Fans of The Walking Dead learned quickly that what makes for a thrilling story in the pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic books can be even more spine-tingling and addictive onscreen. Kirkman’s newest adaptation, the Cinemax chiller Outcast, is no exception.
Almost Famous star Patrick Fugit plays Kyle Barnes, a troubled young man whose horrific childhood experience with demonic possession follows him into adulthood, crushing his hope for a peaceful life with his now-estranged wife and daughter. But a chance encounter with his childhood preacher, the equally troubled Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister, Life on Mars), leads the men to partner up to try to save themselves, their tiny West Virginia town — and possibly the world. While the reverend believes that exorcism is the answer, Kyle knows the creatures they’re dealing with don’t surrender to some chanted words and a splash of holy water. And that he himself might be both cause and solution.
“As time goes on, the belief systems that both of these characters hold, and the rules of the world that they’re looking at, all change,” Fugit explains. “It’s a hard thing for both of them to go through, especially because Kyle doesn’t necessarily want to be ‘the answer.’ He doesn’t want to be some hero or anything like that; that’s what Reverend Anderson wants to be. Kyle just wants his family back. He wants answers, and he wants to piece his life back together.”
Kirkman says the idea for Outcast is to take a deeper dive into the possession phenomenon than previous exorcism fare. So while horror fans can rest assured that all the good stuff is here — levitations and snarling voices, strange body positions and unfortunate expulsions, and the creepiest little kid this side of Damien Thorn — Outcast seeks to explore the how and why of demonic possession and what might be done to chase the beasts away for good. And what happens to perfectly good folks and families in the meantime.
“The backdrop is the possession stuff and those demons, and what’s going on with that,” says Fugit. “But I would say that the main focus of the show is everybody dealing with their different dark spots, and what they are, and how each individual either hides them away or overcomes them. What those demons do to the rest of their life.
“One of the things that I think is interesting is we’re not totally sure if we should or can root for Kyle yet,” Fugit continues. “I want Kyle to feel like somebody that we can root for. I feel like Kyle has a very bright heart and a simple desire, which is to love and be loved and be around his family. But the frustrations of not being able to do that — or feeling like he needs to isolate himself — turns him into a pretty frustrated, emotionally dark presence.”
The depth of Kyle’s predicament is apparent early in the premiere episode. Separated from his wife and child following what appeared to others as a clear-cut case of child abuse, Kyle is hauled off to the home of grade-schooler Joshua Austin (Gabriel Bateman), whose mother begs Reverend Anderson for help after the boy starts acting strangely (the opening scene is a chiller). In short order, Kyle finds himself in yet another very tough spot with another little kid.
Fugit calls the 10-year-old Bateman an on-set favorite.
“He’s incredible, man!” Fugit chuckles. “He’s such a good little guy — and he really liked that scene when we get into the altercation. It took a couple days to film and that’s a lot of stuff to go through, especially for a young actor. Sometimes you’re in a harness, sometimes you’re wearing elbow pads and get thrown over the bed or across the room. But he never complained. Philip and I are, like, groaning and complaining, and he’s just getting ready for the next take. He was the most professional one on set.”
With Outcast already renewed for a second season, Fugit says cast and crew are settling in to see where Kirkman and his co-executive producer Chris Black (Mad Men, Star Trek: Enterprise) will take them — and the viewers. “It’s really cool seeing the small little bits of story that happen in the comics get put under a magnifying glass in the show,” he says. “And there’s some storylines that aren’t in the comics that are some of my favorites actually. They’re just really interesting — and they’re with some really great actors I love watching.”
Outcast airs Friday night at 10/9CT beginning June 3 on Cinemax