Based on the Skybound/Image comic title by creator Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and artist Paul Azaceta, the 10-episode Cinemax drama series Outcast follows Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a young man who has been plagued by demonic possession all his life, and who is searching for answers and redemption. Now, with the help of Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), a preacher who has personal demons of his own, Kyle embarks on a journey to regain the normal life that he lost, but quickly realizes that there are things much more sinister at work than he ever could have imagined.
During roundtables at a press day for the new series, Collider (along with a couple other press outlets) spoke with creator/writer/executive producer Robert Kirkman, showrunner/executive producer Chris Black and actors Patrick Fugit, Philip Glenister, Reg E. Cathey, Wrenn Schmidt and Kate Lyn Sheil about making Outcast and the fact that it’s already been picked up for a second season. From the interviews, we compiled a list of 26 things that you should know about the comic that inspired the show, the characters, and the production.
The success of The Walking Dead has allowed Robert Kirkman to have a certain amount of control. He’s very involved in the adaptations of his work. It’s not just about him farming out his work to different people that he doesn’t know or like, doing what they want with them. He works hand-in-hand with each production.
- While it’s always possible that one of his comics could get adapted into another medium, Kirkman doesn’t write comic books thinking about what type of adaptation they could or will make. Because writing comics is a challenge, he just has to stay focused on what he’s doing, instead of wondering how it could work in live-action. He approaches each project individually and focuses on whatever medium he’s writing in, at that time.
- Kirkman had already created the show and written the pilot, before showrunner Chris Black had signed on. Said Black, “He was very involved and very committed to this being done, the way he wanted it done, from the casting to the locations to the look of the show. There wasn’t a sense of it being just another piece of the Robert Kirkman empire. It needed to be done right, or he wasn’t going to do it.”
- The inspiration for this story came from Kirkman’s religious upbringing and his darkly religious past. There are religious aspects to the show, but it’s not a religious show. They’re being true to the region and dealing with people who have various strong beliefs, and they’re working to portray those characters respectfully and honor their traditions and way of life.
- Although there are no zombies on Outcast, Kirkman believes the show could still appeal to fans of The Walking Dead. He said, “One of the things that I feel makes The Walking Dead as popular as it is, is that it’s so unlike anything else on television and it offers this atmosphere of anything could happen, at any time. There’s not really any way to telegraph what’s going to happen. There’s not really a way to guess where the story is going. And I think Outcast offers that exact same thing, but it provides that experience in much different ways. There isn’t this ever-present zombie threat. It’s a much creepier, much more foreboding sense of dread that’s in this town that centers around this phenomenon that’s happening around them. This is very much an unexpected show that goes into some places that you’re not going to be able to anticipate.”
Much like The Walking Dead did with zombies, Outcast will be exploring exorcism in new and different ways. Said Kirkman, “We’re exploring a specific genre in new ways, the same way that The Walking Dead explored the zombie genre, did different things with it, and became the zombie movie that never ends. This is going to be the exorcism story where they actually treat demonic possession like a solvable problem. They’re not going to just do one case and then go, ‘Well, we’re gonna go home. Hope this doesn’t happen again, but we’re not going to do anything to actually prevent that.’ This is very much about the journey of finding out what is going on and how to prevent it, and why Kyle is at the center of that.”
- There is a very involved mythology to this world. What you see in the pilot are very traditional possessed behaviors that you see, all over the genre. Throughout the series, they’ll explain what’s happening and why those things are occurring. While they’re playing with the tropes of the genre, they’ll be coming at it in a different way. They want to explore things like the phenomenon of what causes levitation, why they don’t like light, and why they’re harming themselves for seemingly no reason, and give those answers throughout the show.
- Possession is so scary because it’s a loss of self, and there’s nothing more scary than not being able to control who you are. You can hurt the people that you care about because something else has taken control of you. But as scary as the demons in the story might be, for Black, when it comes to stuff that’s terrifying and scary, he feels like the loss of family trumps everything.
Even though the show has two male leads, there is a strong female presence both behind the scenes and in front of the camera, and they make an effort to show an even balance in the storytelling. There are actually more men than women in the show’s writers’ room, and the ratio of male to female producers is 50/50.
- The show is primarily shot in South Carolina, which added to the mood and feel of everything. The locations perfectly contributed to the tone of the story that they’re telling.
- For the character of Kyle Barnes, Patrick Fugit said there was a non-regionally specific Southern accent request for the audition. They worked on Kyle’s hair, wardrobe, beard and accent until they got it just right, so it fluctuates a bit in the pilot while they were figuring it out. He ultimately decided to have him sound like a West Virginian coal miner.
