Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies are no strangers to TV of a certain genre. And for their new series Colony, premiering Thursday, Jan. 14 on USA, the Lost and The Walking Dead alums are sticking to what they know.
Set in the near future, the series, from executive producers Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal (Hercules), follows former FBI agent Will Bowman (Holloway) and his wife Katie (Callies) as they navigate life in a Los Angeles that's become occupied by ... something. After being separated from their son during the invasion, Will is made an offer by a powerful man with ties to the occupational government: Help us and we'll help you get your son back. As the season progresses, the Bowmans will be forced to make impossible choices for the sake of their family, taking us along for the wild ride.
And true to form for those involved, things will never be as they seem.
"True to Carlton's type of show and now, Ryan, we don't know a lot," Holloway tells a handful of reporters during a visit to the set. "There are a lot of mysteries out there. We've been colonized for about a year, so we've fallen into the routine of what that is. But things like cell phones and all that are cut off, so we don't know what is happening outside the L.A. block...But that's the beauty of the show, too. We're learning as well, and we're on this journey of my character being forced to work with the occupation [while] also looking for information. What the hell? Who the hell? And how the hell?"
Nothing in this L.A. is as it seems. The first thing you notice? No cars, just bikes. "It's the clearest way of oppression. You've pretty much cut their legs off," Holloway explains, with Callies adding, "In a way, it's such a quick way to tell the audience, we may be in Kansas, but this is not the Kansas you're thinking of."
Occupied Los Angeles has been broken up into three blocks: the San Fernando Valley Block, the Santa Monica Block, and the Hollywood Block. (Sorry, Downtown L.A., it's curtains for you!) Cuse and Condal made use of the natural border lines of the region's freeways to divvy up L.A. and thought back to Nazi-occupied France to create a place that could act as a parable for some heavy real-world issues.
"I think science fiction has a long and extraordinary tradition of allowing us to ask questions that would be either too dangerous or uncomfortable," Callies says. Holloway interjects: "Or current."
"Yeah. That would feel like the news," Callies continues. "If you want to watch CNN, you can watch CNN...I think the first season of Battlestar Galactica was the most interesting discussion on the Patriot Act anywhere. And we have an opportunity with this show to explore what's the genesis of insurgency...I think it's great to take any sense of human nationalism out of that because then it becomes an ethnic or cultural issue. If you take it to the species level, then there is the potential for human being to go 'Oh my god, wait a minute, we're all totally the same!' That's a harder story to explore if the people who show up in the ships are Columbus."
Cut off from the world, the people of Occupied Los Angeles are being subjugated by a ruling force they've never seen—something that Callies admits makes the threat all the more powerful. "I think it's more frightening," she says. "If you don't know what the monster is that's behind your door, it's hard to figure out what you need to do to make yourself safe."
So how does their new gig stack up against their prior hits? For Holloway, the re-team with Cuse feels a bit like going home. "It feels, to me, similar. This feels like similar origins of Lost as in the way the story is just blossoming and as soon as I finish reading one episode, I'm like, 'Where's the next one? F--k! I need to know what's going on,'" he says. "You read enough in this town. I'm no critic of the best material in the world, but I have a sense of when things are really good and when they're OK…and this is definitely the other. It feels like big storytelling that's just getting started"
As for Callies, Colony represents an opportunity to do something entirely new. "It's cool for me because it's the opposite of The Walking Dead, right? Apocalypse is chaos and occupation is hyper-organization, and so it's a totally different world for me, which was a big part of wanting to do it," she says. "Going from one end of the spectrum, this sort of free-for-all and a bad guy force that's completely unorganized and terrifying for that reason, but also something around which you can organize yourself and make a plan, to a world in which...they're hyper-organized and we're completely under their thumb. I think there's just a completely different psychology.
"It puts me in a very different place, but I agree with Josh. It's the material that makes you feel something, and it's not always that way," she continues. "It's wonderful. It's a gift to be able to wake up every day and go, ' love this. I believe in this. I'm proud of this.' That doesn't happen often."
Colony premieres Thursday, Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. on USA.
(E! and USA are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)