REFLECTIONS: Talking with "The 4400's" Chad Faust


Chad Faust, star of "The 4400" and Rosario Dawson's upcoming film "Descent," was walking down a beach in Vancouver while I interviewed him and he noticed something strange. And no, it wasn't a nude beach! Someone had written the word "KYLE," the name of Faust's character on "The 4400" in the sand. As if that wasn't enough of a coincidence, viewers of the series will know that Kyle's story began on a beach in the first episode.

I love it when perfect coincidences like that happen during an interview and it makes me think that from now on I should pay off children to create perfect coincidences around my future interview subjects. That wouldn't be wrong, would it?

"The 4400" is coming back June 17 for its fourth season. One of the fantastic things about the show, which chronicles the lives of a chosen few 4400 people kidnapped from the future and given special powers, is that it changes its storytelling style in a major way every season, and Faust's character has been at the forefront of that fluid style since the show's inception. He's essentially played a different character each season and this year won't be an exception. I'd explain more, but you really want to hear from Faust, don't you?

Robert Taylor: So how's life up in Canada or wherever you are currently?

Chad Faust: I'm in Vancouver shooting. I'm walking down the beach and the sun is shining and it's beautiful. I had a four day weekend from the shoot and I have to get back into the mix soon.

RT: How's the weather?

CF: It's really damn cold, but getting warmer and the sun is out. It's one of those days you can't go to the movies because you don't get them very often. In LA, when it's a rainy day you can't go to the movies because you have to go out and enjoy the rain, it's such a reverse mentality.

RT: Let's talk "4400." You are back as a regular again this season?

CF: Yeah, for this season. They wanted me to come back for two but I got it down to one. I think after this season it'll be time to move onto something else. The show has evolved into something completely different this year. It's now focused more on the cult and the bible of the show. The biblical theme of the messiah and the healer and now Kyle is becoming the shaman to the messiah and putting forth Jordan Collier's message. My character is right at the heart of it and trying to push it forward. I'm now a born-again 4400, shamelessly and audaciously forming this force. It's a whole new level of Kyle, almost a new character to play. I've got to play 13 versions of him; he's always changing.

RT: As you were saying, your character has been reinvented with every subsequent season. First he was, well, comatose, then he couldn't control his body when all he wanted was to be a normal college student, and then he was imprisoned. And now you are a religious fanatic. Tell me more about the levels.

CF: That is what draws me back to the show again and again. I like the Kyle that he is now more than in the past. Back then, he was an ordinary American boy in extraordinary circumstances and now he is a man who has accepted the extraordinary world he is living in. It's easy for me to relate to since I came from an ordinary place and now I'm trying to do something extraordinary with my life. Or at least how I see ordinary and extraordinary. I understand him now far more than him being hesitant and afraid to take on his fated role.

RT: Since you understand the character more, what new challenges have you had this season?

CF: He was more reactive than active for a long time, and the acting approach that I do is being as proactive as possible. I'm not a very reactive person. I did this horror movie one time and it was all reacting to things that weren't even there, this kind of work that is very difficult for me. Now that Kyle is generating things, it's more natural for me to act.

RT: Did he take the promicin we saw him contemplating taking at the end of last season's cliffhanger?

CF: Yeah, and now he's getting shamanistic visions. At first he thought it was schizophrenia and now he's giving another character advice and forming the religion of the 4400. At first it seemed like a curse and now it's a blessing, which is Kyle's theme through the series. It's an interesting lesson, actually, and I'm just realizing this as I tell you that when you accept what you are given, the curse becomes a blessing.

RT: I'm so glad I could be helpful. [laughs]

How are his newfound qualities affecting his family and the characters he related to in the past.

CF: Well, so far, nobody knows about it. He hasn't told anybody. It's putting him at opposite sides of the war from his family. The only person he is allied with is Jordan Collier. He's lying to everybody, including Shawn.

RT: Didn't your character sort-of shoot Collier in season two? How does it feel to be on his side so suddenly and how does Jordan react?

CF: In season three, he forgave me and said I had a purpose. And by doing that I gave him the validity he needed to become the messiah he is. I think that was a turning point for Kyle because he felt so used by all of this, so that was a moment where everything he had been going through had a purpose.

RT: Is there a time jump between the seasons?

CF: Yeah, I think it's three months. I somehow left with a suitcase and came back with a backpack and I don't know what happened there. I've been doing seminars for Jordan and so forth. I took the shot and didn't die, and developed the ability.

RT: How's his relationship with his father?

