In CBS Paramount’s original series, The 4400, thousands of people who were abducted from across different points throughout the 21st century were suddenly returned together in the present day with no memory of where they were taken or who took them. What the 4400 do know, however, is that some of them develop different superhuman abilities that drastically change their lives even more. At New York Comic Con 2021, the cast and creators of the CW’s reboot discussed their approach to the story.
As the original 4400 continued, the abductees came to realize that there was a deeper significance to their powers and that each of them was an unwitting part of a larger project meant to save humanity from itself. While The 4400's premise might come across as well-trod by the standards of today’s superhero-saturated media landscape, the series was bold and novel when it premiered back in 2004, and the CW’s hoping the same will be true of its upcoming reboot. At this year’s NYCC—taking place in-person and virtually—executive producers Ariana Jackson and Sunil Nayar, and actors Joseph David-Jones,TL Thompson, Autumn Best, Brittany Adebumola, Khailah Johnson, Cory Jeacoma, Ireon Roach, Jaye Ladymore, Derrick A. King, opened up about who their characters were before disappearing in their respective eras, and what sort of people they start becoming once they find themselves in 2021 Detroit.
While the reboot still has many elements of the original’s premise, the new show, which has a predominantly Black cast, is poised to explore ideas about society from a different perspective through characters like Jharrel (Joseph David-Jones), a native Detroiter from the modern-day whose life is upended when the 4400 reappear. On the panel, David-Jones said Jharrel is “a man of the people and he’s trying to navigate the government—big government—to advocate for people,” and his passion for advocacy is what brings him into the situation with the 4400. “I feel like I rarely get to see someone for the people navigating a system that’s not for the people,” David-Jones. “But seeing someone navigate that also gives you the chance, and a different perspective on what that’s actually like. Because a lot of us do want to find ways and solutions for a lot of the issues that we have, but things get tied up in bureaucracy, you know?”
Like Jharrel, a young woman named Keisha (Ireon Roach) who was never abducted doesn’t initially know what to make of the 4400, but she’s steadfast in her commitment to her family. Much as Keisha loves them, though, Roach explained that her dedication isn’t without its difficulties. “I think I’m very much like Keisha in the ways that she is always thinking of her family, and always working for her family,” Roach said. “But she also finds it very hard to face them and face the truth of what that relationship is, even though she’s always working to make it strong and better.”
One of the ways that Keisha goes to work for her loved ones is by taking on the same bureaucracy that Jharrel faces in his fight to combat the system from within, and Roach described how, while working on a science fiction project is new for her, she found that she sees pieces of her own story in Keisha. “In like, I have the strength, and sometimes I actually don’t know what to do with it, and I don’t know where to direct it, and I don’t know the best way to fight,” she said. “I think that is, again, like telling of the times, and a lot of how I feel, which is like, ‘I know I have this. I know I have all of these tools,’ and I don’t always know that I’m fighting the right people, or fighting them in the right way.”
Dr. Andre (TL Thompson), a transgender man and doctor from the 1920s, is one of the 4400 originally hailing from one of the early points of the 20th century. Thompson said that he could relate to Andre’s curiosity about the world around him as a whole, something that’s amped up significantly by his displacement in time. “Everything from hairstyles, to cell phones, to people pushing dogs in strollers, like, it’s all new to him,” Thompson said. “And sometimes, you know, 2021 lately, after all of the lockdown and everything, coming back into the world, I definitely identify with that, like everything feels brand new. You know, seeing people’s faces, and not.”
Thompson also mentioned that while the new 4400 will directly acknowledge our real-world pandemic, it’s not a “pandemic show,” which will be interesting to see play out given how much the series seems interested in being in conversation with other aspects of our reality. Familiar as these concepts all are, it’s promising that the CW hasn’t tried to lead with the 4400's more fantastical components of the show as the main draw, and a sign that it might be worth checking out when it premieres on the CW on October 25.
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