For a man who has assembled a fictional reality full of political and religious intrigue, bias and bigotry, The 4400 creator and executive producer Scott Peters is remarkably happy to be kept too busy by that world to be consumed with the weight of this one.
"I'm completely and utterly disconnected from the world. I have no idea what's going on, I don't watch the news, I have no concept of what's going on outside our little backlot here," he explained with a laugh during a hurried on-set lunch break, when asked about his own television habits. "It's not like I'm some crazy hermit running away from the real world, but it's certainly a relief not to have the morning shows and the nightly news and whatever else is going on. The hubbub of regular life interrupts, so it's great."
Though he may think of the North Vancouver studio where The 4400 is filmed as something of a haven, he isn't entirely convincing in the role of sheltered naif. The native of Windsor, Ontario, who has made Los Angeles his home for many years, has said the events of 9/11 helped inspire the premise – how people react to a catastrophic event that disrupts not only their lives, but changes their world view.
In Peters' supernatural world, that event was the return of 4400 people who had been abducted over the years, and whose displacement in time and paranormal abilities cause havoc not only with their lives, but with a frightened and mystified public. An agency of the Department of Homeland Security is assigned to investigate, entangling the agents' lives with those of the 4400.
With its third season premiering June 11 on the USA network, The 4400 continues to draw inspiration from current events. "It's not just a simple cut and dried, yes or no, right or wrong all the time, same with everything that's going on with the war on terror, with the war in Iraq, with all the things we struggle with on a day-to-day basis," Peters said. "We hold a mirror up to that in this world, and have it be as sophisticated and complex and difficult, with issues that are as difficult to struggle with, as in the world we face every day."
The show touches on themes such as government control in our lives, an eroded right to privacy, plus more personal, family stories, and Peters downplays the science fiction elements, at least as much as possible given its premise. "I think any time you have a world where 4400 people appear out of a ball of light, you've already got a pretty strong sci-fi convention," he deadpanned. "So I don't think you have to keep pounding it into everybody's head, and having it be spaceships flying around, and aliens running back and forth, and all that kind of stuff. Once you've signed off on that one big sci-fi premise, if it settles into more of a drama, that's better for me."