Life Unexpected - Shiri Appleby
Cate (Shiri Appleby) © CW Network

It only feels like yesterday that Shiri Appleby was starring as Liz Parker in the successful series Roswell, playing a teenager who falls in love with an alien. In The CW’s new drama Life Unexpected she’s playing Cate Cassidy, a radio talk show host, and the mother of a teenager.

The series spotlights Lux (Britt Robertson), who has bounced from one foster family to another, after being given up by her young mother fifteen years before. Deciding to finally take control of her life, Lux goes through the courts in search of her relatives. When the judge unexpectedly grants temporary joint custody to Lux’s biological parents, Nate ‘Baze’ Bazile (Krisoffer Polaha) and Cate Cassidy, who haven’t seen each other since they had a one-night-stand in high school, they try to put their contentious relationship aside as they agree to make a belated attempt to give Lux the family she never had.

A lot of us still think of you as this teenager in Roswell, could you talk about getting your head around the fact that you’re playing a mom of a teenager?

Life Unexpected - Shiri Appleby and Kristoffer Polaha
Cate (Shiri Appleby) and Baze (Kristoffer Polaha) © CW Network

Yes. That was sort of the point. Gary Fleder (the Executive Producer of the series) called my representatives at the beginning of the casting process, and said, “This is what we’re thinking. We want to find an actress that looks really young.” I was not sure I was right, and I didn’t want to waste anyone’s time, but they were very adamant about what story they wanted to tell. And then, I read the script and realized the girl is just like me. I’m 30, but I’m playing 32.

As soon as I read the script I could really relate to all of Cate’s issues of trusting people, how do we grow up and how do we take responsibility for ourselves? I didn’t really think of it as a role of a mother, but a really strong female character. And it’s nice to be given an opportunity to play a character that’s so evolved and in these situations that are complicated.

Was doing something as different as this a conscious decision for you when you were seeking out certain scripts?

Life Unexpected - Shiri Appleby and Britt Robertson
Cate (Shiri Appleby) and Lux (Britt Robertson) © CW Network

After Roswell I wanted to just take a bit of a break and do a lot of different roles just to figure out who I am. I think acting can be a great tool for that. I definitely wanted to get back into television in a serious way. I did the final season of ER and I’ve done two pilots that weren’t lucky enough to get this far. After having such great success on Roswell, and finding such a wonderful fan base, I felt like it was important to find a show that I could really connect to and feel really proud of. And I am really proud of this and feel very lucky and grateful to be a part of it. This is a story that I am very excited to be telling.

Have you talked to any radio DJ’s?

I’ve done Loveline a few times, and I like doing radio. When we’re shooting, they actually have the sound in Kerr Smith (who plays Ryan, Cate’s co-host and boyfriend) in my ears. We did a little bit of improv, but once we started going, we did seven pages straight and it just flowed. It’s very easy between us.

When you were doing the pilot, what was the difference between doing scenes with Kerr Smith and doing scenes with Kristoffer Polaha? Do they have different methods?

Life Unexpected - Austin Basis, Kristoffer Polaha, Britt Robertson, Lucia Walters, Shiri Appleby and Kerr Smith
Math (Austin Basis), Baze (Kristoffer Polaha), Lux (Britt Robertson), Fern (Lucia Walters), Cate (Shiri Appleby) and Ryan (Kerr Smith) © CW Network

I just think the relationships are so different. In my relationship with Kris, I instantly become 16. I’m like, “This is my boyfriend from high school, and I’m getting mad at him, like I was in high school.” It feels very much like that. And then, in the scenes with Kerr, I’m like, “I have to be mature. I have to gather myself. This is a relationship between me and a man.”

Are you already feeling maternal towards Britt?

Already, yeah. She breaks your heart. She’s the sweetest little girl, but she knows who she is and she’s very talented.

Have you given her any advice?

I don’t know if there’s advice I’d give her about acting, it’s more like boy advice. I’m like, “What are you doing with this? What are you doing with that?” And she’s like, “I’m fine. You can relax.” I’m trying to convince her to date Zac Efron, and she’s like, “Okay, go away.” She is way more mature and has had way more experience than I did. She’s so comfortable. I’m proud of her.

Do you ever talk to any of the Roswell cast still?

Colin Hanks lives in New York too, so we see each other, every once in awhile. But, it’s been so long.

How or when did you know you were a grown-up?

I knew I was a grown up just recently. When I turned 30, I was like, “Geez, I have to grow up.” It was a big deal.


Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.