After a year or so sailing around the world on the refitted barque Picton Castle, "The 4400" star Billy Campbell is back in the United States, but still on the water.
"I'm still on the Picton Castle," Campbell says, calling in on his cell phone, with the sounds of shouting and wind behind him. "I joined for another week, actually, after I got done in Vancouver with 'The 4400.' I joined because my dad was here in Chicago, and I wanted to come see him. I thought it would be neat to see him after a year and a half for the first time, sailing on the same ship.
"It's on a tour of the Great Lakes right now, so it's pretty great. We're alongside at Navy Pier in Chicago. They're giving ship's tours. I don't have to do that because I'm working in the rigging. I dragged my dad down, and he's assisting me in the rigging."
Airing Sunday on USA Network, "The 4400" follows 4,400 people snatched from different points in time by people from the future, then returned en masse, without having aged and with supernatural powers meant to change the course of history.
Campbell plays Jordan Collier, a tycoon who became the leader of the 4400, until his supposed assassination by Kyle Baldwin (Chad Faust), the son of government agent Tom Baldwin (Joel Gretsch), who is assigned to the 4400.
But at the end of last season, the supposedly dead Collier -- with longer hair and beard than at the time of his "death" -- suddenly appeared on the same beach where the 4400 reappeared.
He then dropped out of sight again until the Aug. 6 episode, "The Starzl Mutation," in which he showed up at the wedding of 4400 leader and healer Shawn Farrell (Patrick Flueger) -- still shaggy, but also deeply suntanned from Campbell's year at sea -- asking, "Do you know who I am?"
"Yeah," Campbell says, "every bit as shaggy."
Collier continues to appear in episodes through the show's season finale on Sunday, Aug. 27. Campbell still doesn't know, though, if Collier is a force for good or evil.
"Who knows? I think that was always up in the air. Nobody's ever told me. The producers have never been willing to tell me whether I'm evil or not."
At least Campbell now knows what Collier's 4400 "ability" is, saying, "I think, probably, my superpower is that I'm immortal. That's my guess. That's a good one."
Dropping back into Collier and "The 4400" after a year at sea proved easier said than done.
"It was quite strange," Campbell says. "It was very, very strange. I had jet lag, culture shock. I had a five-days-in-a-row hangover. It was something. I was in a real spin."
He pauses to speak to his father, "You can take that off, Pop. You can cut that loose."
Coming back, he says, "Yeah, so I was just in a daze for the first few weeks."
Campbell kept a journal during his time at sea and also shot video footage, which he hopes to turn into a documentary. As for being recognized during his travels, Campbell says it was mostly children mistaking him for Jesus.
"It's the whole shaggy thing," he says.
But then the Picton Castle reached Reunion Island, a French protectorate in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar.
"'The 4400' is huge in France," he says. "I was recognized quite frequently there."
As to which he likes better, acting or hanging from the rigging, Campbell says, "For the most part, hanging from the rigging. But acting can sometimes feel like hanging from the rigging. Acting is what I do, and this is more sort of who I am.
"The ship goes around the world again in 2008. I might be aboard. I don't know yet."
Billy Campbell Gets His Land Legs Back on 'The 4400'
Billy Campbell on 'The 4400'