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SPOILER ALERT: The following interview contains spoilers for “Blind Spot,” last week’s episode of “Colony.”
“Colony” is not your typical sci-fi tale in which mankind bands together to rise up against alien invaders. Instead, the USA Network’s espionage thriller unfolds after the extraterrestrials have already taken over the planet. Set in a near future Los Angeles, the Colony Transitional Authority, a human military organization serving the aliens, keeps fellow survivors in check in exchange for luxuries and power. When former FBI Special Agent Will Bowman (Josh Holloway) gets recruited by the Authority to hunt down the Resistance, he reluctantly agrees in order to keep his family safe and find his missing son. However, Will has no clue his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Callies) is a member of the extreme freedom fighters — or, that their worlds are about to collide.
Ahead of tonight’s all-new episode, “Geronimo,” executive producer Ryan Condal spoke with Spinoff Online about the fallout from last week’s shocking death, Katie’s conflicted allegiance and laying the groundwork for Season Two.
Spinoff Online: I want to talk about what happened in last week’s episode, but congratulations on getting a Season Two pickup after just four episodes have aired. How gratifying does it feel to get that early vote of confidence?
Ryan Condal: It’s great. It’s exhausting. We were told at TCAs this year that there were 411 scripted shows on American stations within the last 12 months. It’s such a staggering number. You just massage your temples thinking about it and “How on Earth am I going to hook an audience in that kind of environment?” With “Colony,” we don’t have the Marvel branding or anything like that to draw in an audience. All we have is hopefully an original story that was built directly for television, with a great cast, and the reunion of Josh Holloway and Carlton Cuse from “Lost.”
Other than that, we really felt like, “Are we going to be able to find an audience as well?” To be able to do it, and to be able to do it so early in the show’s run, really speaks a lot to the product we put out and the way our partners at USA, NBC Universal and Legendary promoted the show. Obviously, audiences have discovered it and found their way to us.
Turning to last week’s episode, “Blind Spot,” it ended with the shocking murder of Homeland Security boss Phyllis, played by Kathy Baker. What was the rationale behind bumping her off?
It was actually built into the DNA of the character. As we created her, we had this idea of, “Okay, we’re going to set the stage here with Will being tricked or duped into thinking he was probably going to be in charge of this group. Lo and behold, there’s this mysterious character named Phyllis, who has this enigmatic background, as well as enigmatic philosophies and ideas about the Resistance and the Collaboration. We’re going to set it up and make you think that the show is going in one direction. Then, we’re going to totally upend it and create a power vacuum and see where that takes the story.”
A lot of people are upset over her death, which I think is great. It speaks to Kathy Baker, who played the role and what a terrific job she did in such a short amount of time. She wasn’t even in the pilot, so it was just in three episodes that she managed to hook and intrigue people. When an audience is pissed off at you for killing a character, most of the time as a writer, you’ve really done your job. You made someone compelling that people cared about. It paves the way for great things to come.
In what ways do Peter Jacobson’s Proxy Snider , the Redhats and the Colony Transitional Authority begin to crack down as a result of Phyllis’ demise?
A lot of that will be seen as it comes along. One of the ideas that we’re really fascinated with this season was seeing a nascent, totalitarian government because it gave us someplace to go. I don’t think anybody would disagree that the setting that we’re representing in “Colony” is less desirable than the current setting for those of us who live in Los Angeles, short of the traffic situation. I think everybody would agree they would take that in a heartbeat. It’s not good living [in “Colony”], but that does not mean the Transitional Authority is fully formed and operational in terms of their ability to control through Draconian Law.
Those ideas will all develop as the show evolves. Proxy Snider has presented himself as trying to create an environment where they don’t have to rule with an iron fist. People have what they need and are generally kept fed, are clothed and they have work. The buses run on time. He’s trying to run the block that way, but, as we see, and will continue to see, that is not working particularly effectively for him. That means darker days are to come on the block. We really wanted to explore that with the audience.
Phyllis’ death also leaves the Authority vulnerable. How does the Resistance take advantage of that?
That’s the main story for the Resistance over the course of the rest of the season. That will be played out in a satisfying manner to people who are asking questions. But, that would fall into the realm of keep watching and hopefully you will find those answers.
While Katie sides with the Resistance, she’s not always completely comfortable with their tactics. How will her loyalties continue to be tested?
They will be tested in a big way. Katie’s character arc, her story in the first season, there are a lot of things going on in her life. Sarah Wayne Callies is doing a tremendous job nuancing her performance and letting us see this human character who has made an ideological decision. She’s dealing with the push-pull consequences of that in every episode. We’re really fascinated with a character who has this romantic idealism. Katie is a mother and she’s a bartender. She’s obviously tough, but she’s not a soldier. She’s not this hardened killer, who Broussard apparently is. She’s a person with an ideology about what is right and what is wrong.
She is living as a cipher for the audience to see the Resistance is not the movement who only does good things. They don’t harm the innocent — when it’s not necessary. There are some brutal choices that need to be made to be a part of these movements.
Katie made the Resistance leaders promise that Will and her family are not to be harmed. However, both factions will obviously clash at some point. Will that be the true deciding factor for Katie?
That remains to be seen. The fun of watching Katie go through this experience is seeing someone who has made a choice. Will made a choice in Episode 1 specifically for his family. He sacrificed his own personal ideology for the good of his family. Katie also made a choice in Episode 1 that could arguably be the polar opposite, which is she sacrificed her family’s health and well-being for her ideology. But it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Will’s instincts have served him well. In what ways do you play with whether he suspects Katie is up to something and what he would do with that knowledge?
That is the core drama for the show. The core dramatic question that Carlton and I wanted to set out this season was, “What will happen when Will finds out that Katie is fighting in the Resistance?” We plan, in our own way, to explore that question fully through the course of the first season. That’s the main thematic question that we’re interested in chasing. It’s not, “Where are the aliens and why are they here? Who is the Resistance?” It’s the question about our two central characters and this dynamic that we’ve set up. We plan on playing that out and shaking up the story and seeing where that takes us in Season Two and beyond.
Tonight’s episode, “Geronimo,” and next week’s “Yoknapatawpha” are big game-changers. What can you tease about what goes down and how it propels the characters forward for the remainder of the season?
What’s happening is following Phyllis’ death, the story really gets put onto a single lane, which is the conflict between Will and his unit — and what he is now effectively left in charge of — and the movement Katie is involved with, this specific Resistance cell. There are multiple cells in Los Angeles. The core Resistance cell causing problems for Proxy Snider, The Transitional Authority and for Will, is the cell that Katie has gotten involved with. We’re going to see over Episodes 5, 6 and then through the end of the season, those two movements come into a collision course with each other. That’s going to be the central spine of the storytelling. We think it pays off in a really good and satisfying way that sets up the show for Season Two.
“Colony” airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. on USA.