‘Colony’ Showrunner Ryan Condal on Working on Season 1 with Carlton Cuse and ‘Rampage’

     March 17, 2016


The first season of the USA Network drama series Colony has been an unexpected surprise, in the best way possible, with numerous twists and turns, and triumphs and deaths, and thankfully, it already has a Season 2 pick-up. In the final episode this season, the Resistance has kidnapped a high-value target and the Los Angeles bloc is placed on lockdown until that target is recovered, all while everyone is questioning exactly where their loyalties should be placed.

During an exclusive phone interview with Collider, co-creator Ryan Condal teased what fans can expect form the season finale and talked about what he hopes viewers get from this season, closely following the initial plan that he an co-creator Carlton Cuse came up with prior to the show’s launch, why they’ve held off on showing just who the Occupiers are, the responsibilities of a TV showrunner, what his working relationship with Cuse has meant to him, and also working on a feature film script together, for Rampage starring Dwayne Johnson. Be aware that there are some spoilers.

Collider: What can you tease about the season finale?


Image via USA

RYAN CONDAL: There’s an assumption that the occupying force and the so-called Transitional Authority are one in the same, and that they have the same motives and mission. But what we realize in these last episodes, and in Episode 10 particularly, is how little that is actually true and how large the divide is, in knowledge and mission, between the “aliens” and the human collaborators that they have left in charge.

How are you hoping viewers will feel, by the end of the season? Are there specific emotions you’re hoping to leave them with?

CONDAL: Well, I hope they like it enough to tell their friends and we can grow in the off-season, as everybody finds it on-demand and on Netflix, which seems to be the way most people come to TV shows, nowadays. So, we have high hopes for that. I also have that fans come away feeling satisfied in the story that we’ve told, and that they’re intrigued for Season 2. With a new television show, one of the biggest hurdles that you face, as a creator, in the first season of something, especially something in the genre space, is expectation and assumption.

The television watching audience is so smart and savvy now that they understand the pockets that genre storytelling tends to fall into. There was an assumption this season that this was very much going to be a straight-ahead science fiction TV show. And while we’ve always seen it as a show that definitely has a science fiction presence and sci-fi elements, it’s about us. It’s not about them. It’s about the humans, and not about the aliens.

With Episodes 9 and 10, we’ve delivered more of that tantalizing sci-fi stuff that everybody wants to know about, but we always set out to tell a human espionage story set in this extraordinary world that just happens to have military occupation by an overwhelming force. But we were interested in the human story that comes out of that, and the human collaborators that have effectively sold out their own kind for wealth and power. So, I hope that with the whole picture in place, the fans who have been a little frustrated about the fact that this wasn’t a straight-ahead science fiction show, or thought we were ignoring or were embarrassed by our science fiction roots, which isn’t true, they’ll understand what the show is and be ready for Season 2.

This first season had quite a few unexpected moments, triumphs and deaths. How closely did the first season ultimately follow the original plan you had when you started out?


Image via USA

CONDAL: Very closely, I would say. The advantage of Carlton [Cuse] and I having had Colony on our brains for going on almost three years, since we started talking about it just after our pilot at NBC, The Sixth Gun, was passed on. We’ve really been living in the world of Colony for three years, so even though the show is very new to everybody else, we’ve had a long time to talk about it. So, we went into Season 1 with a really good, clear plan, as to what the show was. As with any show, you spend a little bit of time figuring out, post-pilot, who has great chemistry and who works with who. When we started the writers’ room in Season 1, we had this architecture planned for what the season was. Now that the show has aired, I would say those two things are very similar. If you know what the road map is and where you’re going, it’s much easier to take the journey.

Can you talk about the decision to not even start to provide a glimpse as to just what these “aliens” are until the end of the season?

