Robert Kirkman, the creator of the insanely popular The Walking Dead, saw his latest comic series Outcast, land on television screens last month.
The horror drama series stars Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous, Gone Girl) star as Kyle Barnes, a young man who has been plagued by demons since childhood with his loved one afflicted by possession. When he returns to his hometown in an attempt to lock himself away from society he instead finds himself searching for the truth with the help of Reverend Anderson (Phillip Glenister - Life on Mars, Mad Dogs).
We headed to MCM London Comic Con last week and attended an entertaining panel featuring Fugit and Glenister and co-stars Wrenn Schmidt (Our Idiot Brother), Reg E. Cathey (House of Cards) and Kate Lyn Sheil (You’re Next).
On the show:
Patrick Fugit: It is difficult [to describe]. One of the things that I enjoy about The Walking Dead, and I think a lot of people do, is that it’s about characters. And it’s about what happens to those characters in different moral situations. With Outcast there’s a lot of horrific elements but it is at its heart about these characters and the demons that they have personally. I think Robert’s done a great job.
On the characters:
Phillip Glenister: I play the Reverend Anderson, basically he’s a big fish in a small pond. He’s a kind of troubled soul, he sees himself as a soldier of God. He has a past history with Kyle through what happened to Kyle’s mother – we go back to when Kyle was a small boy - and was there kind of for him so he’s kind of like a father/mentor figure. He basically gave up his family life in his pursuit of the righteousness of his path. He’s estranged from his wife and his only son and so underneath that kind of brash exterior is a man who’s troubled, broken and a lonely soul.
Patrick Fugit: When we meet Kyle he’s kind of isolated himself in a pretty dark state. He’s staying in the house that he grew up in, he’s completely shunned himself from the rest of society. We learn through the first episode that he’s just come from a very tumultuous breaking of his family. He’s surrounding himself in darkness because he believes he has something to do with these possessions that are happening in this town.
Wrenn Schmidt: I play Megan Holter who is Kyle Barnes adoptive sister, she’s a child psychologist at the local elementary school. Grown up in Rome, West Virginia and lived there her whole life. She’s married to a very handsome police officer named Mark Holter who is played by the wonderful David Denman. At the beginning of the series Megan is very much the only person in the town who is very much in Kyle’s corner because something quite catastrophic has happened in his life that doesn’t match up with who she knows him to be. So she’s kind of the only person who’s on his side. She’s smart, has a great sense of humour – she makes a lot of poop jokes in the first episode! She’s very concerned with Kyle’s bowel movements [laughs]. She goes on a really big journey of her own, there’s quite a lot happening underneath that very strong façade.
Reg E. Cathey: The Chief is Chief of Police in Rome, West Virginia and when the darkness starts making itself evident in his town through his dear friend Reverend Anderson and through the young juvenile delinquent who he’s had to deal with in the past, it changes his whole world view and he has to come to some decisions about what he’s gonna do. It’s very scary, it’s a lot of fun working with all my boys!
Kate Lyn Sheil: I play Allison Barnes who is the estranged wife of Kyle Barnes. At the beginning of the show when you meet Allison she’s sort of trying to pull the pieces of her life together after a very catastrophic event and is grappling with the fact that she still loves Kyle very much but has lost a great deal of trust in him. They also have a daughter together played by Madeleine McGraw and that’s sort of the focal point of Allison’s life, she just wants to take care of her daughter.
On Facebook crashing when the first episode was previewed on the site:
Patrick Fugit: It feels spectacular. I didn’t even know it was happening, somebody posted it on my private Facebook wall and I was like: “You got a leaked version of the first episode?” and they were like: “No. It’s just on Facebook.” So I had a look, it was alright!
On what made them want to work on the show:
Patrick Fugit: It was cast by Laray Mayfield out of Los Angeles and who is very supportive of me and she usually does very exciting projects. So that was my initial entry. I didn’t know a lot about Robert Kirkman but then I started reading the first episode and there’s really some great character drama in there and the horrific elements are quite cerebral which I appreciated. They’re not jump scares and they’re not really gory scares, they’re very unsettling, they’re a bit disturbing. It seemed like exciting story telling.
Kate Lyn Sheil: There isn’t really a great deal I can say right now but Allison is not heavily featured in the pilot which was the first script I read and so really what drew me to the project was the team behind it and the writing. All of the characters were so incredibly well observed and well developed that I figured Allison’s character would be as well interpreted. Just the chance to play a complicated character.
Reg E. Cathey: Like Kate, the Chief isn’t in much of the pilot and he’s a white guy [in the comic book] and so what drew me to it was Robert. I talked to Robert and [producer] Chris Black and [director] Adam Wingard and so just from that. Robert Kirkman is like an intellectual bear! He’s like a giant guy who’s very friendly, very smart. But the best thing he did was guide Chris Black and all the writers and they’re the ones we mostly dealt with. Robert would come in and say: “Hey yeah man…”
On funny moments on set:
Phillip Glenister: The thing is when you’re working the hours that we do every day…people say you get paid to act but actually it’s a misdemeanour, you get paid to wait around, the acting is free. So the amount of time that we’d wait around we just used mess around and do impressions. I taught Patrick some Northern sayings…
Patrick Fugit: [Adopts Northern accent] Some Yorkshire.
Phillip Glenister: Say “bag o’shite”
Patrick Fugit: Oh fookin’ bag o’shite!
Phillip Glenister: Also Patrick does a fantastic Tom Cruise impression, a seriously good Tom Cruise impression, and I do a sort of ok Michael Caine. So we used to rehearse our scenes and think: “Well what would Michael and Tom…how would they play this?” and used to rehearse as Tom Cruise and Michael Caine.
