Previewing USA’S COLONY with Alex Neustaedter
Tonight on USA Network, they present their latest in a line of sleek new drama series that deals with alien occupation in LA. We follow the Bowman family (Will, played by Josh Holloway; Kate, played by Sarah Wayne Callies, and their children) as they struggle to survive and “bring liberty back to the people of an occupied Los Angeles.” Part of their mission involves reuniting with their son Bram, who was not with them at the time of the invasion!
I spent some time chatting with Bram’s portrayer, Alex Neustaedter, about what brought him to the show, why people will be drawn to it, and why he’s excited to watch as a fan!
I’m so looking forward to the show. USA is doing incredible new things and I’m excited to see the next one!
Yeah, they are!
For people who aren’t really sure what the show is or have only read the one sentence description, how are you describing COLONY or what are you saying COLONY is?
That’s a good question! What I’ve started to say, and it’s taken me a good amount of time to figure out how to describe it one sentence, but it’s kind of like a family espionage thriller with some sci-fi in there. So those are just a bunch of generic titles thrown at it. It is what it is, but really, it’s focused on this family who is under this occupation and they don’t know what is going on, or what is going to happen to them. It’s focused on one family in particular, and they have to make choices. It’s really a show about trust. You need to trust your family and friends over everything.
What we’ve seen with USA with MR ROBOT – there are twists and turns around every corner. Is that something we should expect from a show like this? Are we going to be surprised every episode?
Oh yeah! Oh yeah, just wait! There is a ton of crazy twists and turns that I didn’t expect. It was so fun to read this, a new script every week. I read it at the same time my mom was reading it, and we would both confront each other and say “oh my gosh”!! Each episode, there was a new degree that it stepped up. I think that the more you learn about the characters and the more you get familiar with the characters, you kind of know who they are as people, it gets even more exciting and intense. Every episode, you’re going to be blown away.
When you first heard about the character like this, going out for the audition, what was it initially that you thought “okay, I want to go after this guy?”
The character and I kind of have some similar personality things, and I wouldn’t say that drew me to it, but I just finished ITHACA, which was the movie I did prior, and it kind of a different change in characters, but they still had similarities so I wanted to do a character who was edgier and this character came across very edgy. If think about it, a 16 year old put in this situation where all of your liberties are taken away from you and you know, when you’re 16, you’re supposed to have this freedom to do what you want, and I wanted to explore what it’s like to not have these freedoms and kind of be put into this other world, even though you’re still in the same world, it’s just completely changed. That’s something I had never really thought about before, and I think it was something that really drew me to it, how you survive with your friends, and how you kind of create this brand of trust and what it’s like living as a teenager under this occupation where you have no control. I think that really drew me to it, in that aspect.
It’s interesting – 16 year olds, as you say, they’re supposed to have these freedoms, they’re supposed to fight back against their parents, it’s basically a rule that teenagers fight back, ha, but now, you have to ban together with your parents to fight the occupation. It’s a whole other level that a teen doesn’t normally deal with.
Right, this character definitely has to grow up very quick in this situation that he’s put in. I think you’ve gotten it right – we were all 16, we all had those arguments with our parents, and there’s definitely little arguments in the show, but what’s really interesting is this element of trust and element of you really don’t know what your parents are up to, even if you think you do, you don’t. That’s really scary, in this world, in COLONY, it’s life or death a lot of times! Emotions are very heightened in that sense, if you can just picture that. That’s why we’re so excited to show this show and share it. It puts a different aspect on reality in that sense, and it kind of shows you things you normally take for granted, and you really should. That’s why we’re so excited about it!
What’s the tech side of it? Is there a lot of gadgets, any major advances? I know it’s only set very shortly in our future. Is there any green screen kind of filming happening?
Thankfully, it all takes place in LA, so we actually didn’t use a ton of green screen. I think I had maybe 3 green screens, maybe. Everything is very practical. We tried to keep everything very real, because when you add the green screen, it kind of takes things away. What we do as actors is we have to create that and make that as real as possible. That’s always the challenge with using those screens. The creators, the directors, every body a part of this show – we wanted to make it very immersive and having a lack of green screens and trying to use it as minimal as possible, we kept it very real. The special effects in this are amazing for a TV show. The drones that you see, they take on a life of their own, becoming sentient, and very kind of creepy in that sense. Special effects are terrific.
