“Theory and Practice”

Geek gets girl! As the NTAC’s resident expert on The 4400 gets close to Agent Skouris, the man who plays him tells us about it…

When it comes to assessing the unknown, in the form of The 4400, the National Threat Assessment Command turns to its resident scientific genius Marco Pacella. From his office, or ‘theory room’, as he likes to call it, Marco also keeps busy by trying to keep track of the ‘ripple effect,’ which theorizes that the influence the 4400 returnees will have on the world will continue to ripple outward, like the impact of a pebble in a pool.

Technobabble inevitably flows from Pacella’s tongue at a rate of knots, but actor Richard Kahan is quick to point out that there’s more to his bespectacled alter ego than just a keen intellect.

“It’s incredibly easy to label a TV character, as it is with people in real life,” says Kahan. “Anyone who watches The 4400 would have no problem labelling Marco as a geek, and, in turn, it would be very easy for me to play him as a one-note, quirky guy who has all the answers. I never wanted to do that, though, because the writing on the show is far too good and it has helped foster the creation of these well-rounded characters.

“Marco is not just someone who shows up with the information. He’s a thoughtful individual who is really connected to NTAC agents Tom Baldwin and Diana Skouris, to the point where he’s put his job on the line to help them because he cares a great deal about what they’re all doing and, I think, really cares about the 4400 as well. Also, my character is in a relationship with Diana, so you get to see not only what he’s passionate about at work, but outside the office, too, which is terrific.”

The two-hour 4400 pilot had already been filmed when Kahan auditioned to play Pacella, who made his début in the show’s first regular episode, The New & Improved Carl Morrissey, where lovely supermarket employee and returnee Carl decides to use his newfound abilities – enhanced reflexes and strength – to become a vigilante and fight neighborhood crime. In this story, Marco confirms a theory Diana has about the original disappearance of the 440ss, which leads them to wonder if aliens were actually responsible.

“I have so many fond memories from that story,” enthuses Kahan. “First off, it was directed by Helen Shaver,” the former Poltergeist: The Legacy star whose big screen credits involve helming Summer’s End. “I’d never worked with her before, but I’m a big fan of her acting so it was a thrill to have her behind the camera. We were shooting at a studio other than the one we’re at now, and my introductory scene as Marco was in the theory room. The actual room was a little different than it is now, but I remember walking into it for the first time and being impressed by this large, overwhelming, beautifully constructed set.

“It was my first time meeting Joel and Jackie as well as the rest of the cast,” he says of leads Joel Gretsch and Jacqueline McKenzie, “and I was a little nervous because they had all already worked together on the pilot. However, everyone was extremely supportive, so it ended up being an amazing start for me on the show, and it continues to be that. Most of my work is with Joel and Jackie, and like me they come from the theatre where you rehearse. You don’t always get the time to do that on TV, or as much as you as an actor might like, so the three of us will get together on our own and rehearse. It’s just a wonderful collaborative atmosphere on set.”

What was Kahan’s reaction when he discovered that they were writing a romance between Marco and Diana? “It was kind of sudden at first,” he explains. “We hinted at it in Season One. You could see subtle glimpses and I’d try to throw in little looks of adoration. My character definitely had a crush on Diana but I had no idea where the writers were going to take that. It was much the same in Season Two, however, there were signs hinting that maybe it wasn’t so one-sided and that Diana felt the same way. I was very excited about that because it would give me more time working with Jackie, who’s a fantastic actress, and also allow me to reveal this whole other side of my character.

“I think the basis of Marco’s and Diana’s relationship is that they’re really two peas in the same pod. There’s a meeting of the minds, and that’s a big part of the attraction. It’s interesting to see these minds clicking at work and figuring out the larger pieces of this huge puzzle that is the 4400. On top of that, though, and as I mentioned before, we get to see them during off-hours where, for example, they might be having dinner or playing a game with Diana’s adopted daughter Maia. Such story beats have been positive additions to our characters.”

The cameras began rolling on Year Three of The 4400 back in February, and by mid-July Kahan and the rest of the team were getting to work on the season finale. “This year, much more than ever before, the bigger pieces of this mystery are beginning to fall into place,” the actor comments, “and the fact that we’re only doing a 13-episode season means there’s no room for filler. So everything is important.

“Some key characters return in the last couple of Season Three episodes, and with that several questions are answered, while some new ones are posed. As always, Marco is working to apply his scientific background to what can only be theories. What Tom, Diana and the rest of NTAC are dealing with is quite unprecedented, and my character is right there in the trenches trying to figure it out along with the rest of them. It’s the job of a lifetime for him, and an incredible experience so far for me.”

Steven Eramo
TV Zone #206, October 2006

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