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Second Season of the 4400

The Evil Genius

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By BRIDGET BYRNE, For The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - Billy Campbell is back as manipulative power broker Jordan Collier in USA Network's "The 4400," about a disparate group of people who returned to Earth in a ball of light after being missing for anywhere from weeks to decades.

But just how evil Collier is remains to be seen — one of many mysteries on the series' second season, which begins Sunday at 9 p.m. EDT.

"It's a lot more fun to play the bad guy," says Campbell, who was serial killer Ted Bundy in USA's movie "The Stranger Beside Me."

On the phone from Nova Scotia, where he was embarking on a yearlong, around-the-world sailing adventure, the 45-year-old actor sounded much more relaxed than the driven Collier, whom he gleefully dubs "a sociopath."

"Jordan's written a book. He's started a kind of cult. I have much more to do in the second series than in the first," says Campbell, who guest-starred in three episodes last summer.

He is probably best known for starring opposite Sela Ward as Rick Sammler in ABC's romantic drama "Once and Again." He also played Luke Fuller in the 1980s soap series "Dynasty."

Maria Suro, co-executive producer of "The 4400," describes Collier as "a guy who has pretty much accomplished everything he has set out to accomplish, regardless of having been 'taken.' He's clearly a powerful man, yet someone who can come into the room and be incredibly charming. Billy has that presence, that quality, and I think audiences will be pleasantly surprised when they see where the character goes because..."

Suro trails off, not wanting to give away any surprises.

The 4,400 abductees, who have no memory of what happened during their time away, have returned the same age as when they left, but endowed with various unexplained physical and mental gifts. In the new season, they've been back for more than a year, but integration is still a problem for many.

Most of the main characters have returned for the 13 new episodes, with the exception of Dennis Ryland ( Peter Coyote), whose duties as director of the National Threat Assessment Command are now held by Nina Jarvis (Samantha Ferris).

NTCA agents Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch) and Diana Skouris (Jacqueline McKenzie) are still trying to figure out what happened to the abductees, and what forces — alien or otherwise — are responsible for the phenomena.

Skouris has adopted Maia Rutledge (Conchita Campbell), a young girl taken in 1946 who understandably is having trouble relating with today's kids. Richard Tyler (Mahershalalhashbaz Ali), who was taken in 1951, and Lily Moore (Laura Allen), who disappeared in '93, are still on the run from both the NTCA and Collier, protecting their baby from anyone wanting to probe into her remarkable powers. Meanwhile, Shawn Farrell (Patrick Flueger), abducted in 2001, is under the control of Collier, who's using his healing powers to give credence to the cult.

With 4,400 potential tales to tell, there's almost unlimited freedom to introduce new characters.

The series was created by Scott Peters and René Echevarria, who sold the concept to Suro in the wake of 9-11 as showing "how people live on" after a truly cataclysmic experience.

"It's just such an interesting premise — people trying to fit in. It's almost allegorical," says Campbell, stressing that it's more "science fantasy" than "science fiction."

Suro echoes that notion.

"It's not about lasers and special effects," she says. "Every now and then you have to deliver some of that, but that's not where the show lives. We always come back to the fact that we are telling stories about these people and how they are trying to put the pieces of their lives back together."

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