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‘Invasion’ clings to family themes, not storm

Suspense thriller looks at strange happenings in aftermath of hurricane
/ Source: The Associated Press

The sunlight was bright as Shaun Cassidy drove a golf cart across the Warner Bros. studio lot.

"For a long time I've wanted to do a suspense thriller in the bright sunlight," said Cassidy, creator and executive producer of ABC's new drama "Invasion."

"'The X-Files' set a tone for a long time that anything scary had to be with a lot of smoke, blue lights and darkness," he continued. "It's my contention that a lot of scary things happen in broad daylight."

"Invasion," which premieres 10 p.m. Wednesday, explores the mysterious aftermath of a hurricane in Homestead, Fla.

The "nothing is where it's supposed to be" consequences may or may not have to do with alien forces.

What is certain, however, is the emotional toll on the community and one extended family in particular, already trying to keep things together in the wake of divorce and remarriage.

By the time Hurricane Katrina blew in causing untold tragedy, "Invasion" was filming its fourth episode at Warners, where a broad exterior set was built to represent the Everglades region.

Although ABC has issued statements of sympathy to the victims of the Gulf Coast disaster, the pilot episode will run unchanged on Wednesday, following the second-season debut of "Lost," which won the best drama series Emmy on Sunday.

"Invasion" promos have been re-cut, though, eliminating storm footage. Now their focus is on the mystery and human interplay, something the series had intended to emphasize anyway.

"It's always been about the characters ... it's about the human experience," says William Fichtner, who plays Sheriff Tom Underlay.

Underlay is married to Mariel, played by Kari Matchett. She's a doctor and mother of two from her previous marriage to park ranger Russell Varon (Eddie Cibrian) whose new wife, TV reporter Larkin Groves (Lisa Sheridan) is expecting a child.

On the set of Underlay's house, which escaped storm damage, Fichtner, Matchett and Cibrian act out an emotional domestic scene, but also one underscored by the pervading mystery, which has caused people to act strangely.

"You think you know something and you really don't. It appears to be one way and it's really another. All that's true with this show," says Cibrian.

"We don't know who is the bad guy, who is the good guy, or even if there's a bad or a good. There are two different sides to the way people perceive something and they could both be right," the actor says.

"It sort of hits all aspects of what it is we know and what it is we don't know," says Matchett, whose character retains no memory of what happened to her when the hurricane hit, but who's been told by one of her children, "Mommy, you smell different."

Talking a couple of days later when Katrina flooding was at its worst, Sheridan, who's from New Orleans, said: "If there is some tiny bright spot, this experience gives our story even more resonance."