From executive producer Carlton Cuse (Lost, Bates Motel, The Strain) and show creator Ryan Condal, the USA Network drama series Colony is set in the very near future and is centered on one family’s struggle to survive and bring liberty back to the people of an occupied Los Angeles. Former FBI agent Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) and his wife, Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies), live in a dangerous world of divided ideologies, where some choose to collaborate with the occupation and benefit from the new order, and others rebel and suffer the consequences. The Bowmans will be tested, as Will and Katie must decide just how far they will go to protect their family.
Back on September 28, 2015, Collider (along with a few other press outlets) was invited to the set while they were shooting Episode 9 out of 10, to check out what it’s all about. After watching an intense scene between Sarah Wayne Callies and Alex Neustaedter (who plays Will and Katie’s son, Bram), we toured the sets for the Bowman house, the Proxy’s office, and the local bar, and sat down with co-stars Holloway and Callies, as well as Condal, to talk about what viewers can expect from this new show. Here is a list of 18 things that you should know about Colony.
Part of the reason they chose Los Angeles for the setting of this story was because the city’s geography is really interesting for something like this. If you occupied a place like New York, it would be more grid-like and segmented out. In L.A., you have the natural socio-political divide of the hills versus the flats, which lends itself to the haves and the have nots. It’s also a huge city by population and square footage. It’s a sprawling city that’s very urban with very different-looking neighborhoods, right next to each other. You can get very different looks without ever having to leave the city.
- When you think of L.A., you think of the traffic, so seeing the characters riding bicycles has an immediate visual impact. It’s very stark to see people on bikes without the typical traffic around them.
- The setting of Los Angeles also benefits the story because it’s a melting pot of culture. This is a world oppression colonization, so it deals with all the different pockets of the different cultures and their way of dealing with oppression. You can get the flavor of the world.
- There are different blocks, and then there are the outer regions that are considered no man’s land. There’s the Downtown area, the green zone, the L.A. block, the Valley block and the Santa Monic block, which are all waiting to be explored. The first season of the show is mostly about the Los Angeles block, but you will get an idea of the big picture.
- The occupation follows the template of Nazi-occupied Paris, and the French who collaborated with the invaders and made it very easy for the Nazis to colonize Europe. As a result, the information given is a combination of propaganda and rumor, so everyone is told things as though they were true, but may or may not actually be true.
This is very much an ensemble show that is centered around the Bowman family, but all of the characters have a story to tell. There’s the story of who they were before, and now who they’ve re-purposed themselves to be, in this new world.
- The show is sci-fi at its core because show creator Ryan Condal wanted to do a true Orwellian science fiction show. “The more you remove the audience from this happening tomorrow, the more willing they are to buy into all of the metaphor and allegory that you want to immerse them into. They’re more likely to eat their vegetables and enjoy it. If this was an invasion by Cold War soldiers, it becomes all about politics and things that I wasn’t particularly interested in. I was more interested in the human condition of stuff, being under colonization and occupation and seeing what happens to people.”
- The tradition of sci-fi storytelling allows them to explore some themes on a deeper level than they could, if they were a straight drama. Said Sarah Wayne Callies, “Science fiction has a long tradition of allowing us to ask questions that are too dangerous or too uncomfortable. If you take that out of it, this becomes an ethnic or a cultural issue. But if you take it to the species level, there is the potential for human beings to go, ‘Oh, my god, wait a minute! We’re all totally the same! These people that came from outside are legitimately different.’ At a moment when people have the opportunity to go, ‘We’re humans, one for all and all for one,’ there are people going, ‘I can make money on this.’ That’s a harder story to explore, if the people who show up are Columbus.”
- The show typically shoots 10-hour days with two to three cameras at once in a documentary style that feels more grounded. The viscerality of the show comes from it being in the character’s POV.
- The pilot was shot in a house in Century City that was used for the Bowman residence. That house has since been recreated inside of a soundstage.
