“Colony” Star Sarah Wayne Callies On Making Her Directorial Debut + Why 40 Is The Best Year EVER

Colony_B_Sarah_1013Photo Credit: Brendan Meadows

It isn’t just enough for Sarah Wayne Callies to star on USA’s dystopian drama “Colony” as Katie Bowman—a woman navigating dangerous ethical decisions to protect her family in occupied Los Angeles—opposite Josh Holloway: this power woman is ready to direct. This week, during the ninth episode of the show’s third season, Callies, who’s best known for starring as Lori Grimes, Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) wife on “The Walking Dead” and physician Sara Tancredi on “Prison Break,” her directorial dream will come true as she steps behind the camera. We chatted with Callies about her directing debut, all the craziness of “Colony'”s third season and why 40 is her best year ever.


Colony_B_Sarah_0743Photo Credit: Brendan Meadows

What drama can fans expect this season on “Colony?”

The first thing that happens in season 3 is that we answer a lot of questions – why the RAPs came to Earth and what they want, what’s going on at the Factory, and what happened to LA at the end of season 2. The audience has been so patient, learning along with the Bowmans about what’s really going on – we finally find out. And part of that answer has to do with realizing that the RAPs aren’t the only alien population with their eyes on our planet. When I read the first two episodes it kind of blew me away – it’s one of the best seasons of TV I’ve ever done. But Maddie – that’s one thing Katie doesn’t know. She has no idea where her sister is – she assumes Nolan rescued her if he could, but the whole block was renditioned, so it’s a question mark. Same for Broussard – she has no idea if he’s alive or dead.

Do you identify with your character? Why or why not, and how, if so (dystopian circumstances aside)?

I totally identify with Katie. She’s living in a world with powerful resistance movements (like #metoo, #blacklivesmatter, #marchforourlives) and she is trying to navigate how to get involved in ways that are healing and inclusive – in ways that protect humanity, not threaten it. Moreover, she’s just left a colony with a more or less fascist dictator obsessed with walls. What’s not to identify with?

What made you decide to get behind the camera to direct this season? Has it always been a passion or goal?

I’ve always wanted to get involved with storytelling apart from acting – I assumed it would be as a writer first. But in some ways, I started directing out of self-defense – I’ve been in nearly 200 episodes of TV and I’ve only had about six women directors. At some point, I had to stop being frustrated by that and haul off and just become one. It was profound – working with actors was such an honor and a joy. And I came to realize that a director’s job is largely about supporting everyone to do their best, most creative and inspired work – actors, sure, but also the camera department and the lighting and the grips… As a director, you’re one-part team captain and one-part head cheerleader. Give people a vision they want to pour their hearts into, and then smother them in love every step of the way. One of the most fun parts of this episode was geeking out on quantum physics with the special effects department, designing a piece of alien technology. Who knew all those hours listening to Star Talk Radio would pay off?

What do you love most about Josh Holloway?

I’ve learned so much from Josh over the years – we’ve been friends since we did a movie together about ten years ago, and he’s a gem of a man. He’s always reminding me to come from love in everything I do. I need that – I can be a hothead. And he’s a huge part of why I got the chance to direct this season. Josh is an executive producer on “Colony,” and he was the first person I talked to when I decided I wanted to direct an episode. I figured as my leading man, if he wasn’t up for it, it would die right there. But he told me he’d have my back with the other execs and fight for me to have a chance. And he did. And then the episode I directed turned out to be one of the most challenging episodes for him in the series, and I got to navigate that with him. It was a beautiful thing. I’m so proud of the work he did, and so grateful we got to do it together as both an actor and director.

What makes you feel like a tough, strong, powerful woman? Do you have a mantra? 

If I have a mantra, it’s to do something every day that scares me. I figure if I keep it up long enough, eventually I’ll be fearless.

You turned 40 last June. Did you embrace it? Hate it? Own it? Please describe.

I love it. I hit 37 and I thought: let’s just do this already. Turning 40 felt like a relief. I’m living exactly the life I want to (and I’ve worked my tail off for it), and I’m so grateful. I also stopped giving a —-. Sounds like a cliché, doesn’t it? Does everyone say that? I don’t know… for some reason 40 was the year the opinions of people outside my inner circle. It’s not that they stopped mattering, rather it’s as though I stopped hearing them altogether. I know who I am. I know who I want to be. That’s plenty. Oh, and I bought myself a string of Tahitian black pearls on my birthday. That was fun. They’re my crown jewels.

What to you is the greatest luxury in life?

Time. Silence. There’s so much noise in the world right now, and at work there are always so many people around. I love that, I feed off of it. But sitting on my deck in front of the lake watching the sky with nothing to do…. That’s luxury.