Sarah Wayne Callies was never meant to star in Colony

2018-03-09 07:16

Cape Town - In an interview with Channel24 Sarah Wayne Callies talks about how Nicholas Cage helped her land a role in Colony, and what she'll pack in her end of the world disaster bag.  

Now in its third season Colony takes place in a dystopian near-future Los Angeles, where residents live under a regime of military occupation by an organisation known as the Colonial Transitional Authority.

Sarah takes on the role of wife, and mother Katie Bowman in the subversive sci-fi thriller. Following the Arrival, Katie's life is turned upside down when her son goes missing and she joins the Resistance to overturn the Occupation. 

Colony season 1 is now showing on Universal Channel (DStv Channel 117) Mondays at 21:00. 

'Not only were they not interested, they didn't want to see me audition'

There was something special about the character Katie Bowman that immediately drew Sarah to the role: "Katie has her own fully articulated moral universe. For a long time a leading lady on a show really only existed because of the leading man. On Walking Dead Lori existed to teach the audience more about Rick. And that was the paradox we were seeing on television."

Sarah adds: "I was shooting a movie in Toronto at the time, I read the script, I loved it and I really wanted to do it."

But there was just one problem she says: "The answer that came back was not only were they not interested, they didn't even want to see me audition."

Sarah asked her co-star at the time, Nicholas Cage, for advice: "He had been doing this for so much longer than I have. He said, 'Put yourself on tape and fight like hell with everyone involved. If they say no let them say no to your work, and not anything else.'"

"I asked if he would read with me and he said, 'I can't even order a pizza without someone asking if it's Nicholas Cage'. His voice is just that recognisable," she laughs. 

"What I didn't know was that José Campanella had signed on as director, and José remembered me from working together way before Prison Break and Walking Dead. He phoned my camera operator and my script supervisor from Walking Dead to ask if I'm still the polite and professional person he remembers. You can lie to directors but the camera operator and the script supervisor will always know the truth.

"The next night I get a call from him and he says, 'I think you are going to get a job.' So it was kind of full circle, at first I wasn't going to get the job because of Walking Dead and then I got the job because the crew on Walking Dead spoke up for me."

'Science fiction has always given us the opportunity to explore contemporary issues with aliens, spaceships and cool technology'

Sarah explains that Colony isn't your "typical alien drama." 

"You see the occupation through the lens of this one family. Not only the husband and wife, but the kids and the extended family as well. The science fiction elements grow slowly, but the people in the colony and the fascist regime who are occupying are mostly human. People do teribble things, things they don't have to do, to one another because they are scared of losing their own history.

"People who are willing to collaborate at all costs. That story is everywhere. We see this over and over again."

To prepare for the role Sarah did intense research on women's roles during the resistance in Paris: "Women's work was not as aknowledged as men. Men set off bombs and performed acts of sabotage and a lot of what the women did was intelligence gathering, wich is equally as important for a fuctioning resistance. But the one is visible and the other one is invisble.

"Our director came with a very interesting perspective growing up in Argentinia under the dictatorship, and he was very valuable in the day-to-day things.

"One of the first things he said to me is, 'You need to be more bored. Human beings get used to things very quickly.' Our story starts 10 months into the occupation. You aren't panicked all the time. You have a sick feeling in your stomach at all times, and you've become accustomed to a lack of privacy, check points, and rashen boxes. He had very invaluble insights."

'At the series' core you have an old friendship played out as a seasoned marriage'

Josh Holloway - who plays Katie Bowman's husband Will Bowman - and Sarah worked together 10 years ago, just as their careers started to take off and have become close friends over the years.

"At the series' core, you have an old friendship that plays out as this seasoned marriage," she says. She adds: "Josh brings his guitar to work, he will play and I will sing along."

'If the world is going to end, I don't want to be without my whiskey and chocolate bars'

When asked what she would pack in her end of the word survival bag, it's no surprise that Sarah has got all the essentials covered: "Duct tape, a sharp knife, knife sharpener, matches, iodine to purify water and more duct tape. Duct tape fixes everything, when your water bottle springs a leak, you can fix it. It's super useful." 

She adds: "I'm not a real strong person. So I have to have light go-bag. And of course, whiskey and a couple of chocolate bars. If the world is going to end, I don't want to be without my whiskey and chocolate bars.

"I live mostly in the woods, and off the grid. I did my time in New York and Los Angeles. I prefer being outside and seeing the eagles, water and the trees. It brings me more peace at this point."

'Every year since we've shot Colony the world has changed into a more dangerous and fragile place'

Sarah chalks up the series success to "great story-telling."

"When we first shot the pilot, we lived in a very different world. We lived in a very different US administration, which had a very different effect on global stability, and climate change awareness was frightningly less alarming. I think every year since we've shot Colony the world has changed into a more dangerous and fragile place. 

"A story that explores what people do in more dangerous times becomes more and more relevent."

And as for Sarah's South African fans she has nothing but "gratitude."

"My fans have been so incredibly kind. I hear about trolls, and it sounds so mean and terrible. But when I look at my social media, it's nothing but love. I'm really thankful.

"I really wanted to come to Johannesburg for the launch. I would love to see Soweto and Mandela's house, and it's far enough for it to be a long trip."

Colony season 1 is now showing on Universal Channel (DStv 117) Mondays at 21:00. 

(Photos supplied: Clockwork Media)

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