"Colony" showrunners Carlton Cuse ("Lost") and Ryan Condal ("Hercules") joined actors Josh Holloway ("Lost"), Sarah Wayne Callies ("The Walking Dead") and Peter Jacobson ("House") at Comic-Con International in San Diego to speak with reporters about the new USA Network television series. Cuse and company kept many details of the series under wraps but dished on the origin of the show and the characters.
"Colony" follows a husband and wife struggling to survive in a futuristic and occupied Los Angeles. The city, which has been captured by a mysterious invading force, is surrounded by a massive wall and ruled by a martial force. Holloway plays a former FBI agent who comes into conflict with his wife, played by Callies, about how best to continue their lives under these extreme circumstances
Cuse and Condal came up with the germ for the show while working on the pilot for "The Sixth Gun," a pilot that ultimately did not get picked up. A picture of life in Nazi-held Paris during the Vichy Regime in World War II gave them the creative spark to get started on "Colony."
"We looked at these pictures of Parisians sitting in nice clothes on sidewalk cafes drinking espressos while Nazi storm troopers were going by and we thought, 'Wow, that's really interesting,'" said Cuse. "The incongruity of people's efforts to maintain the normalcy of their lives under these extraordinary circumstances and under this repressive regime. Could we take this idea and translate into a contemporary world?"
Callies interpreted the modern meaning of the story. "What's the difference between a patriot and a freedom fighter?" asked Callies. "They're using this as an opportunity to ask complicated questions."
The Los Angeles in "Colony," however, is not the same as the present city. As Cuse put it, the city is also not a traditional dystopian setting. "Los Angeles has survived [the invasion and occupation] in a lot of ways intact. There's still palm trees and 90% of the structures are still there," he said. Cuse and Condal also promise that the Los Angeles' character is central to the plot. "We are very conscious of the actual specific characteristics of Los Angeles," said Cuse. "Also the fact that Los Angeles is an incredible cultural polyglot."
Casting the city of Los Angeles only brought Condal and Cuse part way to their goal; they also focused on the right lead actors. "We talked a lot about it being Josh when we were developing it," said Cuse. The writers were fortunate that Holloway was available.
Condal says that Holloway's character in "Colony" shows a softer side of the actor, who is best known for his portrayal of Sawyer in "Lost." In the new USA series, Holloway gets to play a committed family man who has to make tough choices to keep his wife and family safe. Those choices, ultimately, drive a wedge between the husband and wife.
Holloway promises that the husband and wife are very much in love, but that their conflicting ideologies put stress on their relationship. "This is a couple that found true love. They've been together a long time," said Holloway. "They're damaged and complex, yet they're fighting for their union.
Callies took it a step farther and asked, "At what point does a divergent ideology become a kind of infidelity?" The couple's approach to their circumstances and their missing middle son raise serious questions about the nature of their marriage.
While none of the cast or creators would go into detail about the type of force that has captured Los Angeles, they did admit that at least one of the forces opposing Holloway and Callies was obvious -- and he's played by Peter Jacobson. The actor plays a local Los Angeleno drafted into the cause of the colonizers. His character will butt heads with Holloway. "The most interesting villains to us are the humans that have decided to collaborate," said Condal. "The things that fascinated us were the Vichy and the French," as opposed to the Nazi Party during World War II.
"I'm hoping to project, and I know the writers are hoping to project, a character we know is on the bad side that has a lot of different factors pushing him," said Jacobson. "What would you do if all of a sudden you were presented with circumstances way beyond anything you'd ever imagined?" He pictures his character as a middle school vice principal that found himself in a remarkable position after the invasion and made choices that aligned him with the colonizers and, perhaps, against the average citizen.
But just what is this invading force? Viewers will have to wait a little while to figure it out once the show gets going. Holloway admires the writers for patiently unfolding the story. For their part, Condal and Cuse were more interested in the emotional legacy of the invasion than actually depicting the battle on screen. That said, evidence of occupation is everywhere in the show's visual aesthetic.
When asked about working under mysterious circumstances in intrigue-shaped worlds such as "Lost," Holloway said, "I prefer it that way."
"Colony" premieres on the USA Network on Thursday, Jan. 14 at 10/9c.