USA's 'Colony' Is Like 'The Walking Dead' — With an Alien Twist

"We're trying … to learn what the new rules of this world are and why these people are here, and what's outside of the walls," Carlton Cuse tells reporters at TCA.
Courtesy of USA Network

USA Network's Colony will explore themes inspired by current politics, but the drama has elements of Falling Skies, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and AMC's The Walking Dead.

Colony, created and exec produced by Lost's Carlton Cuse and HerculesRyan Condal, is a naturalistic drama about a family that's torn by opposing forces who makes difficult decisions as its members balance staying together with surviving the struggle of the human race. Set in the near future, the story takes place in Los Angeles, which exists in a state of occupation by a force of outside intruders. Some people choose to collaborate with the authorities and benefit from the new order, while others rebel and suffer the consequences.  

Producers Cuse and Condal told reporters Wednesday at the Television Critics Association's summer press tour that the series is a metaphor for Afghanistan and influenced by images of Paris during Nazi occupation. "The history of colonization is about the history of subjugation," Cuse said. "We're trying … to learn what the new rules of this world are and why these people are here, and what's outside of the walls. Those questions will be answered."

The drama marks a Lost reunion for Cuse and Josh Holloway, who stars in Colony as Will Bowman, a former FBI agent who — in a bid to protect his family — is forced to collaborate with the occupational government to bring down the growing resistance movement inside the L.A. colony. The role marks Holloway's second post-Lost gig following CBS' short-lived drama Intelligence, which was his first series regular role since ABC's island-set drama.

The Walking Dead alum Sarah Wayne Callies co-stars as Katie Bowman, a mother of three who struggles daily to keep her family safe and united in the occupied city. Matters are further complicated when her husband, Will (Holloway), is forced to collaborate with the colonial government. The role marks Callies' return to the small screen following her memorable turn as Lori Grimes on AMC's zombie drama.

Here are a few ways Colony is like The Walking Dead:

• When asked specifically what Colony and Walking Dead have in common, Callies called the USA series a "photo-negative" of the zombie drama's world. "An apocalypse is about anarchy, chaos and the loss of control over people, whereas occupation is a hyper-organized state that has control over its people," she said. The actress noted that Walking Dead's threat — zombies and, to some extent, humans — was nameless, faceless and disorganized while Colony was a hyper-organized adversary that survivors will never be able to outgun or outsmart.

• Like Walking Dead's early seasons, it's unclear on Colony if the rest of the world is impacted by the alien invasion and colonization. The series takes place (and films) in Los Angeles, which is divided into three colonies: L.A. proper, Santa Monica and the San Fernando Valley. It was unclear to survivors during early seasons of Walking Dead if the rest of the U.S. — and the world at large — were impacted by the zombie outbreak.

• Cuse said Colony explores the "incongruity of trying to maintain your life under oppression" and uses a modern metaphor to explore that story. The people who have been colonized on the series are tasked with forming a new way of life — the same journey of the survivors on AMC's zombie drama.

• Producers also addressed why Colony starts after the alien invasion takes place and noted that shows like Falling Skies and V before it had already featured those stories. The Walking Dead also skipped illustrating the dawn of the zombie apocalypse (though it does illustrate as much on companion series Fear the Walking Dead). "If you look at the history of world, every country has either been a colony or a colonizer," Cuse said. "The social dynamic of one group of people having absolute power over another group of people was something we wanted to explore. … The idea we'd have drones and 300-foot walls that surround L.A. … [was] something we felt added to the storytelling but we didn't want that to be the focus of the story."

• While the reasons behind the aliens' invasion are unclear at the top of the show, Condal said they're not the biggest threat of the show. "The true villains for us are the humans who have turned against their own kind," Condal said. That, too, has been a similar theme that The Walking Dead has explored with characters including The Governor (David Morrissey) and, more recently, cannibal Gareth (Andrew J. West). "People are living in horrible oppression. The rules of society have been upended," Cuse noted. Condal also noted that the occupiers are all not looking for the same thing — and the same can be said for the other survivors on Walking Dead.

• Holloway's Will also shares much in common with Callies' former leading man, Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes). The character was an Army ranger and in the FBI and has a ton of training, while Walking Dead's Rick is a former sheriff who takes charge in leading his group of survivors. Callies noted her Katie, however, finds herself in over her head and in situations where she doesn't know what she's doing — much like Lori. However, Callies' Katie has an agenda of her own on Colony.

• Like Rick, Holloway's Will puts finding his son — who was separated from his family during the colonization — over the needs of everyone else. "Who do you put first, humanity or your child?" Holloway said. The show, he noted, becomes about how far you have to push people down until they say they're done and stand up [to oppression]," he added.

Colony debuts Thursday, Jan. 14 at 10 p.m. on USA Network.