Colony Season 3 Ryan Condal Interview

Hey, are you watching Colony? The USA Network sci-fi series is heading into its third season. It’s an alien invasion show but not about creatures attacking humans. Actually, the aliens, the Raps, get humans to do all their dirty work. It’s about the people living under Rap occupation, walled into the city of L.A.

Will (Josh Holloway) and Katie Bowman (Sarah Wayne Callies) were leaders of the resistance, often undercover working security for Raps. At the end of season two, they escaped the L.A. block with their family, and former collaborator Snyder (Peter Jacobson) tagging along. Resistance hero Broussard (Tory Kittles) stayed behind to fight.

Ryan Condal, who created Colony with Carlton Cuse and runs the show with Wes Tooke, spoke with /Film by phone ahead of the third season premiere (premiering May 2 and airing Wednesdays on USA). Condal talked about what’s ahead on Colony, but he also addressed some other projects he has in the works, like a Highlander reboot on the horizon, as well as a Conan streaming series for Amazon.

Ryan Condal Talks Colony Season 3

How did you get Sunset Blvd. by the Chateau Marmont empty?

You ready? That’s a digital effect. It’s an incredible digital effect. It’s a plate that we shot early on a Saturday or Sunday morning right at sunrise, got the permit to stand out in the middle of the street with a camera. Tory walking on a lighting matched day in Vancouver with green screens on either side of him. Incredibly put together. Originally I was insisting on doing it the Kubrick way which is we’re going to do it practical and we’re going to shut down the city. It would’ve been hundreds of thousands of dollars to do it that way. This was the next best thing. They assured me it would work and it would be seamless and you wouldn’t know. All that swirling garbage and the billboards and detritus is all digitally augmented, not created but augmented onto the plate shot.

Did you know about the Raps’ enemy and their plan for the humans back in season one?

Yes, we knew that before we wrote the pilot. That was always in the plan. The show draws on a lot of metaphors and analogues to human history. We were very interested particularly in World War II allegory. Everybody thinks of World War II as the Germans vs. everybody else or Germans and the Japanese vs. everybody else. It was actually much more complicated than that. The U.S. and also the United Kingdom had to enter into a very uncomfortable alliance with Russia to accomplish much of what they did against the Nazis. The 50-year Cold War that followed that was a result of a lot of policies and choices made there. We were really interested in this idea of where humanity in this story is basically Poland. It’s stuck on the ground in the middle. It’s a contested territory between two much larger, much more powerful superpowers. If you imagine a farmer in Poland at the time wouldn’t have had access to international news, not really understanding his role in the greater order of world politics, just feeling caught between two sides. A lot of Poles and people in the territories between Hitler’s expanding empire and Stalin’s territories were forced to try to pick the lesser of two evils. Who would you want to side with? Who do you think is going to win the war? Who do you think is going to oppress and make you less miserable? We liked that as a layer of complication for our story where humans are really just pawns stuck in a much larger game that they do not understand, they don’t have the capacity to understand.

If there is another species, I know you don’t want to do the space battle show, so how do you avoid turning into that?

We definitely do not. First of all, just practically, we’re making a show on basic cable. With that comes certain limitations, but I think those limitations are a good thing because it forces you to tell character story. Colony is a show that has always been very set in a specific POV. The POVs in the show are our core cast of characters who are all human. So the interesting thing to do when faced with a war between these two great superpowers is to see what’s going on with the humans who are stuck on the ground in the middle of everything. We won’t necessarily see a space war a la Return of the Jedi, but you will see humans reacting to the effects of this conflict and how it’s affecting them.

