Robert Kirkman has a new TV show premiering this month, and it doesn’t even have “Walking Dead” in the title. Outcast is based on his latest comic book series, and airing on Cinemax Fridays at 10PM. Where The Walking Dead revolutionized the zombie genre, Outcast hopes to do the same for exorcism and possession stories.
Patrick Fugit stars as Kyle, an outcast from his family due to a tragedy in their past. Philip Glenister plays the reverend who teaches Kyle the truth about demons and how to purge hem. Wrenn Schmidt plays Kyle’s sister, Kate Lyn Sheil plays his ex-wife and Reg E. Cathey is the chief of police who does not believe… yet. Rotten Tomatoes got to sit in a roundtable with Kirkman and Outcast showrunner Chris Black. Here are 10 things we learned about the show, and we’ll be back with another list of tidbits from the cast themselves.
Most exorcism movies end right after the exorcism. Doing a TV show, like a comic book series, allows Outcast to explore exorcism and possession further. “This is going to be the exorcism story where they actually treat demonic possession like a solvable problem,” Kirkman said. “They’re not going to just do one case and then go, ‘Well, we’re going to go home and hope this doesn’t happen again, but we’re never going to do anything to actually prevent that.’ This is very much about the journey of trying to find out what is going on and how to prevent it. Kyle is very much at the center of that.”
Sure, it’s tough to see your loved one get up and walk towards you, snarling and growling and clawing for your brains. It’s quite another to see your living relative speak articulately in an evil voice. “What possession is is loss of self,” Black said. “There’s really, I think, nothing more terrifying than that. Not being able to control who you are, not being able to control your own actions, hurting people you care about because something else has taken control of you. I think that’s about the most terrifying thing I can imagine.”
With most shows, you watch each episode once and move onto the next one. Kirkman designed Outcast so that when he gets to season two, you’ll be able to watch season one again with a whole new perspective. “After you’ve seen the entirety of the second season, you’ll be able to go back and watch the pilot again and go, ‘Oh, that’s why that’s happening and that’s why that’s happening,’” Kirkman promised. “Then after season three, you’ll be able to go back again and go, ‘Oh, oh, that’s why they’re doing that and that leads to this.’ It’ll all hopefully make sense.”
Possession and exorcism have their roots in Christianity, Satan, and his demon agents. Outcast will get a lot more specific to explain what is actually behind the possessions on the series. “There’s a very involved mythology to our world,” Kirkman said. “So what you see in the pilot are very traditional possessed behaviors that you see all over the genre. But what we’re going to be doing in series is explaining exactly what’s happening and explaining exactly why those things are occurring.”
The scary parts are when children are screaming and attacking grown-ups, or when possessed adults are murdering innocent women. However, just like on The Walking Dead, you’ll come back for all the parts between the exorcisms.
“The true horror of that show, for me, was not from zombie carnage but was from the ongoing threat being presented to people that I cared about,” Black said of The Walking Dead. “I hope that absent zombies in Outcast, you will invest in that group of characters the same way. You will feel the threat to them the same way and the jeopardy to them and the emotional stakes to them, and you will invest in those characters the same way you’ve invested in Rick and Glenn and everybody in The Walking Dead.”
Rick Grimes may be conflicted, but even at his most morally ambiguous, he’s protecting his family and his group. The producers of Outcast hope to push Kyle much further into dark territory as he struggles to fight the demons and save his own family. Luckily, on Cinemax, anything goes.
“I think the pilot is a good example,” Black said. “We have our lead character do things and put him in a situation that I think you would not be allowed to get away with on a broadcast network. We compromise that character in a way that I think challenges our audience to say, ‘Are you going to stick with this guy? Oh you are? Good.’ I don’t know that we would’ve been allowed the freedom to tell that story someplace else.”
Outcast has several leading roles for women in its cast, but behind the scenes there are even more female producers and writers. Kirkman and Black welcome diversity. “We’re just trying to accurately portray the world,” Kirkman said. “I think that it is a problem that a lot of male writers don’t necessarily see that perspective much but we do go to great lengths to try and make sure that we are showing an even balance and making sure that the stories center around both male and female characters. That’s something that I try to do in all my work.”
Speaking of men and women, when it comes to the character relationships, the creators need look no further than their own lives. “Every writer does that,” Kirkman said. “So certainly there’s relationships with my sister, my mother, my wife, my daughter, all kinds of different things that I draw inspiration from so that I don’t sound like a complete knucklehead.”
Black went even further. His wife may notice something personal in a scene between Schmidt and David Denman, playing her husband. “There was a scene where Megan and her husband Mark were fighting where I pulled some dialogue word for word from a fight I had with my wife,” Black admitted.
The pilot of Outcast was directed by Adam Wingard, and Howard Deutch executive produces the series. Wingard directed the films You’re Next and The Guest and Deutch directed the classics Pretty In Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.
“I don’t think we made a conscious decision to go to feature film directors,” Black said. “We’ve had frankly just as many really talented and experienced veteran TV directors on the show as well. People like Tricia Brock and Scott Winant, people who have long, prestigious careers shooting almost exclusively television. It’s really who’s the best person, who has the best take on the material, who are we excited about, who’s excited about us, which is also important.”
Cinemax has already greenlit a second season of Outcast. Kirkman shared ideas for additional seasons as part of the original pitch. He even knows where a third season would go, just as he’s outlined the story of the comic books far ahead of the actual publishing. Black described the network’s decision.
“[Cinemax] had a tremendous amount of faith in us,” Black said. “They have a lot of faith in the work that we’ve done, the people involved. They were very happy with the first season of the show, even before it aired. They wouldn’t have made this decision if they thought we’d given them garbage, which we didn’t. But you have to be able to let them know that you have a plan.”
Outcast premieres on Cinemax at 10 pm on June 3. Read reviews here.