Gretsch and McKenzie Make '4400' Connections
Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie on 'The 4400'
They play Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris, government agents coping with 4,400 people who vanished over the course of about 60 years, then returned suddenly on a beach with no memory, not having aged a day and with supernatural abilities granted to them by abductors from the future.
"That [spread] was all right, wasn't it?" says McKenzie, relaxing on the outdoor terrace of a swanky Pasadena, Calif., hotel. She and Gretsch have taken a break from filming season three in Vancouver, British Columbia, to be part of press day organized by NBC Universal, which includes NBC, USA, Sci-Fi Channel, Bravo, etc.
"Joel and I were modeling at the same time," she says.
Next to her, Gretsch sits up. "I've never modeled a day in my life. What are you talking about?"
Turns out that Gretsch is a fibber.
"He fronted a campaign in Australia for our version of Banana Republic, which is Country Road," says McKenzie, a native Aussie. "I remember walking down Martin Place in Sydney and seeing this huge poster. I'd never seen a bigger one. I remember thinking, 'God, this is America all of a sudden.' It's a blond dude with blue eyes, tan skin, and I thought, 'Wow, they've chosen an American to do the Australian Country Road campaign.' I could totally tell, which is strange, because to all intents and purposes, he could be Aussie.
"It's just a chiseled thing -- gorgeous, hunky and definitely American. The weird thing is, however many years later, I walk into a room, and it's him."
"I was modeling," Gretsch says, "and I didn't want anybody here to see me, because I wanted to be an actor."
The season-three premiere of "The 4400" featured a guest appearance by Tippi Hedren as the older version of the Lily Moore Tyler character, originally played by Laura Allen. Coincidentally, Alfred Hitchcock discovered Hedren while she was working as a model and cast her in "The Birds."
"What an amazing woman she is," Gretsch says. "She looks phenomenal."
"I walked into work yesterday," McKenzie says, "and there was a present on the stand of Janet the hair lady. I said, 'Is it your birthday?' She said, 'No, it's just a present from Tippi.'"
After a highly rated and critically lauded launch in the summer of 2004 as a limited series, "The 4400" struggled to find its feet during its second season, which was nevertheless successful enough to earn it a third. This season, the mysteries and conspiracies surrounding the 4400 that were introduced at the end of season two have deepened and broadened.
At the core of that mystery is Isabelle, Lily's daughter with fellow 4400 Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali). She went from an infant to a 20-something woman (Megalyn Echikunwoke) at the end of season two, a transition explained by Lily's premature aging and death in the June 11 premiere.
Fans can also expect the return of Billy Campbell, who played assassinated 4400 tycoon and leader Jordan Collier. He appeared to have come back to life -- a bit shaggier than when he left -- at the end of season two. But Campbell won't be back until later in the season. He can't appear sooner because the actor wasn't scheduled to come back from a round-the-world sailing voyage until June 17 -- so that shaggy look could come in handy.
New elements are also added in a two-part episode called "Gone," airing June 25 and July 2, in which the show revisits the season-one revelation that the 4400 are part of a plan from the future to save mankind.
Those episodes guest star Alice Krige, whose long list of credits includes such diverse projects as "Ghost Story," "Chariots of Fire," "Star Trek: First Contact" (as the Borg Queen), "Children of Dune" and season two of HBO's Western "Deadwood."
In another coincidence, that season of "Deadwood" also guest starred "4400" recurring star Garret Dillahunt as a geologist working for mining magnate George Hearst. He was also a killer, and his victims included Deadwood madam Maddie, played by Krige.
"That's right!" Gretsch says. "It's such a small world."
According to Gretsch, the information revealed in that two-parter affected not only his character.
"It's quite revealing and disturbing, in a wonderful way," Gretsch says. "I cannot tell you what it is, but I was surprised. It scares me. I'll tell you the truth, when I read it, it was one sense of impact on me. But when we actually shot it ... it had this impact -- because I'm a father of two children -- that made me feel like this is possible for our future. It literally scared me.
"I got emotional in the scene internally. It hit me in a place where I thought, 'Dammit, this is the way the future is going.' I had that feeling. So from that standpoint, I think we're getting back to the core of the first season."
"In the first season," McKenzie says, "it's letterbox; it's epic. It's like we're on the outside as an audience looking in. Everything's shot with those wide angles.
"And in the second season, it was almost like the screen had been pulled back, and we were allowed to walk into the world amongst the characters.
"In this season, I feel like you're not just walking amongst us, you're with us. It feels like it's a rollicking ride again."