The thing about Shakespeare is, it's easy to forget that there ever was a time when his plays didn't influence storytelling throughout the Western world. For example, take "Romeo and Juliet," the story of teenage "star-crossed lovers" from rival clans who fight through impossible odds to be together and get married. Then they die. Fortunately, there's no requirement to take Shakespeare's endings along with his themes.
At 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, The CW takes a new swing at the "Romeo and Juliet" idea with the sci-fi drama "Star-Crossed." Aimee Teegarden ("Friday Night Lights") and Matt Lanter ("90210") star as Emery and Roman, a human teen and an alien teen who share a childhood bond ... and perhaps more. When Emery was 6, an alien spaceship crash-landed in her small town. Not willing to assume that visitors from another world who suddenly show up are there to cure cancer and promote world peace, the indigenous human population battles the aliens, called Atrians.
"Star-Crossed"Premieres at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 17, on The CW
In the middle of the war, 6-year-old (in Earth years, no word what that is in Atrian years) alien Roman hid in a shed behind Emery's house. She finds him and brings him food, and they become fast friends.
It helps that the Atrians look completely human, except for some strange skin markings -- they look like tattoos, but they're actually distinctive birthmarks -- and interesting hairstyle choices.
When authorities burst in to grab Roman, a struggle ensues, and Emery believes her new pal was killed.
Now, 10 years later, the Atrians have been living in a camp separate from humanity. In an attempt to integrate the newcomers into the population of Earth, a bunch of the teenage ones are enrolled in a suburban high school. To her surprise, Emery discovers that one of them is Roman, who is not only still alive but has grown up to be a strapping young man with a fauxhawk.
With the eyes of the nation fixed on this social experiment, Emery and Roman must cope with their own feelings and prejudices on both sides of the interstellar divide. And we are left to assume that Atrians and humans are compatible in more than just looks and that interspecies romance won't necessarily result in anybody getting eaten or radically transformed at a cellular level.
Also starring are Grey Damon ("The Secret Circle"), Natalie Hall ("Pretty Little Liars"), Malese Jow ("The Vampire Diaries"), Titus Makin Jr. ("Glee"), Chelsea Gilligan ("How I Met Your Mother") and Greg Finley ("The Secret Life of the American Teenager").
Although he has lent his voice to several sci-fi projects -- including Anakin Skywalker in the animated "Star Wars: The Clone Wars" -- and appeared in the comic-inspired fantasy drama "Heroes," Lanter is in his first actual on-screen sci-fi role with "Star-Crossed." But he's pretty glad not to have gills or tentacles or green skin.
"Being The CW," he says, "you have to have a certain kind of look. Also, it's a love story. Being a love story, you've got to be able to relate. That's a cliché, aliens having tentacles and green skin. There are so many possibilities of life out there that an alien doesn't have to have green, long tentacles. They can be very similar to us."
As to what the nature of this love story is, Lanter says, "Roman and Emery are obviously a very conflicted couple. I guess the conflict really drives the entire series. Obviously, we evolve, because she is the one who saved my life when I was a boy and gives me a bit of protection when all the craziness is going down on Arrival Day."
"Then, when the season is going on -- I don't want to give too much away, but you see how favors are returned. Emery is his beacon of hope, in a way. From the get-go, she was his hope of survival, and now I think she is his hope of integration, his hope of being equal and, one day, being able to be free to be together with her, I guess," Teegarden says. "Emery's story throughout the season -- she comes from a place of being the outsider coming into that high school crowd. Over the course of the season, she really just finds her voice. What I love about her is that she's a strong character. She doesn't need someone, a boy, to come in and save her.
"She does get involved in some kinds of crazy antics," Teegarden says. "She doesn't need them to save her, but she falls into some sticky situations. She doesn't ever doubt herself. She's always passionate and free-spirited. She isn't afraid to say what she thinks or what she feels and do the right thing.
"There's so much going on from one episode to another episode," she says. "There are four, five, six storylines going on and things happening and explosions and romance and alien mythology."