorite young adult series Roswell went off the air. The show featured a group of human-alien hybrids (Max, Michael, and Isabel) just trying to get through high school, but found themselves hunted at every turn by aliens and government officials alike. Their only allies were a group of human high school students (Liz, Maria, Alex, and Kyle) that knew their secrets. Airing on the WB when Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek were at the height of their popularity made the show a part of teen drama history.
Roswell had a modest audience, but certainly a passionate one. The series will forever be remembered as one which involved a loyal legion of TV lovers sending bottles of tabasco sauce (a favorite of the human-alien hybrids) to network executives to get the show renewed for a second season before it was moved from the WB to UPN for its third, and final, season. It helped launch the careers of Emilie de Ravin, Katherine Heigl, and Colin Hanks, amongst others.
With the focus so squarely on the main cast, though, there are plenty of actors you might have forgotten made the trip to Roswell (or Covina, California, where the series did most of its filming). In honor of the fifteenth anniversary of the series finale, we’re taking a look back at 16 Actors You Forgot Appeared On Roswell.
16 Octavia Spencer
In the season one episode “Leaving Normal,” Octavia Spencer appeared in the series as a nurse in the local hospital when Liz’s grandmother was brought in after suffering a stroke. She was a background actor, and it was at a time in Spencer’s career when she was the best nurse in Hollywood. In the '90s she played a nurse in A Time To Kill, The Sky Is Falling, Brimstone, Chicago Hope, The X-Files, and Everything Put Together. In fact, she’s played a nurse more than 15 times over the span of her long career.
While we’re not knocking the importance of nurses, her roles have become quite a bit more varied since winning an Oscar for The Help. She’s done a little bit of everything, from independent films to television shows to big budget actions movies. You’ll probably recognize her from her recent roles in Hidden Figures, The Shack, Bad Santa 2, Small Town Crime, and Gifted, which have all landed in movie theaters over the last six months.
15 Kenneth Choi
Roswell was only Kenneth Choi’s seventh professional acting credit. The show didn’t give him a whole lot to do when he appeared in the season two premiere. He played an unnamed member of a team of scientists analyzing some alien remains that the main characters of the series were trying to make sure were never found to contain extraterrestrial elements. It was Choi’s only appearance on the show.
After a string of similar guest starring spots on television, Choi started to get larger roles thanks to action-orientated series like 24 and Samurai Girl. He entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a Howling Commando in Captain America: The First Avenger, and went on to appear in The Wolf of Wall Street and Suicide Squad before getting meatier roles in Sons of Anarchy and American Crime.
You can catch him on the big screen in Spider-Man: Homecoming this July - though not as a Howling Commando. He’s one of the few actors who’s been given more than one role in the MCU.
14 Jonathan Frakes
In the '90s, most people knew Jonathan Frakes thanks to Star Trek: The Next Generation and his role as Riker, the First Officer of the starship. That’s also exactly how Roswell fans knew him, since he played himself on the show. After a cameo in the pilot, Frakes returned to play himself in two more episodes: the first in an appearance at a UFO convention where he met the series lead Max, and the second in Hollywood sitting through a casting session with Max, though the latter was really looking for a murderer he believed was an alien.
Frakes didn’t just appear in front of the camera. He was also a producer for Roswell, and he directed several episodes over the three seasons. In fact, though Frakes continues acting and doing voice over work today, he more often works in Hollywood as a director. He’s directed episodes of Dollhouse, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Burn Notice, NCIS: Los Angeles, and The Librarians, to name but a few.
Next up, he'll be helming an episode of Seth MacFarlane’s upcoming space comedy Orville.
13 Taran Killam
Like Choi, Killam’s role on Roswell came early in his career, and it was a single episode appearance. He played a member of the basketball team with the sheriff’s son, Kyle. Kyle and his father had a new roommate in the form of Tess, one of the alien-human hybrids destined for royalty, and Killam’s Malamud was interested in her during “Heart of Mine.” Instead, Tess attended the prom with Kyle, though the two treated each other as siblings, and Malamud was never seen again.
