The Season 3 premiere of USA Network's The 4400 (returning June 11 at 9 pm/ET) is now little more than a week away, but intel on the new season is still hard to come by. TVGuide.com called Jacqueline McKenzie, the Aussie actress who plays NTAC agent Diana Skouris, to see what (if anything!) she has heard about this year's big twists.
TVGuide.com: I was just checking out your MySpace page, and you've got some interesting people dropping by: costar Karina Lombard, Jeff Daniels, singer Joni Mitchell....
Jacqueline McKenzie: Yeahhhh! Well, you don't know that they're actually [those] people.
TVGuide.com: Oh, sure they are. People on the Internet never pretend to be someone else!
McKenzie: [Chuckles] Some of them are, but some of them aren't. Did you follow the link to my official website? I only just opened that a few weeks ago.
TVGuide.com: I noticed it still had that new plastic smell to it. I like how the site details your other passions, like music and painting.
McKenzie: That's kind of why I did it. I have this obsession with painting, so it's kind of good to have them up there, you know?
TVGuide.com: Let's talk about The 4400: What can you tease about this season?
McKenzie: Um, well, there's quite a journey ahead for Diana. We're only now shooting [Episode] 7 out of 13, and I tell you, they're really secretive, our bosses. I come from the land of, "Don't tell them what's happening," but I don't even know myself. In fact, yesterday when we were on set, [costar] Joel [Gretsch] and I were trying to work out a scene, and I was saying to him, "I really think that this character has got more to do with this group than it says on the page." It's literally myself and Joel trying to work out what the hell's going on, because [executive producer-writer] Ira [Steven Behr] won't tell us! [Laughs] We try to piece it together, which is good in that it gives it a very real quality where we don't know what's going on. But I'm so happy to give you Ira's number so you can call him! In terms of my character, I get to do a lot with Conchita [Campbell, Maia] again, and I love that. This year it's not so much one 4400 per episode, it's more like the 4400 as a group and what's happening to them. I love that as a concept.
TVGuide.com: What's going on with Diana's relationship with Maia?
McKenzie: It's deepening and strengthening.
TVGuide.com: Do you like having that mother-daughter dynamic to play?
McKenzie: I really, really love it. Conchita was a lovely actress when she first arrived three years ago, and I'm watching her develop and flourish. She is so clued in to where that camera is, what it's doing and how she can help the camera guys by delivering a line in a certain way or cheating certain angles all the techniques that some actors who have been around for years don't have. She was born for this, I think.
TVGuide.com: They're raising child actors well these days!
McKenzie: Well, she's got a great mum, actually, which is good, because quite often those stage mums can be a bit frightful at the best of times! Film sets are a pretty adult world, so it's tricky when you have a little one on set, because there's a lot of cussing that goes on. Every time someone cusses, they have to pay a loonie, which is the equivalent of a Canadian dollar, into her swear jar. Conchita makes a lot of money from us. [Laughs] I tell you, she has bionic ears! She can hear it before it even comes out of my mouth now. I'll say to Conchita, "I'm just going to give you a fiver in advance, all right? Today's a hellish day, and I've got eight scenes to shoot, and I know what's going to happen." She says, "No, I don't want it in advance." She likes scoring!
TVGuide.com: What did you think of the reveal that the 4400 weren't abducted by aliens, but "reseeded" from different timelines?
McKenzie: I thought that was so exciting. When I first read that, it was like two days before we were to shoot it of course, because the writers keep their cards so close to their chests! I'd think, "Why can't they just tell us, so that we can develop our performances accordingly?" I come from the theater, where you have to deliver the whole journey every night and twice on Wednesdays, so I'm used to working the full story, and that's just not the case with this. Part of my job is to relinquish that need for information. Last year was hell, but it's good fun now. We all rise to it.
TVGuide.com: Were you a sci-fi fan going into this series?
McKenzie: Not really. I liked sci-fantasy, I guess. Like, I was a Lord of the Rings books fan, and then more recently I read this fantastic trilogy called His Dark Materials, which is all about crossing realities set in Industrial Revolution England. When I did Deep Blue Sea, I was surprised that a lot of the press we did was sci-fi magazines. I was thinking, "My god, is this science fiction?" As an actor, I take everything as though it's character-based!
TVGuide.com: Did you get chomped up in Deep Blue Sea?
McKenzie: Oh, yeah. I was about the third one to get chomped and I loved it! I had a huge shark phobia going into it, because I'm from Sydney, Australia, and I know the stories that don't leave our shores, because we're chasing the tourist buck, the stories you hear about people being taken on their surfboards.... When I was little, I used to go to the beach all the time, and those days were peppered with the sound of the shark alarm and people screaming. It was like something out of Jaws!
TVGuide.com: What have been your favorite 4400 episodes?
McKenzie: I liked all of the first season, and I really liked the second season.... I thought the culmination of the assassination of Jordan Collier was so awesome. I remember watching it thinking, "Where do they go after this?! How are they going to beat this?" And then the next show after, I thought, "OK, Ira is a genius." You don't meet many in your life, but I think I've met one in him. You couldn't beat that episode, I don't think, or follow it with anything other than a complete U-turn, and we went into an alternate reality with Joel's character meeting a 4400 whom he winds up marrying and all this stuff. Joel was fantastic in it, and it was really smart.
TVGuide.com: Also this summer, you're in TNT's Nightmares and Dreamscapes [premiering July 12], playing William H. Macy's wife.
McKenzie: I had never really been a huge Stephen King fan, meaning I haven't read a single story of his, because I get really, really scared. And it doesn't take Stephen King to get me scared; it could be freaking Bambi. But when I got out his stories and started reading them, I thought, "Here's another genius." The way he tells a story and the world he places them in... it's just amazing.
TVGuide.com: You do a pretty good American accent for an Australian. Is ours a particularly tough one to keep up?
McKenzie: It depends, it depends. It's just a matter of using different muscles in your mouth, so if I'm tired it can lapse. And I try to let it go a little bit, as well, because otherwise you can appear to be chewing the furniture!
Additional reporting by Craig Tomashoff
Need to get up to speed on this USA Network series? NBC is airing The 4400 Special: Unlocking the Secrets, a one-hour clip show, on Saturday, June 3, at 9 pm/ET.