CONDAL: That was always the plan. Part of that was a dramatic decision because this is not a show about them and we wanted to really underline the fact that this is a story about human occupation and colonialization, and the human effects of that. There’s a mythology and a reason why you haven’t seen them. All of that will be further down the stream in Season 2 and beyond, and it’s a story point. What they look like and what they are is a mystery. Snyder says he has interacted with them, but has he? And Phyllis said she had interacted with him, but did she? There is reasoning behind all of that, and that’s a story point. Hopefully, now that people have had at least an appetizer for the main course, they’ll be intrigued and following along with the rest of the story.

As the showrunner of a TV series, you’re responsible for everyone and everything, and you’re ultimately the one who gets the credit or the blame for the finished product. What do you enjoy most about being in that position, and what do you most dread about being the one responsible?

CONDAL: It’s a lot of fun. This is my first experience in this position, so it’s a whole new world for me. You have to remind yourself occasionally that this is what you’ve been working your whole career for, which is to write something that gets made, at least in the form that you envisioned it. As somebody who came from feature film writing, which I’d done exclusive for five years before I ever did my first TV project, which I also did with Carlton on The Sixth Gun, I had only had the experience of being a for-hire freelance writer where, at best, my opinion is one of many. There were a lot of cases where people aren’t particularly interested, at all, in knowing what I thought, and that’s because film is a very director and producer run medium. Television is completely showrunner run, and that was a very new experience for me. The things that people wanted to know from me were not only about the writing, but about casting, production design and the directors you want to hire. Having that kind of control is terrifying, in many ways, because you don’t have all the answers to everything, at all times. But it’s just really great to be a part of something where what you’re making, week to week, is as close to what you envisioned as possible.

You worked on The Sixth Gun together, you’re doing Colony together, and you’re writing the movie Rampage together. What’s it like to have the relationship and collaboration that you have with Carlton Cuse?

CONDAL: Oh, it’s amazing! Carlton is amazing. He is unlike any other. The way he is able to juggle multiple projects and shift gears on the fly, from one to the other is amazing. My one show stresses me out, and he has three to four, depending on the day of the week. It just amazes me. But he’s been a tremendous creative partner, from the beginning. He’s a wonderful mentor, and sometimes a priest and psychologist for me. He’s done this so many times before and he’s always pleasant. My concern is not necessarily what anybody else in the process thinks. It’s what Carlton thinks. He’s a very effective sounding board. We approach creative things from very different angles, but it’s one of those situations that works really well when we come together. Generally, if the two of us have come to consensus and like it, it’s going to be good. We realized that, again and again, over the first season. It’s a freeing thing to work with somebody who has that much sway and influence. He was able to bring Josh [Holloway] onto the show for us, which was amazing. It’s been tremendous. It’s the best creative working relationship I’ve ever had.

With this being your first show and already having a second season, and with all of the shows that Carlton has on his plate, how did you even find the time to write a movie together?


Image via USA

CONDAL: I don’t really know. I will say that there’s not yet been confirmation or denial that Carlton is not an android. His superpower is being able to switch gears, on the fly, between so many different things. Having already produced 500 episodes of TV himself, he somehow still finds the time and the passion to do it. Thankfully for him, he has me, because it’s great being able to collaborate and divide and conquer. Colony and Rampage are very different projects, but both were very fun to work on.

When you do a project for somebody like Dwayne Johnson, do you also included him in the writing process?

CONDAL: Of course! You want to include him. Dwayne is a force of nature. He’s the biggest movie star in the world. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that anymore. He has a huge say in the process. You tend to be hired to do a specific thing, and in the case of Rampage, there was an existing script and the studio needed certain things done. Your job, as feature writers, is to execute a vision for the director, who is Brad Peyton, the studio and the star. In that way, it’s a much different creative assignment than it is creating your own TV show. In that case, you are originating something that’s driven by you. They’re both exciting creative ventures. It’s just that they’re two different things, being a feature film writer versus being a showrunner.

The season finale of Colony airs on the USA Network on Thursday, March 16th.


Image via USA


Image via USA


Image via USA Network