Post-Roswell, Killam went on to work quite a bit on Nickelodeon projects thanks to uber-showrunner Dan Schneider. He appeared in The Amanda Show, Drake and Josh, and the big screen’s Big Fat Liar before becoming a cast member of both MadTV and Saturday Night Live. Killam has primarily stuck to comedic roles since, though he did also pop in for brief part in the historical drama 12 Years A Slave.
12 Terry O’Quinn
Though Terry O’Quinn had a prolific career before his guest spot on Roswell, he got to show off his comedic side for the teen drama. That wasn’t something he typically got to do on the likes of Millennium or The X-Files. For Roswell, he starred as Michael’s boss when the teenager got a job working security at a medical research lab. Carl was a hard-nosed boss, who fired all of Michael’s friends when Michael had them slacking off on the job. The guys took a risk to get back at Carl - and get their jobs back - in an episode that featured plenty of marketing for the drink company Snapple, called “Michael, the Guys, and the Great Snapple Caper.” (You’ll see a few more guest stars from that particular episode on this list, since several of Michael’s fellow security guards have gone on to bigger roles.)
A fantastic character actor, you’ve definitely seen O’Quinn in something since his stint on Roswell. Just a few years after his appearance on the series, he landed the starring role of John Locke in the hugely popular ABC series LOST and recurred on The West Wing. More recently, he’s also recurred on Hawaii Five-0 and the new Blacklist spin-off series. The Blacklist: Redemption.
11 Jason Dohring
Though he only appeared in a single episode of the series, Jason Dohring had a pivotal and heartbreaking role to play. The young actor played Jerry, a teenager delivering food, who happened to be one of the last people to see the main character Alex alive before he died in a car crash. Colin Hanks had asked to leave the show to pursue other projects, but it led to a devastating arc for fans that revealed one of the core characters as a murderer. Jerry, who was one the wisecracking and attention-seeking side (foreshadowing some of Dohring’s best-known roles), lied about Alex’s behavior before his death and faced a confrontation from an investigating Liz.
Dohring, of course, is best known for his role as Logan Echolls in the series Veronica Mars, which premiered just three years after the cancellation of Roswell. He would go on to play the role again in the movie revival and the web series Play It Again, Dick. Dohring has done well for himself in the TV world, especially on the CW, the successor to the WB. He’s appeared in Supernatural, Ringer, The Tomorrow People, The Messengers, iZombie, and most recently, The Originals - all for the same network.
He’ll next be seen in the drama Cleveland, which films this year.
10 Daryl Sabara
Daryl Sabara only had a few television appearances - two of them as a baby - under his belt when he appeared in Roswell. there, he played the son in a family of tourists making a trip to the UFO Center in the first season of the show, and unless you knew it was him, you wouldn’t realize it today. In fact, it’s rare to even see his face in many of the shots where he appears on the show.
That all changed after Roswell, though. Sabara was cast as one of the two young leads in the Spy Kids films -- alongside Alexa Vega -- just a few short years later. He went on to do tons of voiceover work and guest star in everything from Criminal Minds to Wizards of Waverly Place over the next decade. He also recurred on Weeds, and he recently provided the voice of the villain Rhino in the animated Ultimate Spider-Man series.
Most recently, he’s been supplying a variety of voices for the animated series Ben 10.
9 Missi Pyle
In season three of the series, one storyline might have surprised viewers more than any other: Isabel was getting married! Just out of high school, she started dating one of the lawyers that worked with her father. Planning their wedding? That would be Wendy Sommers, who sounds like she should have been doubling as a meteorologist, though it very well could have been a play on Scream’s “Gail Weathers.” She only popped up in a few scenes for Isabel and her mother to disagree about wedding plans.