- The show’s version of Kyle is pretty close to the comic book’s version of Kyle because Kirkman is involved with both projects. But there is a lot more texture and opportunity to explore Kyle on the show because they have more tools and time to tell the stories with. The first issue of the comic and the first episode of the show are very similar, and then things branch off from there.
- Fugit personally identifies with the feeling of being an outcast, having grown up in a predominantly Morman neighborhood in Utah. He found a small group of friends with similar interests, and they burned G.I. Joe figures, watched Monty Python and took stage combat classes. With a mother who was a ballet teacher, he also took ballet classes with his siblings and cousins.
- Megan, played by Wrenn Schmidt, is a woman who’s been through a lot and has built up a lot of armor, in order to survive. She’s also the skeptic on the show, with much of the evil that touches her being very human.
- Kyle and Megan have a very tight sibling bond, even though they’re not related by blood. Fugit and Schmidt already had their own familiarity because, seven or eight months prior to doing this TV series, they went through extensive chemistry testing for another TV series. They ultimately ended up not getting those roles, but that bond carried over to the roles they’re now playing.
Outside of Megan, Allison, played by Kate Lyn Sheil, is the only person that really understands Kyle and sees the goodness in him, along with what he has to offer to a partnership and to being a father.
- Playing Reverend Anderson is a bit of a performance within a performance for Philip Glenister, when he’s doing the preacher sermons. He watched TV evangelists for research, to see how they perform. What made the role appealing to Glenister was the fact that Anderson starts to question his belief and what’s going on. He’s a broken, lonely man who’s in complete denial, until Kyle comes along with his gift.
- The main goal for Chief Giles, played by Reg E. Cathey, is for the town to be together because he loves his town. If being a believer will help the town, he’d ever be willing to go to church to make that happen.
- The show uses a good number of practical effects, but like with any supernatural story, there is also a bit of the actors having to react to nothing. The exorcism of Joshua (from the pilot) took two days to shoot, but it was extensively storyboarded from start to finish.
- Because Kyle is figuring how exorcisms work, Fugit was able to figure things out as his character does. His preparation for the role was instead focused on Kyle’s upbringing and where his influences come from.
- Kyle’s main driving force is getting back to his family, since that’s the life that he’s always wanted. He wants to be there for his daughter to give her what he didn’t get, in terms of a childhood, but there’s been a hiccup in that process. So, as he starts to realize that staying away from his family might not necessarily protect them and keep them safe, he’s going to have more of a say in his destiny.
- Kyle has never learned how to fight and he’s not really in great shape, so he gets his ass kicked all over the first season. Fugit ended up having to do a lot of the stunts himself, even though he has a great stuntman to fill in for him, because the directors would set up a shot that included his face. As a result, Fugit only recently recovered from whiplash that he got during a street fight scene.
The actors have some freedom and don’t have to make sure they say every single word, exactly the way that it’s in the script. They can use a look to say the same thing as a line, if they feel that’s the best way to convey the emotion. The whole thing was a very collaborative process between the writers and actors.
- When it came to choosing directors, they want the show to be cinematic, with a look and feel that is filmic. The priority was finding the best person with the best take on the material, and they have a combination of film directors and veteran TV directors for the first season.
- With the show being on Cinemax, they have a freedom with the content and structure of the storytelling. Said Kirkman, “Knowing that there aren’t boundaries to work within is freeing. We have a less regimented less episode length that is very freeing. It just allows us to relax and focus on other details in the story. It doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. It just means that different projects work different ways. It’s something I could get used to. It’s a lot of fun.” Adds Black, “We’re allowed to be much more explicit with the language, violence and sex, but the most liberating and exciting thing is the storytelling. I feel we’re allowed to tell more provocative, daring stories that you might not normally see on a broadcast network.”
- The show has already been picked up for a second season, before a single episode had even aired, thanks in large part to Kirkman knowing exactly where the story is going. He said, “I know, roughly, where the story is going, all the way to the end. I know how many issues, roughly, that the comic series is going to run. I have pretty big, serious benchmarks laid out, and I know what the end of the story is. That was very much part of the pitch. The network was always aware that we know where we’re going with this. This is a very involved story. They are very confident that we’re doing something that’s very good and we have a good road map, and they like where we’re going with it.” Black added, “They’ve had a tremendous amount of faith in us, the work that we’ve done and the people involved. They were very happy with the first season of the show. They wouldn’t have made this decision, if they thought we’d given them garbage, which we didn’t. But, you have to let them know that you have a plan. They don’t buy a pilot, they buy a series.”
Outcast airs on Friday nights on Cinemax.