Colony is back and the world of occupied Los Angeles is only going to get bigger. We’re going to see Santa Monica this season and a harsher crackdown on Los Angeles with new leaders installed by the Raps.
For all the ground Colony covers, they get most of it done in one place. We visited the set of Colony where creator Ryan Condal and cast members Josh Holloway, Sarah Wayne Callies, and Tory Kittles showed us how they make the show. Here are 10 cool things we learned from them behind the scenes of Colony.
1. They’ve Moved To Universal
Season one of Colony filmed at CBS Studio Center on Radford Ave., which is a legendary location of sitcoms like Seinfeld and Gilligan’s Island. Universal Studios gave Colony more room and you’ll see it on screen. So, expect more outdoor scenes and vaster interiors.
“We were definitely able to take advantage of that and write to things that we had on the set,” Condal said. “We were much freer to write, ‘Ext. Street - Day’ because we knew we could dress the backlot and do it, whereas it’s not this location where you need traffic control to shut down the streets and all that fun stuff. We were on CBS Radford last year which has a lot of sitcom stages which are shorter, narrower stages that don’t have these big open ceilings that we have here.”
2. Sarah Wayne Callies Is A Sci-Fi Fan
You wouldn’t have to be a science fiction fan to do well on Colony, since the focus of the story is the people living under occupation. But for Callies, making a show about aliens fulfilled a fangirl dream.
“I’ve always been in love with science fiction,” she said. “I guess I was born into the middle of the Star Wars generation. We watched Star Trek every week in my house. I thought the first season of Battlestar Galactica was one of the smartest conversations anyone had anywhere about the U.S. PATRIOT Act. I’ve always wanted to be a part of science-fiction. This is something I come to as much as a fan as I do anything else. So this is a job where several times a day I look around and go, ‘This is so f***ing cool!’ It’s exciting.”
3. There Are Secret Portholes In The Bowman House
Will and Katie’s house was built on a soundstage. To accommodate multiple camera angles, they hid portholes in cabinets and behind objects that can be opened if they need to stick a camera in there. That was actually director Juan Campanella’s idea when they built the set.
“[Campanella] had a lot of soap [opera] experience from Argentina,” Condal said. “They had to shoot these shows where they were shooting like six episodes a week. It meant moving really fast and everything was on stage but they made all the sets basically wild, so you could pull our sections of the set and open these little portholes. So in cabinets and behind the refrigerator are these hidden portholes. Very quickly based on the staging of the scene, we can just move things around and then cameras can get in basically anywhere on the set so you can quickly cover the scene.”
4. The Bowman House Got Bigger Between Episodes 101 and 102
Your eyes aren’t deceiving you. If you noticed the Bowman household get a little more spacious after the first episode of Colony, you’re right. The series premiere used a real house on location, but when they built the interior in the studio for the series, they gave themselves more room.
“There was a house in Century City that we used for the Bowman house location,” Condal said. “If you re-watch the pilot and watch subsequently, you’ll see the house got slightly bigger. We reconstructed the inside and sort of idealized it and created this room which did not exist in the pilot, just cheated some movie magic stuff. This house has an upstairs. If you go to the actual location, it’s a ranch house.”
5. Josh and Sarah Relate To Will And Katie
Both Holloway and Callies have done fantastical shows. Holloway played a survivor on a magical island on Lost, and Callies played a mother in the zombie apocalypse on The Walking Dead. Even though Colony is about aliens, Katie is real to Callies.
“Personally I think this is far closer to home than any character I’ve ever played, which sometimes makes it frightening,” she said. “I feel more exposed sometimes personally, but I’m constantly the idiot that these two will tell you just cannot walk away from a fight. Cannot keep my mouth shut when I really ought to. I’m not particularly well equipped to sort of ‘Yes sir, yes ma’am,’ do what I’m told. So it’s kind of fun to be playing someone who starts off taking arms against a sea of troubles.”
Holloway relates to Will doing something he doesn’t agree with, in this case working for the Raps, to save his kids. “I’d do anything for my children and if that meant I had to work for something I hated and despised and tainted my soul, I would still do it to save my children,” Holloway said. “I’d do anything to save my children. Ultimately though, if the world was going to hell and they weren’t going to be saved anyway, then I’d kill everybody on the way down. If I have a chance to save my family, I would, personally.”