CF: It's now based in lies. There is this underlying need for love with both characters that is so much fun to play, especially with Joel because he is one of my closest friends. There is a great love between Kyle and Tom for we're our only family to one another and we want to trust each other, but there is this huge obstacle with being on opposite sides of the war. Even though we don't fully express our political views, there is this void between us.

RT: How has shooting this season been different than the first two seasons, where it was mostly stand alone episodes?

CF: It's different. Usually my storyline was specific to my character, and now Kyle has gone from micro to macro. At first I wasn't sure how to make a personal connection to it, and then I realized he was going from being concerned with himself to being concerned with the greater world and trying to make a better life. That is a great place to come from, and where I am going with my own life. I'm more concerned with global consciousness now. At first I wasn't sure how to go there as Kyle, and then I found I was living it already.

RT: Speaking of global consciousness, let's take a detour and talk about your charity work.

CF: I work with this amazing charity called The Friends of El Faro Foundation, it's an orphanage in Tijuana and what these people do is so phenomenal. There are 120 beautiful kids there. I go down there and walk into the nursery and there are seven babies with their little hands put up, wanting to be held. You get as many in your hands as you can and give as much love as you can. It's fascinating because when I first went there I thought I was going to help out the kids and by the time I left I was thanking them. They have so much hope and faith and love. With all they've been though their hearts have triumphed. There is one annual charity event that raises enough money for the entire year and this year we raised enough that the kids get to go to a regular public school instead of having someone go to teach them, so they are becoming more integrated into society. It's a miraculous place.

RT: And if people want to donate money, is it through the Web site?

CF: Yeah. You can also buy these pictures of the kids and that is a great way to donate money as well.

RT: Back to "4400." What has been your favorite moment to play thus far?

CF: I have to go back to season one after I've woken up from the coma and I go home. They kept promising me that I would wake up and when I did there would be this amazing character and story to play. Even though my character was in a coma, I would still go to every read-through with the group and one day I finally got the script when I woke up and it was fantastic. I sat in my hotel room and tried to figure out the role. My character was so disconnected from himself and I didn't know how to play it. So I sat in my hotel room getting really frustrated trying to create some logic for myself. And then I realized that was what the character was trying to dom too. And I played him exactly how I was feeling in that hotel room. I discovered the character, or lack of character, for the first time. He wasn't at all cool, and had no obligations to anybody; he was just in his own realm figuring out his own truth.

RT: On the opposite end of the coin, what was your least favorite moment to play him?

CF: When I got the shamanistic power, Kyle had a lot of reluctance about the power. There were many scenes of me testing if it was true. A lot of those scenes were really tricky because they seemed contradictory to Kyle's overall goal of doing something extraordinary and being part of the revolution. Then I realized it was because he wanted this great thing, but it wasn't how he had pictured it. It took me a little bit to get that and then I realized how it played out. The first couple of scenes were really awkward though and I was faking my way through it.

RT: What do you think of the evolution of "The 4400" as a series; it's evolved from one idea into something utterly different, but at the same time just as entertaining.

CF: I enjoy it because as the world is changing the show is changing. Things come through us subconsciously in one way or another. I'm not sure how everyone feels about it, I know some people feel like it's not "The 4400" anymore, it's "The 10,400." And now maybe, eventually, everybody. It feels like what would really happen and what people would want.

RT: Who are your favorite cast members on set?

CF: Joel and I are attached at the hip; he's one of the closest friends I have in this world. Patrick and I are really close also. For an ensemble cast, this is as good as it gets. I love them all. They are such great people and we'll be friends for life.

RT: Now you must have some crazy, insane stories from set. Go ahead, vent as many as you like.

CF: In season one on the very last day when Kyle was in that light and all that, Joel's character comes and grabs me and we get blocked in that light and stare at each other. Before we shot the scene Joel had an idea of how he would grab me and he came up to me and told me and grabbed me and I burst into laughter. And then every time we did it we burst into laughter. It was five in the morning because we needed darkness, the sun was coming up, we had to get the shot and we couldn't hold it together. Eventually we tried looking past each other, but we couldn't stop it. Once you start laughing you can't stop, no matter what anyone says. Then Peter Coyote comes over to me, he's a veteran actor who garners a lot of respect and is a great human being, and says, "Just so you know, eighty people's jobs are on the line right now."

And I went "Oh my God," and the weight of it helped me through. We shot the scene and were going home and he went, "Oh, by the way, I was just screwing with you because I knew you needed the help."

RT: I know you are also a writer. Have you ever thought of writing an episode of the series?

CF: No. My writing tends to come in the form of feature films. I don't necessarily think I'd have much to contribute to an episodic show. It's not my world. Television is something I never understood until I was on a show. I never watched shows. Now I'm starting to get it. But I've written three scripts and we are trying to get them made.