When did you finally get to see it all come together and see a finish pilot? Long after you shot it?
I saw the pilot after we finished shooting the series! I saw it pretty late. I was glad I saw it a little bit later, because I built off what I had already built with the characters. Watching it in real time when you’re creating it is kind of weird in that sense, so I saw it after we filmed everything, and I was blown away. It was remarkable. It’s a different perspective from how you think of it when you’re acting and it took on a life of its own, for sure, but I saw it after the fact and I absolutely loved it.
I love the cast that they’ve assembled. Love Josh from LOST and Sarah going back to PRISON BREAK days! What was it like working with this group that made up your family and friends? Was there an instant chemistry?
Yeah, there was chemistry! I think it was a lot of fun – the interesting part was that we shot the pilot 9 months or something crazy like that before we started shooting the rest of the season, so that was really interesting! Once we got into the swing of it, there was great cast chemistry. There’s obviously an extremely great chemistry between Josh and Sarah. You will for sure see that; it’s almost inspiring how well they get along and their chemistry with their characters. It’s really interesting to watch. Working with all of these guys, they really treat you as a family. We all have this family motto, not just in the show but in real life, too, so we always had each other’s backs. It’s a lot of fun; I’ve never been in a TV show, certainly not like this. I’ve never been recurring or anything like that, let alone series regular, so it’s a whole new experience and it’s great. I absolutely love it; everybody is so supportive of each other. What I like most is that we always are pushing the limits, and pushing each other to work harder and do better in that sense, so that really motivates me, and motivates everybody else.
We talked about twists and turns, what we might see, but what is it, do you think, that makes this a show people are going to want to turn into? Why do you think they should watch COLONY?
Personally, why I would watch, there are a couple of things. I think what some people will see at first is it’s a very popular kind of genre, that’s sci-fi, first. But what a lot of people won’t see is that family and the character driven story that it really is, under all of the big occupation and LA, and all of this massive stuff. It really does come down to one family, and that’s, I think, the most important part. That’s what makes it relate-able to the audience, and that’s why I’m going to keep watching it as a viewer. Because when you look at it, when you kind of picture yourself in this, you would do some things that these characters are doing, and it’s really real because it’s only 9 months in the future. For a lot people that I’ve talked to, they’ve been kind of scared to watch it, because it is so real, and it really could happen and we wouldn’t know what to do. It kind of puts you in those shoes, and what I like to say, how I bring it into my own life, is not to take things for granted and that trust and family is so key and important. I think this show really highlights that, and brings it to life, shows that to people in a new light that they might not be able to see in other shows. That’s kind of where I see COLONY stepping in.
I look forward to it! You mentioned shooting ITHACA – what can you tell us about what else is happening besides COLONY?
ITHACA is a movie I made a year and a half ago, Meg Ryan directed. Sam Shepard’s in it, Tom Hanks is in it, Hamish Linklater is in it. It’s based on the book, “The Human Comedy” [by William Saroyan], this is in 1942 or ’43 and Mickey Rooney was in the original movie. It’s a WWII film, but it’s not like “in World War II.” It’s at home, it’s on the homefront, so that was a huge passion project for all of us. I was so lucky to be able to be a part of it! And then I did a movie this summer called SHOVEL BUDDIES and it has this STAND BY ME vibe to it. With Bella Thorne and Kian Lawley; it’s a really cool young cast, and it was a lot of fun. It’s a story about these four friends who go on this trip together to fulfill their best friend’s, who has passed, death wish, if that makes sense! It has some really somber moments but it also has some really funny moments, and I’m looking forward to when that will come out later in 2016! And then, I just finished a movie in early November; it was a supporting role. I can’t really talk about it yet, but it’s really cool. It has a Western vibe to it, in the mountains, and it’s a survival story with hunting. It was so fun to shoot; we shot it in Montana. It was wonderful, so those are some things. Right now, everything that I’m looking at is in pre-production so nothing set in stone yet, but hopefully COLONY with go for Season 2!
COLONY premieres at 10/9c on USA Network.