6. Colony Takes a Toll On Josh
Holloway admits that the really intense scenes of Colony stay with him. But he also knows that that means they’re really truthful.
“You go home angry and wanting to fight for something, anything,” Holloway said. “When you’re going home with it and it’s affecting you like that, then you know you’ve got something. Then that’s good writing. This forces you to feel it.”
Part of it also is being a father in real life. When Will is desperate to protect his children, Holloway knows what that feels like. “I think just having children makes it so easy to access those emotions that happen when your family’s in danger,” Holloway said. “Before I had children, I could make myself have those feelings and those stakes, but now I don’t even have to. It’s just there. Going home, seeing that they’re all okay helps you get out of it.”
7. Sarah And Tory Use Music To Relax
Everyone has intense scenes on Colony. Callies and Kittles are no exception. Both use music but for different reasons. For Callies, it gets her into character.
“I have whole characters that I can credit to Metallica, Guns N’ Roses and Goodie Mob,” Callies said. “The scene that we had last season where Will brings a photograph of Charlie to Katie for the first time and it’s the end of a long day and they’re exhausted, we shot that scene at 6 in the morning. I was like, 'I couldn’t tell you my middle name at this hour.' A lot of that gets fueled by music, but again a lot of that gets fueled by 'I’m going to look at him and I’m going to pull what I need out of him,' and hopefully what the music does is give me enough that he can pull what he needs out of me. I think we act for each other.”
Kittles uses music -- very different music -- to relax after work. “After I leave the set, it’s on to other things,” Kittles said. “Just staying in the moment, living in that moment, and being able to just let it go. Turn on the classical music, listen to some James Horner or something. I like to listen to scores on the way home, like John Williams, movie scores. Broussard is here and then I’m riding home thinking I’m Indiana Jones. “
8. There’s a New Production Designer
Season two brought Maria Caso on to design the new sets and redress some of the standing sets. If you notice the difference, that’s thanks to her experience and ability to create on the fly.
“She’s like the MacGyver of production design,” Condal said. “Give her a shoelace and a piece of bubblegum and she can turn it into anything. She was an art director on the original Terminator so she goes way back in the sci-fi genre world.”
9. Colony Uses Swing Sets, But Not Like a Playground
There are some sets that appear in almost every episode of Colony, so they are permanent. If there’s an episode or two that visit a certain room, and then you never see that room again, there are sets designed for quick turnaround. Those are “swing sets” and can be turned into something new from week to week.
“As the season evolves, we’ll find we need this new stage space, or we’re going to be playing in this area for two or three episodes,” Condal explained. “So we’ll build what we call 'swing sets,' which are just using the footprint of the floor that we have to very quickly build something to shoot in it. Then we tear it down, fold it up, move it away, and build something else.”
10. The Cast Watches the Show
If you’re wondering where Josh Holloway and Tory Kittles are on Thursday nights at 10 p.m., now you know they’re watching Colony just like you. Although Holloway can only watch an episode once.
“I watch it but I only watch them once,” Holloway said. “I watch them when they air on game night and that’s pretty much it. Same with everything I’m in. I only watch it once. I can’t watch myself twice. I’ve seen all of Lost only once, except for the pilot that they shove down your throat. Like 35 times they played that damn thing. It was awesome but so it helps. You know what it helps? Playback in an action scene. Because then you can at least go, ‘Let me fix that. I can fix that.’ When you’re doing stuff wild, you can tweak it. That’s handy. Other than that, I don’t like really watching. I don’t watch it to see my character’s progression. That’s already happening when you’re doing it so you know where you’re at.”
You probably know Kittles is watching live because he’s also tweeting about it, as is Peter Jacobson. “I watch because I live tweet,” Kittles said. “Myself and Peter Jacobson were at war all of last season so we had a twitter war every time the show aired. I haven’t really seen Peter this season so I don’t really know if we’re going to continue that. I’ll find ways. I’ll find a way.”
Speaking of tweeting, follow along with the cast of Colony, when they live-tweet the season two premiere on Thursday, 1/12, at 10p/9c on USA Network! For updates, check out ColonyUSA on Twitter!