Sarah Wayne Callies Reveals the Unlikely Real Life Inspiration Behind COLONY’S Katie Bowman
Ready or not, Colony rolls out its first season finale tonight on USA Network (but don’t worry, the show has already been renewed for a second season).
The alien invasion drama from Carlton Cuse and Ryan Condal, and starring Sarah Wayne Callies and Josh Holloway, saw the stakes raised in recent episodes by Will (Holloway) and Katie’s decision to (Callies) come clean about their mutually exclusive roles at opposite ends of the Occupation.
In a powerfully polarizing scene in last Thursday’s “Zero Day,” the once happy couple finally put their cards on the table — in addition to tearing into each other for a host of perceived failures.
We sat down with Callies this week to discuss that pivotal and game changing moment, in addition to discussing where the show might take Katie and Will in episodes to come.
Full highlights from our conference call follow below.
On Katie Being Pulled Between Her Duties to the Resistance and Her Responsibilities to her Family
I think it’s called being a woman. There’s something, I think, about being a working mom. Almost every working mother I know feels a constant sense of guilt and failure that either you’ve devoted so much time to your family that the people at work are feeling like you’re not sufficiently contributing, or that you’ve poured so much of yourself into your work that you’re no longer sufficiently there for your family.
And so obviously in Colony, that’s heightened because Katie’s work is no longer running a bar. Katie’s work is, you know, undertaking Resistance with an eye towards saving not only her family but her city and possibly her species.
But I think, you know, as we see in episode nine, part of the cost of that work has been not seeing what’s going on in her own house with their children. And so when it comes to playing it, it’s not really hard for me to go down that road, because every morning I leave my kids and I go to work. I’m a breadwinner for a family. It’s war.
On Finding Character Inspiration from an Unlikely source
This is going to sound a little crazy — Joan of Arc. It started as a bit of joke, in that Katie is from New Orleans, which is why the bar is what it is. And another term for a bartender is a bar maid. And so the Maid of Orleans is what they used to call Joan of Arc.
I just had this weird brain fart and I emailed Ryan and Carlton and I was like “Clearly you based this character on Joan of Arc!” And they laughed and we thought it was weird. And then I was like, “Let me just go watch a movie about Joan of Arc.” And I went in the back and I reread Saint Joan.
I do think there’s something interesting to the idea that Katie, like Joan, is a true believer. And Katie, like Joan, runs face first into that role where your ideology meets the reality of trying to mount a resistance.
And so in that sense, I think they both go in, you know, giving that they’re doing quote unquote “The Lord’s work” like I am doing the moral, ethical, right thing, and I have no qualms about that. I might be afraid, but I won’t let my fear stop me from trying to do the right thing.
And then all of a sudden, these are women neck deep in politics and ethics for which they’re not equipped.
And they have to catch up very quickly. There was something that I found actually very cool about it. Juan Campanella also had us watch a movie called The Battle of Algiers that immediately became one of the best films I’ve ever seen.
There was a lot in that film about femininity as a tool of war, which is why I put Katie in dresses and try to kind of articulate a femininity in her characterization.
On How the Season Has Been Building to Katie and Will’s Back Yard Confession
I think in way, the whole first season builds to that conversation. Will and Katie learn that love is not all you need, in the first season, that these ideological differences really may become profoundly problematic in their marriage. And I think there’s a withholding of trust over the course of the season that really culminates in that final argument. It’s a tough thing to come back from.
Particularly I think when Will says to Katie, “You put the noose around those kids’ necks,” meaning Rachel’s son. That’s a huge bomb to drop on someone, and certainly people say things in the heat of the moment that they don’t mean, but I think that’s one of those arguments in a marriage that’s going to take them a long time to recover from.
On why Katie lied to Will in the First Place
Nelson McCormick, who directed episode six, came to me at a certain point during the filming and he said, “I don’t think your husband should watch this episode.” I said, “Why?” He said, “No man wants to know his wife can lie this well.” And that gave me something to think about.
I mean, first of all, I don’t think Katie was very significantly involved with the Resistance until Will was forced into collaboration. You know, I think these were people in her orbit. I think she warped. She might have taken a flyer from here to there, but she was not neck deep with them.
I think she makes the decision to join their work fully as a response to Will’s forced collaboration. And it’s partly as a means to protect him, but also a need to balance this situation. She’s just thinking “I can’t stomach the thought of being a collaborating family. That’s just sort of more than I can take.”
And she doesn’t tell him, because it’s the best way to keep him safe.
Juan Campanella, the director of the first three episodes, grew up in Argentina under a dictatorship. He talked to us quite a lot about just those conditions of knowing that people disappear all the time and knowing that information can be an extremely powerful but also very dangerous currency.
And I think for Will to have plausible deniability, if he was ever questioned about his wife’s activities, could save his life. And so Katie would never want to put him in a position of having to withhold information that could kill him.
What People Should Take Away from Colony When they Watch the Show
I hope primarily people take away a sense of entertainment, because none of us want to do homework. And I wouldn’t want to show, as ideological and political as it is, I wouldn’t want it to feel like homework.
I’ve said this all over the place, but the first season of Battlestar Galactica was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, because it was so entertaining and I loved watching it. And it was one of the most salient discussions on the Patriot Act that I saw anybody having anywhere.
And I would be so happy if Colony followed in those footsteps — of a show where you just care so much about these people. It’s such an interesting and unique world. And while we’re doing that, we’re also talking about the genesis of resistance and the nature of resistance and the definitions between resistance and terrorism, and governments and oppression and repression.
It’s a really tricky balance. It’s a very difficult line to walk, but I think if anyone can walk it, it’s Ryan. You know, it’s Ryan Condal and Carlton Cuse. And I’m sort of along for the ride doing my best on my end. Does that make any sense?
Colony’s season one finale “Gateway” airs Thursday March 17 on USA Network.