Exclusive: Colony creators get their Casablanca on with Lost's Josh Holloway in USA's new alien invasion series

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Jan 14, 2016, 9:37 AM EST

When it comes to creating an alien invasion TV series, co-creator's Carlton Cuse (Lost) and Ryan Condal wanted to do something that hadn't been done on TV before. So they explored the past to come up with a fresh and scary premise for their new science fiction series, Colony, the executive producers told Blastr in an exclusive interview.

“I think the show is a really wonderful combination of a family drama, an espionage thriller, and an invasion show. And I think with two huge stars in Josh Holloway and Sarah Wayne Callies, the kind of cocktail of all of those elements is extremely tasty,” said Cuse.

Colony is set in the near future in Los Angeles, where alien invaders have put up walls throughout the city, and perhaps the world, to isolate and control the humans.  Lost's Josh Holloway and The Walking Dead's Sarah Wayne Callies star as a married couple, Will and Katie Bowman, who find themselves struggling to protect their children and deal with life after the alien invasion has changed the world dramatically. Colony, which has a 10-episode order, premieres on USA tonight at 10 p.m. ET.

Condal and Cuse came up with the idea while working on a pilot for a very different possible series called The Sixth Gun.
“Carlton and I were talking about World War II, but the conversation kept coming back to Casablanca more than it did to Saving Private Ryan. That was the fascinating part about the occupation of France ... it was the cloak-and-dagger day to day, almost the Cold War aspect of that part of World War II. These ordinary people taking up arms wherever they could against this massively advanced, technologically superior, more trained, inexhaustible amounts of troops. But they fought and they were effective at it. Those stories fascinated us,” said Condal.

“We were talking about [the] incongruity of Paris during World War II where you had these Parisians, well-dressed, sitting in cafes drinking espressos, just going about their lives in a city occupied by Nazis,” said Cuse. “And this incongruity of people trying to maintain the normal order of their lives when the world is turned completely upside down ... was something that fascinated us, and we thought, 'Is there a way we could do that in a modern context?'”

The producers began to develop the idea as an occupation story, but not one about humans versus the occupiers. “We didn't want to do Falling Skies or V. We felt those shows had been well done before. We were interested in what happens to people under occupation. Particularly if the smart invading force wouldn't necessarily rule themselves. They would install a proxy government of locals, so then you have basically people oppressing other people. And that, to us, the sort of incredible tendency of humans to subjugate each other across history, felt like something that we could explore in a topical way in a contemporary context,” added Cuse.

Army of Shadows, a film from 1969 about the French resistance in Nazi Paris, became one of their inspirations. “Those military guys, they were from all different walks of life, and they had to establish communication lines to England and were able to do these things under the cover of darkness just by the power of will. Those stories fascinated us a lot more than doing an Independence Day sort of thing, which you can't really do on TV on the scale you can on movies. But just the slow-burn nature of it, the long form story was much more suited to the television format, and that's what drew us to it,” said Condal.

They decided early on to “play the story closed. So you don't really know anything more than what the characters know, and the characters don't know much. There's not some expert character who's going to come in and download this informational dump that tells us everything about the world. We are experiencing the world through the eyes of our characters, and we are learning about the world as they learn about the world,” said Cuse.

“We cast the show as a mystery as opposed to a straight-up thriller or an adventure show. I mean, it has elements of those, but fundamentally there's also this real sense – in watching the show – of wanting, along with the characters, to find out what's going on. Who are these people who have taken over L.A.? Why have they put up these 300-foot-tall walls? Why are they here? What do they want? What's there intentions as far as the population of L.A. goes? What does the rest of the world look like? There's lots of great questions that are really on the minds of our characters that hopefully will engage the audience as well,” Cuse added.

In Colony, one of the characters faces an impossible choice: Collaborate and work for the proxy government, locals who run the government for the alien invaders, or he and his family will be sent to the “factory,” likely a really, really bad thing.

“The idea that a guy is coerced for working for the occupation force, that's something that we wanted to explore. There was a whole group of French who cooperated and collaborated with the Nazis, and what does it take to become a collaborator? What does it take to become a member of the resistance? There's lots of moral dilemmas in a world where the society has been turned upside down,” said Cuse.

“It's nice to get something on and going that's in that space that isn't based a comic book or a movie or a TV show from the '90s,” said Condal. “So we're excited about it.”

Here's a look at a preview of Colony:


Colony airs on Thursdays at 10 PM ET.