Before Roswell, Missi Pyle had already found her big break on the big screen with Galaxy Quest, but she kept coming back to television. Since then, she’s appeared in Heroes, Pushing Daisies, Grey’s Anatomy, Two and a Half Men, and more. She’s also got a slew of comedies and family films under her belt, from Dodgeball to Percy Jackson.
She’s got a whopping nine projects on the way, including the highly anticipated Jumanji film, which has recently been subtitled Welcome to the Jungle.
8 Stephen Tobolowsky
Occasionally, Roswell’s alien stories allowed for a bit of humor instead of just high stakes teen drama. Max’s aforementioned trip to Hollywood wasn’t all action. Some lighter moments involved a talent agent wanting to sign him, a role which was taken on by character actor Stephen Tobolowsky. While Max did make it out to audition for a part, it didn’t exactly go well, which is probably for the best, since he's the future king of an alien nation and a man on a mission.
With hundreds of credits to his name, Tobolowsky is one of the steadiest working actors in Hollywood. You might have caught him in the critically acclaimed series Deadwood, or the superhero adventure Heroes, or perhaps even in the musical dramedy Glee. Most recently, he’s also appeared in the Netflix series One Day At A Time and the ABC comedy The Goldbergs.
Tobolowsky has nearly a dozen projects on the way, from short films to big screen ventures. He’ll be heading into work on Butterfly in the Typewriter next.
7 Michael Peña
When main character Michael decided to get himself out of the foster care system and into his own apartment, he needed a steady job. While that might have put him in conflict with some other characters, it put him in the path of some new friends - ones not involved with any kind of alien conspiracy. One of those friends was Fly, played by Michael Peña. Though Roswell Michael got his new friends accidentally fired from their job, he also put together a plan to get them rehired, leading to the heist episode “Michael, the Guys, and the Great Snapple Caper.” The introduction of characters like Fly marked the first time Michael made friends that weren’t directly involved with keeping his alien heritage a secret.
Peña has since gone on to guest star in a whole lot of TV, including Gracepoint, but only recently has he begun to really break out on the big screen. He’s recently scored notable roles in The Martian, Collateral Beauty, and CHIPS, but his biggest claim to fame might be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Ant-Man as the fast-talking fan favorite Luis. He’ll be back for more MCU in the near future.
He’s also done voiceover work for the upcoming My Little Pony and Lego Ninjago movies, and recently wrapped production on the new adaptation of A Wrinkle In Time.
6 Kevin Weisman
When the pilot episode kicked off the series with Liz Parker getting shot in the middle of The Crashdown, there were plenty of customers having an alien-themed burger that saw what had happened. Only one became obsessed with the idea that she was healed by an alien, though. That was Larry, played by Kevin Weisman, who would return for the UFO convention 12 episodes later, sure that he could prove that Liz was actually saved by an alien. He and his girlfriend were having relationship troubles, and Liz found herself in the awkward position of counseling his girlfriend in his second appearance.
Shortly after his appearances on Roswell, Weisman was cast in the ABC series Alias, which is probably what most TV audiences remember him for. He also appeared in episodes of Felicity and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and after a string of guest starring spots, he took on a recurring role for the CBS drama Scorpion.
Weisman is also set to appear in Marvel’s first series for the streaming site Hulu, Runaways. He’ll be seen in at least the first two episodes as Dale Yorkes, father to one of the title characters.
5 Ashley Johnson
For two episodes in the final season, main character Liz Parker left Roswell behind. Her father wanted to keep her away from “bad boy” Max Evans, and after experiencing moments of alien-like abilities herself, she agreed to be sent away to boarding school. It’s there that she met Ashley Johnson’s Eileen Burrows. Eileen was her roommate for her a very short time at boarding school, and though audiences didn’t get to know her very well, the actress has gone on to tons of projects that genre-lovers can get behind.
