“Kahan-Do Attitude”

Richard Kahan, who plays whiz-kid Marco Pacella, relates his Season Four experiences.

This fourth season on The 4400, the Seattle agents of NTAC (National Threat Assessment Command) have their hands doubly full. Not only are they continuing to deal with the original 4400, a group of men, women and children endowed by future Humans with superhuman abilities for the betterment of their race, but also ordinary Humans who, if they inject themselves with a drug called promicin, have a 50/50 chance of dying or developing a 4400 ability. These wannabe-4400s are referred to on the show as “extra crispy,” as opposed to the true 4400s, coined “original recipe”, by the programme’s Marco Pacella, alias actor Richard Kahan.

“We’ll get a first draft of the script and most of the cast, including myself, will kind of lightly read through it. Then we’ll get a second draft, and because of time or whatever, the writers will sometimes have to re-write, change or delete certain scenes or lines. That’s just the nature of the business,” explains Kahan. “This was one of those times, though, where I read that ‘original recipe as opposed to extra crispy’ line and thought, ‘Oh, please, don’t change that line. It’s awesome.’ And, happily, they didn’t.

“I have to say, too, that I think the whole idea of promicin and the average person acquiring a 4400 ability has been really interesting this year. It just opens up more of the humanity that we deal with on this show. By that I mean there’s a curiosity out there and people in bad situations have this dream of being able to recreate who they are and maybe join others who were not the ‘original recipe’ 4400s. It parallels similar things that are going on in the real world, which has always been one of my favourite things about The 4400. So without making it overkill, the writers did an amazing job of integrating that storyline into the programme.”

Since Season One of The 4400, Marco Pacalla (sic) has been in charge of NTAC’s theory room, and is the person who NTAC agents Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) often seek out for answers – in particular scientific ones – concerning all things 4400. Marco is a fountain of knowledge and exposition, the latter of which Kahan has been careful not to let consume his character.

“It’s always a challenge to really do my best to try to mix up what is quite often the conveying of information,” says the actor. “How do you keep that fresh and interesting not only for you, but also, hopefully, the viewer, as well as the character itself? Those are things I spend a great deal of time thinking about and working on insofar as my performance.

“On top of that, there’s the evolution of Marco as a person and trying to figure that out and show it on the screen. After all, we’ve seen four years of his life, both personal and professional. If I looked at myself four years ago I think I’m a little different now than I was back then, and it’s the same with Marco. So it’s my job as an actor to constantly try to bring the truth to who this character is and keep him fun for audiences to watch and me to play.”

Of all the episodes Marco has appeared in this season, one of the actor’s favourites is The Marked. In it, one of the original 4400, Curtis Peck (Todd Giebenhaim), who has the ability to uncover truths by making films, ends up in danger when his latest production, a conspiracy yarn, threatens to expose the truth surrounding the 4400. Looking for a safe place to hide Curtis, Diana brings him to Marco’s apartment.

“I don’t want to give too much away, but this episode will end up being a very fascinating and much larger part of the overall 4400 storyline for the rest of year four,” reveals Kahan. “So it opens up a neat sub-plot.

“After I read the script I went out and rented Plan 9 From Outer Space and a bunch of other old B-movies. I, along with the audience, discovered in this episode that Marco is really into genre films, so it was terrific for me to be able to watch these types of movies that our writers were basing the Curtis character on, and then bring that extra element to my performance as Marco. I loved, too, that they peppered bits of Curtis’s movies into the actual episode. Leslie Libman, who directed this story, did a wonderful job with that. He really hit those things on the mark – no pun intended,” jokes the actor. “It was such a fun story to work on.”

Prior to The Marked, in an episode called The Truth and Nothing But the Truth, Tom Baldwin brings hair samples from his son Kyle (Chad Faust) to Marco in confidence and asks him to test for traces of promicin. When the results come back positive, there is no question of Marco betraying Tom’s secret. “We shot that scene a couple of ways, and they ended up going with me playing it in an honest, serious, ‘I understand what’s going on here and I want to help,’ fashion,” recalls Kahan, “which felt great. I thought the scene played out nicely, especially given the history of these two characters. Although they come from two different backgrounds, Tom and Marco have a tremendous respect for each other in their jobs. They also have a brotherly relationship, and we’ve seen that more than ever this year, which I’ve enjoyed.”

Long-time watchers of The 4400 know that Marco also shares a close relationship with Diana Skouris. In fact, the two were once romantically involved, but last season Diana ended things with Marco when her adopted daughter Maia (Conchita Campbell), an original 4400 who can predict the future, had a vision of her mother marrying someone else. “I thought last year things ended rather abruptly with Diana and Marco, and then given the nature of their jobs, they had to go back to life as per usual and working together,” notes Kahan. “Although there might not be time on the show to dedicate to these two characters working through what happened and becoming friends again, Jacqui and I have talked about that and tried to bring what we can to that process.

“There’s a great example in The Marked when Diana drops Curtis off at Marco’s apartment and my character says to her, ‘It’s been a while since you’ve seen the inside of my place’. The writers have so much that they try to pack into one episode, but yet they still manage to pepper in little moments like that. There are others coming up that touch upon Diana’s and Marco’s relationship, and one in particular that I’m quite pleased about.”

At the time of this interview, Kahan had just finished filming The 4400‘s fourth season finale. For those who have yet to see it, he promises the following: “It’s huge,” enthuses the actor. “It’s a one-hour story, but it reads and I think it will play like a two-hour event. There’s a big movement on the 4400/non-4400 front. Several questions are definitely answered and a number of new possibilities are posed as well. It puts our characters in an interesting place, and Marco is pretty heavily involved in it too, so it’s going to be an exciting episode.”

Steven Eramo
Cult Times #144, September 2007

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