I pointed to Poland and we can talk about the Solomon Islands during World War II, an occupied territory being relatively primitive people being trapped between the conflict between these super powers and had never even seen a powerboat before probably and they’re suddenly seeing battleships and destroyers on their coast. It must’ve seemed like an alien invasion to them. That, to me, is the parallel that we’re drawing here and we’re really interested in telling a story about the people who are stuck in the middle of all of it. I’ve always been interested in just how really futile, this is not a spoiler for the series, but there’s no version of the series ending with Josh Holloway walking up to the Supreme High Commander of the alien military and killing him and claiming a triumph for humanity. That’s just not what the show is. The show is not going to end with humanity triumphantly throwing off the shackles of an alien occupation. That’s just not realistic. What we’re interested in is the choices humanity makes faced with these really insurmountable odds. Is there any point to resistance at all when this is what you’re facing. How do you react? Do you lay down and take your lumps? Do you fight right to the very end just to say that you did? Do you side with the other side? Do you run? Those are the choices we’ve always been interested in seeing our characters make and that’ll continue even as things get much worse.

Could that battle come to pass this season?


Sarah jokes about being killed off in season three of every show she’s been on. Are you going to take her up on that tradition?

I’m quite familiar with Sarah’s qualms with her other show runners. Look, no one is safe in Colony. I will tell you that not everybody that begins this season makes it to the end, as is usually the case in the show. Sarah’s a critical key part of the show but we’ve also been very unflinching in people coming to a very abrupt end in our show. So I think everybody should tune in every week and know that no one is ever really safe.

I think we hope this one breaks her tradition.

[Laughs] Well, I would be honored to be able to do that, so we’ll see. We made her a director though, which was definitely a first.

Which episode is her’s?

She directs episode nine, a ways off, but she did a really great job. I think it’s really one of the best episodes of the series. I think fans of the series will quite enjoy it. It’s based around a lot of things that I think our show does very well.

Is that one that she’s in less, to accommodate directing?

Yes, without saying anything else.

Colony Season 3

Has Colony become a different show being outside the city in the woods?

Yeah, as you know the show physically moved this year. We were shooting in Los Angeles for the first two seasons up in the San Fernando Valley. This year we moved up to Vancouver to take advantage of the rebate. Ever expanding costs of the show were just becoming very untenable. We just had very little discretionary money to use from episode to episode so we went to Vancouver. You get kind of a double edged relief by moving up to Canada. One, you get to take advantage of the production rebate for shooting there. The second is you get to take advantage of the very favorable exchange rate between the U.S. and Canadian dollar because you’re spending U.S. dollars obviously up in Canada. It just meant that we were able to do a lot more but it also meant that the show changed a lot.

You’ve seen the show looks different and it’s not just because we’re outside the walls. It’s because the light up in Vancouver is just much different. The atmosphere is different. It’s wet, it’s foggy, it’s very noir. After 23 episodes of Los Angeles, changing the look of the show and putting us in an environment that, I think, leans into the dystopian milieu of the series. The light, the mist, [and] the cold up in Vancouver, really change the look and feel of the show. We don’t have the warm tones and the color. A little bit of the way the show is shot has shifted a little bit and you feel the scope of it much more because we’re able to get out into the wild, into these crazy beautiful Pacific Northwest landscapes. It also feels much more hopeless than it probably has before. This is the darkest season we’ve made to date so it all fit in very nicely, but I was very cold.

As you see in the show, we’re going to own the move. We’re not going to be one of these shows that goes to Vancouver and pretends that we’re shooting in Los Angeles. Vancouver can stand in for a lot of places, which is why people shoot there but it cannot stand in for Southern California. There’s just not enough sun. The light is different. There are no palm trees. You have to go basically three hours outside of the city to this place called Kamloops which is very beautiful, very wild, very remote to get a look with any kind of sand or desert plants. We did that for Tory’s story because there was a little carryover there, but the show moved. The story moved with the production and we took advantage of it. We’ve always said this is a worldwide occupation and we thought it was really interesting to be given the chance by circumstance to tell a story beyond Los Angeles. Particularly in episodes five, six and seven as the show expands its scope, we cast the net much wider in season three than we ever had before in terms of location.

So they don’t stay in McGregor’s camp either?

No, that story does have a lot of legs to it, but the show does make a big move about halfway through the series.

When Snyder left L.A. Bloc with the Bowmans, did you already know what he’d be up to in season three?

Yes, that was all fully planned out.

On the next page, Ryan Condal talks about working on the reboot of Highlander with director Chad Stahelski, as well as the new Conan streaming series he’s been writing.

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