In today's Sci-Fi Blast From The Past, Patrick Flueger talks about his character of alien abductee Shawn Farrell in The 4400.
Tall, good-looking, congenial and talented – with all these attributes working in his favor it’s no surprise that actor Patrick Flueger has been kept gainfully employed over the past few years. TV audiences will recognize him from guest-spots on such popular shows as Judging Amy, CSI: Miami, JAG and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In 2004, Flueger gave a memorable performance as Shawn Farrell in The USA Network miniseries The 4400. His character was one of over 4,000 human beings who were abducted from Earth and then one day suddenly returned home. It was a role that Flueger knew he was right for and was determined to get.
“As soon as I read the script for The 4400 I fell in love with it,” recalls the actor. “I immediately took to the character of Shawn and cared about his story. I wanted to make sure it was told right and felt I was the person to do it. Oddly enough, at the time I was actually up for roles in two other projects, including the pilot for a TV show called The lsland, which was set in Hawaii. My agents really wanted me to go with the Hawaii show, but I fought tooth and nail for The 4400. It was a great story and something I wanted to be a part of.
“For my very first 4400 audition I met with Maira Suro, one of the show’s executive producers. I was then invited back to read for the rest of the producers as well as series creator/writer [and co-executive producer] Scott Peters. Now, I like to think of myself as a nice, easy-going guy, but for the role of Shawn I had to be serious. During my audition I was really into it, I mean, really into it. I was Shawn, and to top it off I was nervous. Scott later told me that after my first read-through with them, they made the comment, ‘He’s good, but, man, we could have problems with him.’ Apparently, I was pretty intense.”
Flueger’s “intensity” clearly won over the producers and the network executives as well. Not long after being hired to play Shawn, he was on set in Vancouver to start work on the two-hour pilot for The 4400. In it, a comet is headed straight for Earth, but instead of colliding with the planet, it explodes into a ball of light, leaving behind 4,400 men, woman and children. They’ve been missing anywhere from a few days to 50 years and have not aged at all since their disappearance. Among them is Shawn Farrell, who, like many of his fellow 4,400s, finds that his abductors have given him a unique ability. Although the young man is initially happy to be back among friends and family, his homecoming soon turns bittersweet.
“Shawn was taken in 2001 and when he returns three years later he feels like a freak because of what he’s been through,” explains Flueger. “He not comfortable anywhere except maybe at home with his mother. The only other time my character ever feels ‘normal’ and good about himself is when he’s with his next-door neighbour and brother Danny’s [Kaj-Erik Eriksen] girlfriend, Nikki [Brooke Nevin]. Otherwise, Shawn is always walking around and thinking that everyone knows he’s one of the 4400. This experience has completely changed him and he’s become introverted because of it. Prior to his abduction, Shawn had a lot of friends and was a bit of a bad boy. Of course, now he has these healing powers, which creates an added burden. With the physical ability to heal another human being, comes a mental responsibility as well. If you stop and think about it, Shawn has the power over life and death, and it’s changed who he is in his heart and head. That’s a lot for a kid of only 17 to handle.
“All that said, it wasn’t difficult to play Shawn last year on The 4400,” continues the actor. “Don’t get me wrong. There were some wonderful acting challenges. I had to constantly keep in the back of my mind that sense of being uncomfortable around people and then bring it to the surface when the cameras began rolling. However, I think of Shawn as a good friend of mine and I hold him near and dear to my heart. So what he was supposed to be feeling just sort of came out of me, if that makes any sense. Also, the writing and directing is great and acting alongside such a talented and friendly cast makes my job easy.”
As the first six hours of The 4400 unfolds, Shawn becomes fed up with feeling like an outcast. In the episode Becominghe’s befriended by millionaire and fellow 4400 returnee Jordan Collier (Billy Campbell). This self-proclaimed “leader” of the 4400 convinces Shawn to explore his newfound powers, and the young man ends up seeking refuge with Collier, one of the few people he feels truly understands him. Their relationship evolves into a more paternal one in year two of The 4400, which began airing on the USA Network in June.
“In the second season, Jordan has turned being one of the 4400 into a movement, and that’s all I’ll say about that,” teases Flueger. “Shawn is now his right-hand man, and Jordan is his ‘dad.’ He’s become such a father figure to my character, whose real dad has never been in his life. His biological dad left when Shawn was very young, and Uncle Tommy [Joel Gretsch] became his surrogate dad. However, when my character returned to Earth, the two of them butted heads. That’s no surprise, considering his uncle is a federal agent who has been assigned to investigate the 4400.
“So Shawn lost his uncle, but Jordan has since stepped in and become his best friend, mentor and, essentially, dad. He’s one of the most powerful men in The 4400 universe, and Shawn is right there by his side. My character is like a rock star,” chuckles the actor. “Yes, he still has issues that he’s trying to work though and he remains the same kind of introverted, brooding guy, but Shawn is finally at a point where he feels good about himself.
“He’s also leant how to control his healing abilities, and that was a major hurdle to overcome. In the first season, he felt like a walking time bomb. If you remember, Shawn almost killed his brother in last year’s finale [White Light], and that killed him inside. Imagine not knowing whether or not you can ever love someone again for fear of killing that person if you touch him or her. Sadly, losing Nikki has taken a toll on Shawn. He’s still madly in love with this girl that he had to leave behind, but overall, he’s in a much better place in his life.”