When Outcast debuted in 2016, it was warmly embraced by fans of comic book television and horror shows. Based on the Image Comics series by The Walking Dead‘s Robert Kirkman and artist Paul Azacata, it stars Patrick Fugit as Kyle Barnes, a young man plagued by memories of childhood abuse at the hands of his mother. While trying to rebuild his life following a divorce, local minister Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) helps him discover the truth: both he and his mother were possessed by a demonic darkness which looms all over their hometown of Rome, West Virginia.
Over the course of the first season, Kyle learns he is an Outcast from the darkness and uniquely capable of expunging it from those possessed by its evil; meanwhile, the mysterious Sidney (Brent Spiner) plans to use Kyle for his own ends.
Then, strangely, the series disappeared.
It aired internationally last summer, but remained in Cinemax’s vault for over a year. And as executive producer Chris Black recently told Rotten Tomatoes, the reasons behind the delay are as mysterious as Sidney’s real objective.
“We surely wanted to get the show out for fans to see it. We worked really hard and we’re incredibly proud of all the work we did in the second season,” he said. “There were just simply internal decisions at the network, and we really had no control over the [scheduling.]”
At the same time, he said he was “grateful” the show will finally air in the U.S. starting Friday, and “we hope that the fans haven’t forgotten and that there’s still enthusiasm to see the work we did.”
(Photo by Niko Tavernise/2015. FOX International Studios)
Despite the year’s delay, the story picks up on the heels of the season 1 finale, with Reverend Anderson surveying the wreckage of Sidney’s burned-out trailer and Kyle realizing he cannot leave Rome, even for his daughter Amber’s (Madeleine McGraw) sake. In a strange twist of fate, almost all the characters except Police Chief Giles (Reg E. Cathey) and Kyle’s ex-wife Allison (Kate Lyn Sheil) face the reality that they are homeless, some for the first time in their lives. According to Black, leaving the characters without homes grew out of the desire to leave the characters “exposed” at the end of the first season finale and to have them face “extreme circumstances” when the second season begins.
For Fugit, the second season meant spending more time with McGraw as Kyle gets used to being a father again.
“That was something I was really excited about and wanted to do,” he said. “When I met Madeline [in the first season], we met the day of a scene that we were filming, and I think she was six years old at the time.”
(Photo by Kent Smith/CINEMAX)
The two had to both feel each other out as actors and figure the familiarity of their characters, Fugit said: “I could tell she was kind of unsure how daughter-like to be with me, and I was a little unsure about how father-like to be with her. It’s like a father and daughter who don’t want to hug each other or don’t look at each other in the eye, and that kind of thing.”
After the pair later filmed the scene in the first season in which Kyle tells Amber about the reality of possession — a moment Fugit felt the two characters finally clicked — he asked Black if the pair would continue to bond. The producer responded in the affirmative and gave the actor a little hint into Amber’s ultimate role on the series, her unique powers, and their continuing relationship.
“I think it comes across really well in the scenes, our connection, and the second season affords us even more opportunities to play around with that stuff,” Fugit added. “The father-daughter legacy kind of superheroes is one of my favorite aspects of the show.”
Black said McGraw’s performance reassured producers they were safe expanding her role.
“You’re never sure when you cast a young actor … as talented and intuitive as an actor may be, you’re dealing with a child,” Black said. “One of the reasons that her role becomes so much more prominent in the second season was because the story demanded it. But also, she gave us as writers and producers the confidence that she could do it.”
(Photo by Kent Smith/Cinemax)
Thanks to the delayed airing, the second season of Outcast also represents one of the last performances of the late Reg E. Cathey. As Chief Giles, the actor transformed a minor character in the comic book into an integral part of the television cast.
“It expanded and [he] brought that humanity, a sort of authority, but also the vulnerability,” Black said of the character as Cathey played him. “There were so many layers that he brought to that character that were barely written into the role that he made it his own and I feel so personally blessed that we got a chance to spend some time with him.”
Black recalled Cathey offscreen as “the nicest, kindest, most generous, funny, sweet human beings you would ever wanna share a workplace with.”
Fugit said he looked forward to days Cathey was on set, as it meant he was guaranteed to hear stories from the actor’s hardscrabble days as a young theater actor in New York.
“Reggie was a phenomenal storyteller and lived a life worth telling stories about. He would always tell stories about failed auditions, or things going awry onstage,” he said. “I always likened it to hanging around a campfire. It was like Reg was the source of the heat on set that day, and it was like, if you sat close enough, you’d warm your bones, and you’d take away some energy when you left.”
(Photo by Kent Smith/Cinemax)
Back in the Season 2 story line, Kyle faces one of his toughest challenges yet: convincing Allison and his sister Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) that they were both possessed by the darkness when they committed horrible acts in the first season. When their stories resume in season 2, Megan is nearly suicidal over memories that she killed her husband while Allison’s recollection of hurting Amber put her in a nearby psychiatric hospital. And despite Kyle’s insistence, both are seeking more conventional answers for what happened.
“It’s a crazy thing if you’re asking people to believe a ghost story,” Black said. And as the darkness gets closer to both characters, he added that they continue to grope for real-world explanations. “The alternative, that [they were] possessed by demons, is just impossible to accept.”
And though the series centers on a supernatural terror, it was important to Black that the series maintain Kirkman’s tone from the comic book: “The small-town, character-driven ensemble drama first, and a horror show second.” But in the second season, a certain streak of gruesome makeup effects entered the proceedings. As Black put it, “nothing gets an audience squirming more than a little prosthetic mayhem.”
“There was a sense that the horror needed to escalate,” he explained.
It almost seems a mission statement as the first episode of the second season opens with a possessed man getting tangled in razor wire and freeing himself to gory effect. Subsequent episodes feature graphic mutilations, stabbings and at least one throat-cutting.
“Cinemax was always incredibly supportive, they never hold us back. If anything, they were always encouraging us to go further,” Black said.
Meanwhile, Kyle will continue to get kicked and beaten — an Outcast tradition at this point.
“Kyle has a strong heart and a noble sort of moral compass, but he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree,” Fugit said of the character. “And so he ends up getting himself into some situations that I think he’s lucky he’s got a hard head. Like they say, if you’re gonna be dumb, you better be tough.”
According to Black, Fugit was excited to learn Kyle will win at least one fight during the second season. Fugit recalled saying, “Kyle gets to win? That’s great!”
Outcast returns Friday, July 20 at 10 p.m. on Cinemax.