RT: Tell me about your screenplays.

CF: The one that I am most invested in is a screenplay that I adapted from a novel. I met the author in Wisconsin randomly through a friend and fell in love with the novel. He's an American living in Paris teaching French history to Parisians, which is unprecedented. I flew to Paris and we wrote the first draft in eight days. I took it home and have been working on it for another four months. And now it's ready to go.

The story is about five friends on the lakes on Minnesota and revolves around the death of the main character. Then it goes back and forward in time to show how he individually seduced each one of these kids to fall in love with him. And we also realize it could have been a murder, suicide or accidental death. I want to make it "The Outsiders" of today's generation. It's a generation movie.

RT: And what is the novel called?

CF: It's called "G-Force" by Steven Englund.

RT: What are the other ones you've worked on?

CF: I've got another script I've been working on for six years. I've been done with it about fifteen times and now it's not done again. It's one of those scripts that takes a life time to finish. It's about a young guy who is living this wonderful life in Bel Air and ends up falling in love with a prostitute as a way of getting closer to his mother. It's a twist on the whole oedipal myth.

RT: Just not quite there yet?

CF: I actually had it there and had someone who wanted to make it, and then I didn't think it was ready, so I pulled out and now I've started at page one and am completely rewriting it. And I have something called "A Breath of Our Own." I'm not sure I should talk about it, but it's ready also.

RT: Do you see these as indie movies or studio films or what?

CF: The first one seems to flow between the two worlds. It's either a unique independent film or an edgy studio film. Which is what I like. I like movies that aren't defined by the budgetary restrictions. The second is definitely a little independent film.

RT: Do you see yourself acting in the scripts or writing parts for yourself in them?

CF: Yeah. At this point I'm interested in acting in them. But I got into acting because I was writing and directing short films and I started taking acting classes to be a better director. And then acting took over. But directing is something I want to come back to when I have a little more wisdom. It requires a lot more thought than acting because it is much more global. I am definitely working toward that.

RT: Let's talk "Descent." How did you get involved?

CF: My manager sent me the script and I fell in love with it. It took me two or three reads to completely understand what was going on. They sent my reel in, but they weren't sure I was right for it because of my other work, but I knew I was and my manager knew I was. So I put myself on tape and sent it in, and somehow they didn't see the character the way I brought it about. And it surprised them because they were seeing it in a different way, but the tape worked, and then I got the screen test with Rosario and we had a palpable chemistry that really worked for them.

RT: Tell us about the story.

CF: It's a date-rape scenario between me and Rosario. It's an interesting take on it, because it is certainly violent but there is never a clear moment where it clicks over. We made it look as if that's just the way my character deals with women.

RT: How did you get yourself to go to that place as an actor?

CF: I just understood the character and where he was coming from. I understood why he was doing the things he was doing, even though I would never do those things myself. He needed to feel empowered again, and this is how he felt strong. I came from that perspective. He's got a childlike quality to him as well, which made him more disarming.

RT: Have you seen a final cut of the film yet?

CF: No, I saw an older cut of the film but it was over two hours and I know they cut 17 minutes out of it. I'm going to see the final cut for the very first time at Tribeca in front of an audience. It's going to be frightening because I do full nudity in the movie. [laughs] At the same time, who cares, the human body is a beautiful thing.

RT: Still, walking out of the theater that night is going to be awkward for you. [laughs]

CF: In one scene I'm strapped to a bed and I was in that position and couldn't get myself out - totally naked. And Rosario comes in and slaps me twice and walks out. It was really hard, and we did two takes back to back, and then I just went into a corner and cried. I have never felt so vulnerable in my life.

RT: Since you've seen at least a rough cut of the film, are you proud of your performance and proud of the movie?

CF: I was really proud of my performance. I accomplished what I set out to accomplish. I love the movie too. It's got a hypnotic quality to it. The director had an audacious vision for it and stayed true to that. I believe in it.

RT: Tell us about working with Rosario Dawson.

CF: She's possibly the most courageous actor I've worked with. We both had our challenges, and usually when you are doing scenes of intimacy like that, you talk about boundaries and what you are comfortable with. I tried to engage that conversation with her and she said "I don't want to talk about this. Just fuck with me." She wanted to go out of her comfort zone, which was fantastic. And I think the movie feels like that.

RT: She's just phenomenal. I love how she can go from "Sin City" to "Rent" and now this.

CF: She's definitely not your typical actress. She started a comic book that is going to be made into a movie.

RT: So what is weird or geeky about you that you want to confess here?

CF: I have a really soft spot for '80s love ballads. I love listening to what I heard as a child, in my room, and dancing passionately.

