PASADENA — The CW Network is banking on viewers falling for the ultimate "Star-Crossed" lovers with it's out-of-this-world take on boy meets girl.
The new series, which premieres on CW (KFRE, Channel 59.1) tonight, looks at the relationship between a typical high school teen, Emery (Aimee Teegarden), and an alien, Roman (Matt Lanter), who has been living on Earth since his ship crashed here 10 years ago.
Unlike other teen angst products, "Star-Crossed" deals with some very serious human rights issues. It isn't set in a glitzy modern era, but has more of a social throwback feel as the alien visitors — known as Atrians — are made to live a segregated life.
"I think obviously there's the parallel to the civil rights movement, to integration, to the Little Rock Nine. And certainly when we were talking about what the Sector would look like, we talked about internment camps and those sorts of things," says Meredith Averill, an executive producer.
"They're anti-Atrian, kind of KKK-esque 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, is that allegory."
The series will look at how much of the Atrian heritage can be maintained as the group tries to assimilate into the Earth culture. It's not unlike any ethnic groups moving to an area away from home. These aliens just happen to come from a galaxy far, far away.
Such topics are lofty, but the heart of the series will be the forbidden love between Emery and Roman. Their friendship was forged when the spaceship crashed, but it faces a whole new world of emotions.
In this world, there are no rules as to how Atrians look when they are high school age. Despite being slightly out of the age bracket, the 30-year-old Lanter pursued the role because it was different than anything he had done before. Before signing on to the CW show, Lanter appeared on "Commander in Chief," "Heroes" and "90210."
"It was a different character, set in a different world. It was going to be shot in a different way and had a different tone and everything. So different was what really drew me to it," Lanter says. "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, doesn't maybe even believe that they're a leader themselves, but they're put in that position. That creates a lot of really cool moments, I think, as an audience and for the character."
His co-star is closer to teen-aged. It's a return to high school for the 24-year-old Teegarden after spending five seasons on "Friday Night Lights" and two seasons on "Aim High."
"If people are still buying me as high school, that's champagne problems, honestly. You can always grow up, but I feel like growing down is quite hard in life and in acting," Teegarden says.
She may be past high-school age, but she still has strong memories of what it's like to be a teen. She was such an awkward teen, Teegarden took extra classes and graduated from high school when she was 15.
"I didn't wear the proper clothes. I didn't grow up in the right family. I didn't grow up in the best neighborhood. But it was something that everyone goes through," she says. "I think that's a great thing about the show is like with Emery and the Atrians, you see them both entering high school for the first time, and it's through both of their eyes."
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.