The WGN America drama series Outsiders tells the tale of the struggle for power and control set in the rugged hills of Appalachia. The Farrell Clan is a tight-knit family of renegades who have lived atop Shay Mountain for over 200 years, and they must fight to defend their land and way of life from the town below and anyone who would dare to challenge them.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, actor Kyle Gallner (who plays Hasil, the Farrells’ resident craftsman who is curious about the real world in a way that could prove to be dangerous) talked about how he got involved with Outsiders, why the project and character appealed to him, getting to help in building this world, the old ways of the mountain versus the new ways of the town, re-evaluating his own approach to technology, and just where Hasil fits in among this family.
Collider: How did this come about for you?
KYLE GALLNER: I’m always on the look-out for good material. I’ve always been a little skeptical of television, not because I don’t think there’s good television, but my heart just loves film. Things change and happen, and I have kids, so a stable job helps. I was a little more open to the idea of a television show, and then I got this. I read it and was fascinated by it because the world is so different. Not only that, with Hasil, as a character, I saw a lot of room to play and a lot of room to create him, really step into his shoes, and have the opportunity to transform and do some character work. In the script, they had tattoos and they dressed like gypsy mountain people. Until I booked the show, it didn’t matter, but those ideas were really appealing. I wouldn’t have to play a normal guy on a cop show. There was a lot more here, in terms of the character and in terms of the show. The possibilities were endless. We get to create the world. So, there were a lot of things that appealed to me. So, when my agent sent me the script, I read it and was interested, and then I auditioned and was fortunate enough to get the role.
The material could have been a disaster in the wrong hands. What reassured you that it would turn out to be what you were hoping it would be?
GALLNER: You take a chance every time you do a job. You just hope that people’s hearts are in the right place and that they’re looking to make the best product. The ideas were there. One of the main things that was really reassuring was having someone like David Morse sign on. I trusted them to help create this world. Once everyone got on set, I sat down with (show creator) Peter Mattei, who was very open to our ideas in creating this world. A lot of what you see actually came from discussions and not necessarily what was in the script, immediately. We got to really help in building this world and building their customs.
What can you say about who the Farrells are?
GALLNER: We’re a people who have pretty much been left alone. We’ve been left to our own devices, and we like it that way. We’ve adapted as time has changed. The town has got these problems that are encroaching on our world a little bit, and it’s probably closer than it’s every been. Technology has come about. We have ATVs now, and we go into town whenever we need stuff. You can see how their world has been affected. As much as we run from the modern world, there are things that seep in that you can’t help. So, playing with that balance has been a lot of fun. Before the show came out, people thought we were making a mockery of people who live off the grid, but we’re not. Our family is not a representation of these people, or the people of the Appalachian Mountains, or people who live off the grid. We are a representation of ourselves. We are strictly the Farrells. We’ve created our own world and live by our own rules. We always wanted to be sensitive of making sure things didn’t feel like a mockery, and that they felt original.
When you do something like this, does it make you re-evaluate your approach to technology in your life?
GALLNER: Yeah, you can’t really help but re-evaluate things. When you start digging into the thought process of these people and who they are, you realize that they’re from another time. These people live now, but they live as though they’re from another time. As you do research and you read about people in the area who live off the grid, you ask yourself, “Could I do this? Could I really step away?” There’s something refreshing about the idea. I have moments where I catch myself on my phone too much, or doing things on my computer too much. I have to look up from the screen. I have a family. It’s very easy to get caught up. Even before the show, I made a conscious effort to put things down. The show only reaffirmed that. It’s a nice feeling to step into the shoes of Hasil because it’s tapped into a side of me that I really wanted to explore and bring out, but never really had an opportunity to. I realize that I have a side that loves living like this guy and being like this guy. I ranted to my wife in the car, one day, that we should do something instead of being stuck. It’s a good feeling to make something and to feel like you can take care of yourself. I hope this show sparks a bit of a thought process that teaches us that we should just communicate with each other and get back in touch.
How does Hasil fit in with this family, and what does he want his place to be?
GALLNER: Hasil loves his family, fiercely. Up on the mountain, family is everything. If we didn’t rely on each other and family wasn’t the most important thing, we never would have survived as long as we had. I’m sure there were moments of stress and tension. Everyone relies on everybody. It takes a village to raise a child. He’s at an age where he’s wanting to explore, and he’s gone out on runs, so he knows that there’s more to the world. He’s at that curious age, and seeing Sally-Ann (Christina Jackson) has really sparked that interest. It was the catalyst for him to be like, “Okay, I’m going to start checking this out.” He’s really in town for her. He’s not down there ‘cause he’s like, “I really want to know what’s down here.” And he’s got to ask himself some really tough questions, like would he leave his family. I don’t think they’d accept her on the mountain, so what should he do? They have each other and they’re falling in love with each other, but Hasil is a little bit lost. He sort of knows what’s going on, on the mountain, but he’s also stepped away a little bit. This girl gives him attention and love, so he wants to explore that. He’s just floating right now while he’s figuring it out, and he’s tested quite a bit. Hasil goes through a pretty big journey.
What do you think it is that he sees in Sally-Ann, specifically?
GALLNER: I don’t know. I think they just see something in each other. Initially, she was just so different and so beautiful, and that’s something that he didn’t get up on the mountain. But, she was kind to him. She looked at him differently than anybody else. There was just an instant connection for the two of them. I don’t know if it was anything specific, or if they just recognize something in each other. He knows what he wants and he goes after it, very fiercely. They fell in love very hard, very fast. I think it’s as simple as that. When you know, you know.
Outsiders airs on Tuesday nights on WGN America.