Phillip Glenister on teaching the other cast members anything English:
Phillip Glenister: I did teach them how to make a cup of tea because believe it or not the Americans – I love them to bits but they haven’t got a clue on how to make a decent cup of British builder’s tea. Firstly, rule number one, you don’t put cream in tea; number two, you don’t use lukewarm water. So I taught them how to make a good old cuppa.
Patrick Fugit: A proper cuppa.
Phillip Glenister: They also told me I had to have cheese with everything. In the morning it would be: “Cup of tea? Cheese?”
On what sets Outcast apart from other TV shows:
Patrick Fugit: It’s a cool combination of story-telling themes to a part of. You have possession which is very genre and horror but there’s also these characters that you grow to care about quite a bit and they’re all sort of facing their own personal demons while these possessions with actual demons are happening within the town. It’s an exciting combination because obviously if it’s just possessions all the time in every episode all episode long it’s dreary. But you get some nice interactions and cool character stuff.
Phillip Glenister: I think one of the great things about this – it’s always in the writing and the story-telling for me – we happen to have an amazing mind in Robert Kirkman. All the characters are incredibly nuanced, even the smallest character, people coming in to do a guest part, everything is thought through. I think that’s very exciting and it means the writers really care about the project, really want it to be strong. I think if you’ve got a good story and strong characters you’re half-way there.
Wrenn Schmidt: I think something that Outcast does in a lovely way – and I feel like we’re starting to see this more and more in television which is exciting for me – is that there are strong female characters that are not dependent on male storylines. They’re definitely interwoven but it’s one of the first times that I felt that a character that I’m playing has agency of her own. I once had an experience on a really great show where I said to a writer: “I think she says this because of this,” and he’s like: “No actually you say this so that he can say this after…” I love the fact that both Kate and I play incredibly nuanced and complicated, interesting ladies. And I think Melinda McGraw who plays Patricia which is Phil’s love interest, she’s got quite an interesting story. I feel like there’s more of that in television but not enough of it yet.
Reg E. Cathey: Really it’s what they’ve said before, the character development, but also it’s really scary, you will be frightened and it will interrupt your sleep and you’ll dream of dark, dark things [laughs].
Kate Lyn Sheil: I think it’s a constant evolution that there are more complicated and great parts for women but there always could be more and I’m also very excited to be part of a show that is portraying nuanced female characters and strong female characters. To echo all my cast mates, I just think the writing on the show is impeccable, the horror elements feel very earned and are even more deeply terrifying than they otherwise would be.
On the intense opening scene:
Patrick Fugit: That was a young actor by the name of Gabriel Bateman who is an intense individual. He’s a bright, scorching ball of light, he’s extremely talented but he does everything as though it is like his life is on the line. He goes 100% every take, it’s crazy. And he gave himself whiplash smashing that bug. Actual whiplash! He’s an intense dude.
Phillip Glenister: He’s currently suing the production.
On what makes Outcast different to other genre shows:
Patrick Fugit: One of the things I really like about Robert Kirkman’s story-telling particularly in Outcast is that he’s able to take things that we find familiar within the genre, story-telling mechanics or tropes that we all recognise, but he and the writing team use them to shift the perspective. So as an audience we think we know what’s going to happen and then something else happens. So rather than trying to re-invent the way we look at possessions they use these templates that are already in place to sort of shift the perspective on you which is a cool way of doing it which he did similarly with The Walking Dead that I liked a lot. Some of the perspective’s on the monsters/zombies or the demons are twisted.
On what scares them:
Patrick Fugit: Empty chairs. I can’t sleep in a room that has an empty chair in it. I either have to tuck it in, or I put some shoes in or something so that if something invisible was going to sit in the chair would have to move whatever’s in the chair. So I’ll put like a notebook or something like [snaps fingers]: “What are you gonna do about that?” But yeah they freak me out a little bit.
Wrenn Schmidt: I don’t like jellyfish.
Patrick Fugit: No. Fuck jellyfish.
Wrenn Schmidt: Like anything else in the ocean that’s fine but jellyfish? Not a fan of those. I actually have a recurring nightmare where I’m driving in a car with a friend and we go up on a bridge and all of a sudden we’re flying because the middle of the bridge has been taken away and that’s quite scary.
Reg E. Cathey: I guess the biggest fear is unemployment.
Reg E. Cathey: Empty pay cheque along with the empty chairs kind of thing.
Kate Lyn Sheil: When I was growing up there was a room at the top of the flight of stairs going to one of the bedrooms and it was usually empty, we kept it to store stuff in there and that doorway was the most terrifying thing and I would run past it anytime I had to go in that direction. But other than that, deep sea and outer space, they’re too big.
Phillip Glenister: I don’t like clowns. Clowns kind of freak me out. I don’t like heights particularly, I don’t like snakes. I don’t like Donald Trump.
Phillip Glenister on playing the Reverend:
Phillip Glenister: Playing the Reverend over 10 episodes and not really knowing where your character is going – which is quite nice to be kept in the dark – there was always that under lying: “What’s gonna happen next?” moment. As the series progresses he has some very bleak moments that spring up. So it was the challenge of playing the complexities of the man and trying to keep it real. That’s the main thing, always try to play the truth and try to keep it real. It would have been a bit dull if he he’d just been doing exorcism of the week. So it was a challenge but one I really enjoyed doing, he was a great character and it was lovely working with all these lovely, lovely people who welcomed me with open arms.
Comic Con photo credit: Gilly Riddington
Video credit: An Englishman in San Diego
Outcast is on FOX now.