A Joss Whedon favorite, she landed a small role in The Avengers after doing episodes for Dollhouse, and went on to star in Much Ado About Nothing. She’s also done tons of voiceover work for animated series like Teen Titans, Ben 10, King of the Hill, and plenty of video games. These days, she splits her time amongst more voiceover work, the fantasy series Critical Role, and the action series Blindspot, where she plays the smartest woman in the FBI.
Up next for Johnson is the comedy Weight, due out sometime next year.
4 Richard Schiff
Though Roswell dealt with plenty of teen angst, it also had a healthy dose of conspiracies for the science fiction nerds watching at home. That’s where Richard Schiff comes in. He guest starred in three episodes as an FBI agent contacted by the Roswell sheriff about Liz Parker being shot in the pilot, but appearing to have just knocked over a ketchup bottle - the moment that started the entire story. Agent Stephens was actually in charge of a special unit within the FBI that was looking for alien activity.
Schiff is probably best known for his role as Toby in The West Wing, one that he played until 2006. He’s also been all over films and television, though, mostly in other law enforcement shows and government roles. You might have caught him in White Collar, NCIS, or more recently, House of Lies.
He’s also in the TV miniseries When We Rise, and he’s got several movies set for release later this year, including Shock and Awe.
3 Martin Starr
Martin Starr, known for his comic relief roles, appeared in the same story arc as the aforementioned Michael Pena and Terry O’Quinn while Michael took a job working security. He was in the masterpiece that is “Michael, the Guys, and the Great Snapple Caper,” one of the lightest hours that Roswell ever offered fans. Starr played Monk Pyle, a guy just trying to make a paycheck, and not involved with the alien conspiracies of the show.
Starr appeared in Roswell right after the cancellation of the critically acclaimed Freaks and Geeks. He went on to guest star in several series and appear in many a short film, but it’s movies that you’ll recognize him from the most. He’s made a career out of his work in comedies like Knocked Up and Superbad, but he’s also got a recurring role on Drunk History and a starring role in the series Silicon Valley.
You can catch him in a supporting role Spider-Man: Homecoming later this summer.
2 Joe Pantoliano
If you stopped watching Roswell in the much-maligned third season, you might have missed Joe Pantoliano’s two episodes. He appeared early in the final season as a man named Kal who was living in California, introduced after Max went looking for a fellow alien he believed was a murderer. A shapeshifting alien meant to protect the royal four human-alien hybrids sent to Earth, Kal loved being human so much that he shirked his responsibilities for decades.
You name a role and Pantoliano can probably play it; he’s got more than 100 acting credits in his career. Roswell was just a small blip on his resume. Since his appearance on the series, he played Ben Urich in the Daredevil movie everyone would probably rather forget, but he also appeared in The Sopranos, Waterfront, voiced a character on The Simpsons, and he even tried his hand in the YA genre with Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Most recently, he appeared in a few episodes of the Netflix series Sense8.
He’s got six different projects in various stages of production, including the upcoming Netflix comedy Happy Anniversary and Random Tropical Paradise, the latter of which lands in theaters in June.
1 Julie Benz
A guest star with a larger arc than anyone else on this list, Julie Benz appeared in seven episodes of the series as guidance counselor Kathleen Topolsky. A little suspicious, the kids at the center of the story started spying on her when they thought she was asking too many questions about their alien friends. As it turned out, she was an FBI agent working undercover. Despite her short time on the show, her arc was influential in kicking off the conspiracy theory aspect of the series.
If you ever watched genre television, you’ve probably seen Julie Benz in something since her Roswell days. In fact, right around the same time, she also appeared as a vampire in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spinoff, Angel. She’s been all over the TV since in shows like Supernatural, Dexter, Defiance, Hawaii Five-0, and most recently, Training Day, which currently airs on CBS.
Up next for Benz is Dark/Web, a series that explores the dark side of technological connectivity.
Which of these actors' appearance on our list surprised you the most? Did we miss an actor you loved in a Roswell guest spot? Let us know in the comments!
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