Sarah Wayne Callies has a type. Her best-known characters are all strong, secure and kick-butt women who add as much to the story as their male counterparts. That’s the case again with USA’s newest original series Colony, in which she plays Katie Bowman, who is not just the wife of Will Bowman but also a valued member of the Resistance. LA Fan Cultures Examiner spoke with Sarah last week to discuss the first season of the show and how worried fans should be for Katie going into tonight’s season finale.
“This is certainly somebody other than your typical wife and girlfriend or wife and mother,” she told us. “Which are roles I think, we’ve explored a lot of those pretty thoroughly and now we’re at a point where I think we can start to expand our sense of what’s possible for those characters. Just because a woman is a wife and mother doesn’t mean that’s the most interesting part of her identity or that she has to be defined by those roles.
“To me, Katie is a woman with really powerful principles and somebody who’s very much an idealist and I think there’s the collision of idealism meets reality,” she continued. “The aftermath of that crash really changes people quite a lot. It’s a really fascinating character, because she’s changing enormously over the course of that first season.”
Katie also has an interesting dilemma because Will (Josh Holloway) is involuntarily recruited into working for Homeland Security, so she and her husband are on opposite sides, which is not the usual dynamic that fans see of couples on TV. They’re not getting to be that united front on the same team. The groups they work for are in direct and constant conflict. How is that for Sarah to play?
“We’re working for opposing forces, but we are working towards the same goal. That goal is the safety and reunification of our family,” she explained. “We take very different means to it, Will because he’s forced to and I think Katie feels that she’s forced to as well – when he goes off on his own and gets caught and is forced to collaborate, I think she feels the need to even those scales.
“It’s an interesting deception. [Series creators] Carlton [Cuse] and Ryan [Condal] talk a lot bout the first season as an infidelity story, which is to say obviously not a sexual infidelity, but a story of a woman who is hiding something from her husband and the effects of that secret on their marriage.”
The high-stakes world of Colony has definitely given the actress plenty of material to sink her teeth into. Looking back on the first season, are there episodes that continue to stand out in her memory?
“I loved episode six [“Yoknapatawpha”]. Which is the episode that takes almost exclusively in The Yonk,” she recalled, “partly because once we got into The Yonk, the whole thing played like a piece of theater. It was basically just me and Josh and Peter Jacobson and Tory Kittles. We started from the beginning and worked through the end and it was nice to have something that small and contained but still so intense.
“I think it’s a turning point for this season where alliances start to shift and suspicion starts to grow between Will and Katie,” she continued, “I loved that episode.
“There’s a scene between Josh and I in episode nine [“Zero Day”] that’s one of the most difficult I’ve ever had to shoot,” she added, “just in terms of getting through the scene and getting it right. I loved working on it because Josh is just a really terrific collaborator and I think we were able to do something together that is better than either one of us could have done alone.”
Colony has also put Sarah right back into two familiar elements: a series that contains a fair amount of action and a show in which there’s always the possibility that her character might die. Of the former she told us, “The action element of any show I find, it’s some of my favorite part of the work. It’s fun. There’s something very relaxing about it because you’re just doing what your body is doing. In acting you’re imagining what it’s like to feel and do X, Y and Z and putting yourself in that position and that’s the work we do and I love my job.”
But she also has a tendency not to survive, as fans of Prison Break and The Walking Dead will remember (although she has since been confirmed to reprise her role as Sara Tancredi in Fox’s upcoming Prison Break revival). So given the precedent, how worried does Sarah think Colony fans should be about Katie headed into tonight’s finale?
“I think given my career it’s always a good idea to always be worried,” she said. “So far my characters have always made it to season three, so maybe there’s that on the other side.”
She’s got a remarkably positive and forward-thinking outlook on her heartbreaking demises. “I will say that I sat down with somebody once who was trying to hire me and we were joking about having two characters die in a row in the third season, and he put it very kindly,” she recalled. “He said I think it’s wonderful that you are able to matter enough to a story that creators feel that one of the greatest impacts they could have on a season is by killing you off.
“I love that way of looking at it. I’m also drawn to stories about people in really extreme circumstances, because I think we learn a lot about ourselves in those moments.”
Though the season has wrapped, Colony fans will be able to catch Sarah in a number of film projects before the show returns for Season 2. “I finished a movie in December called This is Your Death that was an amazing experience,” she told us. “Giancarlo Esposito stars in and directed that. Josh Duhamel stars in it as well. It’s an incredible look at American reality television. It’s a really cool piece that I’m super proud of. I haven’t seen it yet but I love that.
And like Katie, she’s also out trying to do some good in the world, both in real life and in the creative space. “I just got back from Serbia. I was working with the refugee populations moving up from Turkey into Europe,” she continued. “I’ve been writing a bit about that; I think there will be a few more blog pieces coming out in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ve written some good writing projects that have picked up some traction lately, that have directors and producers involved in both of them. One of them we’re out casting right now and that’s incredibly exciting because as somebody who spent my life signing onto projects weeks before they start shooting, it’s been incredible to start to be the one to develop a project.”
You can read Sarah’s blog posts for The Huffington Post here and keep up with her on Instagram here. It’s no wonder why she keeps getting cast as the heroine of the piece. That’s not very far off from reality. Whether she’s pretending to fight an unseen occupational force or actually getting involved in helping other people, she cuts a heroic figure of her own.
The season finale of Colony airs tonight at 10 p.m. on USA; the series has been renewed for a second season.