When "Lost" began in 2004, it was instantly a major hit for ABC. It also made stars of Josh Holloway, one of its leads, and Carlton Cuse, one of its Executive Producers and a co-showrunner along with Damon Lindelof. This January, Cuse and Holloway are reuniting along with co-creator Ryan Condal for "Colony," a new USA drama about an occupied Los Angeles and one family's struggle to survive -- and liberate their fellow citizens.
At New York Comic Con, Holloway, Cuse and Condal spoke with CBR TV's Jonah Weiland about their new series, how much they have figured out in terms of the series' overall arc, keeping its stars in the dark, and why Los Angeles made sense for a show about divided ideologies.
In the first part of the conversation, Cuse, Condal and Holloway discuss setting their new show in Los Angeles, then explain the series' plot, the theme of colonization and the big mystery of the show.
On the premise of "Colony":
Carlton Cuse: I think we've seen a lot of alien invasion shows and that was not our intention. Our intention was really to show what life was under occupation or colonization. The -- really the metaphor for us was Paris in World War II, when you had -- you know -- fashionable people sitting in sidewalk cafés, drinking espressos, with Nazi stormtroopers going by on the street.
On the dividing walls prominently featured in the series:
Cuse: It's one of the big mysteries of the show, which is, "why -- why do they have everybody kind of penned in with these walls?" So there's a -- in the Los Angeles colony, we discover very early in the show that there are three blocks. There's a Santa Monica block, an L.A. block, and ... there's also a San Fernando Valley block ... "But why are people enclosed? What are they doing?" Like, the thing about the show is we don't know more than what the characters do, so we're sort of with, you know, Josh's character and Sarah Wayne Callies' character ... We only see the world through their eyes. And we're -- it's unfolding and we're discovering things as they're discovering things. And the people that are living there don't really know what happened either really. They know that this mysterious invading force came down. It took over their city. They're kind of penned in by these walls, but they're not really quite sure what the larger goal is.
In the second part of their conversation, Condal, Cuse and Holloway talk about building the world of "Colony" over time, the drama between the characters and their many secrets and how viewers will experience the show as it unfolds. They also get into just how much the cast is kept in the dark when it comes to plot details and why exactly they set the show in Los Angeles.
On how far out the show is already planned:
Cuse: We have a lot figured out. Ryan and I have been working on this for two years, so that's given us a lot of time to really create the world and build it out. There's a lot under the water and the iceberg and I would say we have a pretty good handle on that. Of course, you know, as you make a show and you do things you learn as you go along and you continue to embellish and add. The creative process doesn't just happen at once, it happens continually over time, so I'm sure there will be new stuff that comes up. But the basic foundations of what's going on, absolutely we have that figured out.
Ryan Condal: I think the fun of the show is that the characters that we live with day-to-day that are living in Occupied Los Angeles are very much in the same position that you are as the audience. They have a lot of secrets, personal secrets, that they themselves kept that keeps the character drama interesting in terms of the personal drama. As far as the world around them goes, they're learning about it really at the same time the audience is. It's almost like a video game in that sense where you are experiencing the the story through the point of view of the characters that you're following. It's not like they know all the secrets and you're being kept on the outside. You get to learn as they do.
On whether the showrunners are keeping the actors in the dark about the larger mystery.
Josh Holloway: What do you mean? I'm working with Carlton. [Laughter] That's the way it goes.
Cuse: It's actually good. It was something that we discovered on "Lost," I think that if the actors kind of don't know what's going on it's actually helpful because you see they're really present. You're not anticipating or playing something you haven't seen.
Holloway: Exactly. You're never playing the result because you don't know the result. I love that, and luckily I've worked with Carlton long enough that I'm trained that way. Now you give me a script too early and I'm like, "Oh no... I don't want to see that." I want to see it when the pressure cooker's on. I gotta know it like within ten minutes. ... But it's fantastic and I do agree with Carlton in that it keeps us present and discovering. And also with the writing, it's wonderful to work with writers that are agile, that yes, they have the structure figured out but they're willing and able to adjust to you as a person or other characters that come along, make it more personal to that person. They're unafraid and they're agile, and that's creativity.
On setting the show in Los Angeles:
Cuse: Well, the Los Angeles -- from what we see now -- the block is circumscribed by the 405 freeway, the 10 freeway and the 110 freeway. We got Griffith Park in there too, but -- so that's the part we're mainly focused on. No, I mean, Los Angeles is a huge character in the show and it was really important to us that we shoot the show there. ... I think we've seen a lot of dystopic worlds that are really dark and gritty. We wanted to do one with, you know, palm trees and blue sky, and kind of have the environment seem benign, even if what was going on underneath it was anything but benign.