Outcast premiered last Friday on Cinemax, when audiences were introduced to Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister), a preacher-cum-exorcist who recruits Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a loner with a dark past, to assist in clearing the town of dark forces. We got to chat with the cast of Outcast, which also includes Wrenn Schmidt, Julia Crockett, Kate Lyn Shiel, and Reg E. Cathey, who shared 11 secrets behind the making of the show (check out our interview with series creator Robert Kirkman and showrunner Chris Black for more). Outcast airs Fridays at 10 pm on Cinemax.
Toward the end of the pilot, audiences were treated to Outcast‘s first exorcism, performed by Rev. Anderson with Kyle’s help. Glenister told us that scene took two and a half days to film, nailing every shot in director Adam Wingard’s storyboard one by one.
“Those kind of things take such a long time, so there’s a lot of looking up and imagining you’re seeing a child levitating,” Glenister said. “Of course, it wasn’t Gabriel. He was doing his schoolwork somewhere. So me and Patrick only go, ‘Oh my God.’ I’m seeing this pretend lava and then okay, the lava comes out. He had an amazing stunt double, Gabriel. This stuntwoman who was his height, put a wig on so she did all the really heavy stuff.”
That exorcism would be enough to give anyone whiplash, but Fugit endures more. You’ll see him get in a bar fight which the director of that episode made sure to film with Fugit, not his stunt double.
“I still have whiplash from those f***ing scenes,” Fugit said. “Kyle’s never learned how to fight. Kyle’s not really in great shape. So Kyle gets his ass kicked all over the first season. He gets into a lot of fights. You’d think he would’ve learned to fight by now, but he doesn’t. Like with that scene, I did most of that scene, and I am not kidding, I had whiplash until probably two months ago from that scene, that street fight. So it was fun, but it’s also just leaves its mark on you because you’re flinging yourself around so much.”
The exorcists on the show are men, but there are plenty of women in the cast, and they’re not just sitting around listening to expository dialogue. You’ll get into the story of Megan, Allison, and Kyle and Megan’s mother.
“What’s really beautifully done on the show is that these female characters exist independently of the male characters,” Schmidt said. “Everybody’s interwoven together in a really wonderful way. I don’t ever feel like Alison or Megan are serving another character’s storyline, which is really wonderful. It’s unfortunately uncommon.”
In the second episode, you’ll see Rev. Anderson do what he does best: not exorcism, but preaching to his flock. Anderson gets up close and personal with his congregation, and that was all Glenister’s idea.
“In episode two, there’s a big sermon that I had to deliver,” Glenister said. “Rather than just be stuck behind the pulpit and just saying the lines, I thought it’d be nice to get out into the crowd, if you like, and use that walkway with the pews on either side as his stage, if you like. That’s what it is. It’s his stage. So to play those elements is quite fun.”
Kyle is the rookie on the exorcism circuit, so Fugit didn’t have to do the religious research Glenister did, or the specific procedure of exorcism. Instead, Fugit focused on the family backstory of Kyle.
“Most of my preparation had to do with Kyle and his upbringing,” Fugit said. “How far along his childhood he got positive influences and positive experiences, and then when that was cut short, that sort of thing. Also interacting with the other actors who play the reverend and Megan and all that. That was where most of my preparation came in.”
A few of the demonic powers exhibited in the exorcisms obviously can’t be real. Soul sucking breath and heaps of black goo require visual effects, but most of it is created with things that can actually be done on set.
“We do have a good number of practical effects being employed on the show,” Shiel said. “But of course any supernatural show you’re going to have a bit of reacting to nothing.”
Then again, the human evils don’t require any imagination at all. “I got to play the skeptic,” Schmidt said. “Most of my storyline revolves around things that happen kind of early on in the season but are all very much interacting with very much human and very present evil. At least for my character. So what’s been cool, is actually seeing a lot of that stuff in retrospect, seeing how all of those things were executed and being really fascinated and wondering what is real, what is not real.”
In one of the church scenes, Glenister convinced director Howard Deutch to film a rehearsal, so he could get a fresh take before he’d ever performed the scene. It went so well, even the extras got into it.
“So they set a crane up at the back of the church, a big wide master and we just sort of went for it and they followed me around with a camera and went right through it,” Glenister said. “It was great because at the end, this little lady took my leg and she turned around and went, ‘I’m converted.’ It was just fun to get into people’s faces, see their reaction when you’re scaring the s*** out of them, which is what those sort of preachers do in many respects: put the fear of God into people.”
Kyle seems to be the sibling with the most troubled past. At least, it appears that way — at the beginning of the show, he’s living alone in a trailer without running water. Soon, however, we’ll learn that Megan has been battling her own demons when someone from her past reenters her life.
“For me, it’s been trying to flesh out very much the emotional life of this woman who’s created an identity for herself that is very opposite of this thing that happened to her when she was young, this awful, horrible thing that’s addressed in the third and the fourth episode,” Schmidt said. “I think Megan is very much somebody who’s created this sense of identity for herself that’s about being strong and outspoken and self-sufficient: ‘I can do everything for myself, and I have a great family, and I’ve built this wonderful life for myself.’ To then see her thrown into a position where the one thing in her life that’s like her Kryptonite shows up and is like, ‘Ha ha ha.’ Getting to work with how she reacts to that, how disarmed she is by that, is a really fun thing for me.”
This won’t be the last we hear of Megan’s past either. “I think the show really does try and explore it more,” she said. “I don’t want to say how they do that, because I think it will be much more exciting for people to be surprised. It’s not something where they drop the penny and say, ‘Well, you never know if we’re coming back to that.’ It is something that is explored.”
As Kyle comes face to face with the demon world, he also comes out of his shell and begins to see the possibility of reuniting with his family. “Kyle’s main carrot on the stick is getting back to his family,” Fugit said. “That’s the life that he always wanted. He wants to be there for Amber, his daughter, to give her what he didn’t get in terms of a childhood. Obviously, there’s been a hiccup in that process, but I think that no matter what happens during the first season, his choices will be guided by the fact that he’s there for his family. That’s what he wants, so that’s what he’s ultimately going to go for.”
Making a show like Outcast raises the question: do you believe? While a belief in heaven and hell is not absolutely necessary to portray demonic possession, it makes the actors think. Reg E. Cathey revealed that he believes in ancient aliens.
“If we only use like seven percent of our brains, and our DNA is only one percent different from a chimpanzee,” Cathey began, “If that small difference makes a chimpanzee and people who can make atomic bombs and bomb Hiroshima, then if some creature used 10 percent of theirs and they were another point ahead of us, what would that look like? What would we call them? Would we call them devils? Would we call them ancient aliens, gods? What is that really? Even what we’re dealing with now on Outcast, if these devils are just us with a different… It could go on forever.”
We meet Kyle at his lowest. With no running water, you can imagine no showers or shaves either. Fugit was clean cut in person and he actually gets there through the first season of Outcast.
“I like to have shorter hair,” Fugit said. “I used to have really long hair but it’s a pain in the ass. I enjoy having a beard and growing it out because I didn’t know I could do that until recently. I never let it get to that point so I think towards the second half of the season, you see Kyle starting to take more of an attentive stance on his appearance. Particularly, if he’s going to try to get his family back, he probably shouldn’t look like a homeless person. But it is his physical nature in the first few episodes, his appearance, those are all communicating what’s going on with him so they’re both really cool concepts to play around with.”