The 4400 Gets a Smart Reboot

Star Brittany Adebumola takes us inside this sci-fi reboot—which puts a diverse, socially incisive spin on an old cult hit

Star Brittany Adebumola takes us inside this sci-fi reboot—which puts a diverse, socially incisive spin on an old cult hit

A familiar premise but a fresh cast mark The CW’s 2021 redux of USA Network’s classic The 4400.

Airing its midseason finale this week, 4400 (note the distinct lack of a The) follows a group of overlooked, undervalued people (4,400 of them, to be exact!) who vanished without a trace over the course of the past century, only to literally drop out of the sky one night in 2021 Detroit, having not aged at all and with no memory of what happened or who abducted them.

They include Shanice (Brittany Adebumola, Grand Army), a lawyer and young mother from 2005 whose reunion with her husband and suddenly teenaged daughter is a rocky one; Andre (TL Thompson, Adventures in New America), a First World War U.S. Army surgeon; Claudette (Jaye Ladymore, Chicago P.D.), an influential figure from the civil rights movement; Isaiah “Rev” Johnson (Derrick A. King, Call Your Mother), a cleric from 1990s Chicago; and LaDonna (newcomer Khailah Johnson), a reality TV star from 2015 Miami.

As the government struggles to understand this phenomenon and unravel whatever conspiracy is behind it, the powers-that-be send social worker Jharrel (Joseph David-Jones, Arrow) and prison guard Keisha (Ireon Roach, Chicago P.D.) to analyze the threat and contain the potential story—as well as the refugees themselves.

The series is a reimagining of the 2004-’07 drama which, while not quite a ratings juggernaut, was a favourite of genre aficionados. This version comes with a much more diverse cast, headed by the aforementioned Brittany Adebumola, who jumped at the opportunity to play a successful Black woman who struggles with motherhood, postpartum depression and, of course, her unprecedented new reality.

“It’s funny because when I first got this role, I thought Shanice and I were very different,” the actress says with a laugh. “But the more I sort of did my research and dug deeper into the character, I realized that she and I are very similar. I won’t go into specifics, but in many ways I was Mariah [Shanice’s daughter] in my personal life. So to play this character in Shanice, who is an actual person in many ways in my actual life, it required a lot of empathy for me to understand what that person in my life was sort of going through. So looking at Mariah was almost like looking at my younger self. That was a trip.”

Also emotional for Adebumola was the reunion scene in 2021 with Shanice’s husband Logan, and the actress credits her TV spouse Cory Jeacoma (Fan Girl) for helping her through it. “It wasn’t an easy scene,” she says, “and of course in this industry you do a couple of takes of the same scene. So I think we definitely leaned on each other but also just tried to be as open to whatever would come emotionally in the moment with each other. It’s always great when you’re working with a scene partner who is as generous as Cory is, who was always full of ideas. So it just makes it feel a lot safer to go there with each other.”

The 4400 airs Mondays at 7 p.m. on Showcase and 9 p.m. on The CW