RT: How has being a rising star affected who you are? Are you recognized on the street?

CF: In Europe, "The 4400" is pretty big and it is more frequent than in the states. I'm still not where I want to be in my career and I still beat myself up because I'm not where I want to be. So I'm in a bizarre space. I've done a lot of stuff, but I feel so far from where I want to be. I don't know. Before I had done the series and the movies, I almost felt closer to my goals than I do now. Maybe it's because I've seen the reality of the industry and know I have a long way to go.

RT: What are your goals, exactly?

CF: I want to have my own production company and make films as a producer/director/writer/actor that are important to me, while also being in other's films. I want to do movies I can believe in, and I'm not there yet. I've only done a couple of projects that I feel have messages or stories that I really need to say. I want to be in the position where I can do three movies like "Descent" a year.

RT: If you had a production company, what would the name be?

CF: I sort of do have one now: Naked People Productions. It's named for multiple reasons. Firstly, it's about how stories get to people's core and shows the naked truth of them, and, secondly, I love going to the bank and making it sound like a porn company.

RT: So I hear tell you are a singer?

CF: Yeah, I was. I don't do it anymore. I was in a band for awhile, then I did some solo stuff and recorded a couple of albums. I realized it wasn't my calling, as much as I wanted it to be. I don't get as passionate about it as I do storytelling through film.

RT: If someone wanted to track down your albums, where would they go?

CF: I don't think they are anywhere to be found. They were done five or six years ago and I never put them on the Internet or anything.

RT: You bought them all and burned them?

CF: We did a group burning. [laughs]

I'm proud of them for where I was at during that point in my life, but I really wouldn't want to put them out there now.

RT: Where do you see yourself in two years?

CF: Hmm, I think I would like to have a little more harmony between my work and my personal life, because they are at odds. I, at times enjoy my obsession with my work, but I don't want to be so consumed by it that I am neglecting my friends, the ones I love. But the hunger for great art calls at me like a ghost. It's a battle I'm constantly fighting.

RT: Tell us more about the battle.

CF: It can be a little torturous. I've come very close to quitting acting a couple of times. I'm certainly living up to my name at times. I feel like I'm making a deal with the devil to get to the work I want to do, and that can be hard. I struggle with that, and there are times I've wanted to give it up. But I always come back.

RT: When was the first time you were noticed on the street?

CF: It was when the trailer for "Saved" was out and about. I was in Vancouver and six fifteen year old girls came up and asked if I was the gay kid from "Saved." I remember being 15 and wanting all the attention, and I didn't know how to deal with it, and I think I was awkward dealing with it because I didn't want to sound pompous, so I didn't want to take the attention. So I used to be weird about it, and now I've accepted that it was part of the game.

RT: Any real weirdos who come up to you?

CF: It's going to be interesting when "Descent" comes out to see what people say about that. People are generally wonderful, just excited to see somebody they know from TV or a movie. I got some fanmail that was a little crazy. I do get pictures, and I think that is kind of cute. One person sent me a letter that said I "was capable of mass seduction." At first I thought it was flattering, and then Joel got a letter, and it was the same person telling him he was capable of mass seduction as well.

RT: Ready for the lightning round?

CF: Love it.

RT: Favorite movie of all time?

CF: Robert Redford's "Ordinary People." I love the idea of trying to find a truth among all the lies. I also love "Secrets and Lies" for the same reason.

RT: What movie are you ashamed to admit you cried during?

CF: "Wimbledon." I was on a plane, and kind of tired, and my emotions were right there. After watching that movie all I wanted was to play tennis and fall in love.

RT: What is your biggest strength as an actor?

CF: I'm far more confident in scenes that are high stakes. Like something life and death or love or not. I don't know if it's my training or what.

At the same time, if it's comedy, I'll play it life or death.

RT: Biggest weakness?

CF: Doing the scenes where it's not high stakes. [laughs]

RT: Three other actors you would like to work with the most?

CF: Terrence Howard, whose work is as good as anybody's ever. Jack Nicholson, his courage is contagious.

RT: What haven't you gotten to do as an actor that you really want to do?

CF: I really want to do a war movie.

RT: What is your dream part? The one that, after you play it, you can retire and be happy.

CF: I really want to play John Lennon.

RT: If you were remembered for only one thing in your career, what would you want it to be?

CF: I can't imagine where I'll be in the future, but what I'm writing now speaks to our relationship to our earth and our respect of the Creator. I want to be remembered as somebody who took the medium of cinema to tell stories to make the world a more truthful place. It's a powerful medium, and I'd like to use that to inspire people to live full meaningful, if that's even possible, lives.

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