Much like previous shows that Carlton Cuse has executive produced, the actors are not given a lot of information about where things are headed. Said Josh Holloway, “We don’t know a lot. There are a lot of mysteries out there. We’ve been colonized for almost a year, so we’ve fallen into the routine of what that is. So, things like cell phones, and all that, are cut off, and we don’t know what’s happening outside of the Los Angeles block. There is a little information that’s given out, throughout this first season, that would indicate they have some contact some places, but not a lot. The beauty of the show is that we’re learning, as well, and we’re on this journey. My character, being forced to work for the occupation, is also looking for information.”
- The Bowmans were a tight-knit family who are now keeping secrets from each other, seemingly for their own good, which puts tension on them. Said Holloway, “It’s difficult. That’s why I love this story. [Will and Katie] have true love, had children, and understand a long-term relationship and the ups and downs of marriage. They have a core love for each other, but they’re damaged. They lost a child. Most families that lose a child statistically don’t stay together. 85% of them split.” Added Callies, “I really think they do believe in each other. Katie believes she’s married to a good man, and that he’s the only man she’d ever want to be married to. But when your philosophies start to come at right angles to each other, I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing more dangerous than lies. They’re trying to protect each other by keeping things from one another because we’re in a world where information can be lethal currency. But you can only do that for so long before you notice that you’ve stopped looking each other in the eye, and that gets uncomfortable. I believe in them, though.”
- Will Bowman (Holloway) is trying to do what he thinks is best for his family, but he also has unique access to information that could work to his benefit. Said Holloway, “He’s being forced to work for something he doesn’t believe in, in order to save his children. That’s not really a choice, in my book. Throughout the season and throughout this journey, he’s trying to validate why he’s doing this and rationalize why he’s going against what he believes in. It’s very cut-and-dry and simple for him because it’s for his son, and ultimately maybe for the human race.”
- For Will, it’s all about self-preservation because he’s in shifting sands when it comes to dealing with the new government. He is tied to the proxy governor that he made a deal with, but that’s ever-evolving. He knows that, going in, but does his best to play the hand he’s got.
Katie Bowman (Callies) is a strong woman who can hold her own and defend her family. Said Callies, “She’s wonderful. What I love is that nobody has ever asked me to abandon her femininity or her emotionality, in order to be strong. There’s a trope of a strong woman, running around with boots and guns, screaming at people, and getting up in people’s faces, that was really useful for a certain point in our storytelling evolution. But I think it’s possible that there’s a step beyond that, as well. There is a woman’s way to be strong that does not necessarily involve knocking someone out. I’d lose a fight with a guy who’s 5’2.” In my mind, I walk around thinking I look like Dwayne Johnson and I’m that strong. Mirrors are such a catastrophe for me. However, realistically, there has to be another way. I think there’s something specifically really useful about the idea of Katie as somebody who has the South in her bones. There is a way that Southern women get you to agree to something before you realize you’ve been asked, and that’s really fascinating for me. The tough stuff is awesome, but surrounding that is a character who’s rooted in an emotional integrity and a vulnerability that’s cool.”
- Neither Will nor Katie are under the delusion that everything will go back to normal soon, like the Proxy is trying to sell them will happen. Things are still at the point where there’s just no winning, and they don’t know exactly what they can do to make themselves safe because they don’t know how pervasive things are around the rest of the world.
- Katie’s bar, The Yonk, has a very rustic vibe and feels like something you’d find in Silverlake or even New Orleans. The bar taps work and real bands come in to play live, like Long Beach natives The Romany Rye, who were performing on the day of the set visit.
- For Holloway, this show feels similar to the origins of Lost, in the way the story is blossoming and how urgently he wants to read the next episode to learn about what’s going on because this is big storytelling that feels like it’s just getting started. For Callies, it’s the opposite of The Walking Dead because the apocalypse is chaos, where occupation is hyper-organization. There’s a completely different psychology that puts you in a very different place.
Colony airs on the USA Network on Thursday nights, starting January 14th.