On Thursday September 6th, I had the pleasure of talking to Joel Gretsch, who stars as Tom Baldwin on the hit USA series The 4400. The sci-fi series centers around 4400 people vanishing at various times and returning at all once from a ball of light. Through time, these returnees discover that they have extraordinary abilities.
As one of NTAC’s lead agents, Joel’s character has always played a vital role on the show. This season focuses on the government’s war on promicin, arresting anybody who takes the shot in order to acquire a special ability. Tom is at the forefront of this war, not only having to track down those who have used the shot, but also protecting his son, who has taken the injection.
Matt Basilo: First off, I hope that you have some good news regarding The 4400 being renewed for another season. I don’t know if you know that or not.
Joel Gretsch: I have no news.
MB: (Laughs) Well hopefully the news will be good when it comes in.
MB: I’m sure there are some difficulties being a summer series, going on such a long hiatus, but it’s a true testament to the writing and acting that you guys can go on such a long break and still manage to maintain interest.
JG: Yeah, I concur.
MB: One thing I especially like this season is how they made the war on promicin a political/government issue. It rings very true to life.
JG: Yeah, good.
MB: Kind of like a war on drugs, and I don’t think that a lot of shows would think of putting it in that situation. What I’ve always liked about the show is the fact that there is great ensemble cast and really each of the characters are strong on their own, meaning that many main characters rarely ever interact with each other. Your character, on the other hand, is in the unique position of being closely connected with pretty much every person on the show. Are there any characters or actors you especially enjoy working with?
JG: Oh, boy, pretty much everyone. There’s not a person on the show, and I know this sounds overly optimistic but it’s true, that I don’t enjoy working with. It’s very enjoyable working with any one of them.
MB: We’ve seen several aspects of Tom’s personality depending on the person he is interacting with. He’s a father figure to Shawn and Kyle, loyal friend to Diana, authority figure to Jordan. We don’t see that sort of range from a lot of the characters.
MB: Here in the U.S., the show is currently on hiatus for the US Open. The last episode we saw was when Diana and Meghan discovered that Tom isn’t quite himself.
MB: It looks like you’re having a lot of fun playing a more sinister character.
JG: Yeah, it’s always enjoyable. When you’re playing a bad guy, there’s always a lot more liberty to play more of a darker side (laughs). Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.
MB: It’s interesting that there are so many characters that you don’t know are good or bad, but your character was one of the few explicit “good guys,” and now you’re not so much, for the moment anyway.
JG: Yeah, well, it’s somewhat specific, because he’s one of the marked now. He’s changed, but I think that Tom Baldwin is genuinely a good guy.
MB: I also think its great that this possession happened just as Tom and Jordan were beginning to come to an understanding or respect each other a bit, and this puts a question mark on that.
MB: Everyone on the show also has an extraordinary ability of some sort, is it difficult or frustrating playing a regular person?
JG: No, I always appreciated that he was a regular person.
MB: I guess it makes it easier to connect to some of your audience.
JG: Well, you know, it’s the delineation of choosing to take promicin to get an ability. You have to take the shot and take that risk. In a sense, it’s whether or not you need an ability. I’ve always appreciated the fact that Tom and Diana don’t have abilities.
MB: This season reminded viewers about Matthew Ross’ involvement with the show. When he was killed off last season, I felt like the writers really missed out on a great opportunity as there was a lot more that could have been done with his character. They’re obviously taking advantage of that now, with you.
JG: It’s true, you never know what they’re going to do until later.
MB: Unlike a lot of other shows that are surrounded by mystery, as a viewer, I really do get a sense that the writers do know where they’re going with the show, and it’s not just constant twists and additions to keep the viewers interested. They seem to really know where they want to take it.
JG: Yeah, I agree.
MB: That’s very comforting as a viewer.
JG: Right, right, I agree.
MB: When we last left the show, it was the episode that Meghan and Diana figured out that Tom has been possessed. What can we expect from the rest of the season when it does return?
JG: Well, there’s going to be more of that, and there’s going to be a big reveal that will resolve that issue. There’s a lot that’s going to happen in the last few episodes.
MB: I’ve always felt that The 4400 really delivered in their season finales. I am definitely looking forward to this season’s final episode.
MB: I especially liked season two’s finale, with Jordan’s return. I thought it was phenomenal.
JG: Oh good.
MB: I see that you’ve worked on quite a few different television shows. Was this your first show as a series regular?
MB: Are there any future plans or projects that you’d like to share?
JG: Well, I have a part in National Treasure: Book of Secrets, which is coming out. So, yeah, we’re just waiting to hear about the future of The 4400.
MB: I’d be very disappointed if the show didn’t get picked up. I think it should be more than just a summer series, to be honest.
JG: Yeah, and I’m sure there are quite a few people who would agree with you on that.
MB: Well, hopefully enough. It’s a phenomenal show and everybody does a great job, from writing to acting.
JG: Well thank you, I agree.
MB: I think it’s great that you guys can avoid stretching out mythology to the point of frustration for the viewers, like with Lost. You guys maintain the mythology but have independent season story arcs to keep things fresh and interesting.
JG: Well, good.
MB: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. Is there anything else you’d like to say?
JG: No, it was a pleasure talking to you too, and we’ll keep our fingers crossed and see what happens with the show.
MB: Well I look forward to the finale, you guys always do a great job.
– Season 4 of The 4400 airs on the SPACE network in Canada on Wednesday nights at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT time.
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