Interview Wrenn Schmidt talks Outcast

Wrenn Schmidt talks Outcast

Schmidt opened up about the first season ahead of the home release of the brilliantly tense show.

Season One of supernatural thriller Outcast, the latest show from The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman, is out on Blu-ray and DVD now. 

Outcast follows loner Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), estranged from his wife and young daughter after a violent incident and back living in his childhood home in the town of Rome in West Virginia. Plagued by demonic possession his whole life, Kyle teams up with Rome’s preacher, Reverend Anderson (Phillip Glenister) when the town appears to over run with a series of apparent possessions.

DIY spoke with Wrenn Schmidt who plays Kyle’s loyal and dependable sister, Megan Holter about the first season ahead of the home release of the brilliantly tense show.

Was the fact that Outcast isn’t a straightforward supernatural show one of the reasons you were attracted to the role of Megan?
Yes, but I wouldn’t say I had full knowledge of what the story line was going into it. I read the first script, the pilot. Then in the process I eventually read the comics that kind of coincide with the pilot script. What really drew me to the project was the writing the complexity of the characters. Megan has so little initially to do with that other world that I was just really excited about digging in to the meat of the story line that for me felt like the kernel of what that was going to be was already woven into the pilot. But also at the same time I like to be blissfully ignorant of what’s going on, I kind of never knew anything in advance.

Was Robert Kirkman available to explain to you where Megan was perhaps going to end up?
He was but I never wanted or ask those questions, I like to stay very much within each script as we’re working on it so I never really asked about anything that didn’t pertain to what we were working on at the time.

Did it in a way feel like being part of two different shows at some points? There’s the supernatural/possession stuff and then you’re there dealing with past secrets and family life… in many ways Megan is the heart of the show.
That’s a really good question. I wouldn’t necessarily say two separate shows more two separate story lines and weirdly while that sometimes felt a little lonely I felt it was a gift. To me it felt like the writers and creators of this show were giving the audience a female story line that was very independent of the other major arc on the show and that’s unfortunately more rare than it should be. So while one part of me was, ”I’m not involved in any of the action,” most of my scenes were with David [Denman, on-screen husband Mark Holter] and Scott Porter who played Donnie. I actually was a little disappointed because in the pilot so many scenes are between Megan and Kyle and then throughout the first season occasionally there would be a really great scene between the two of them but a lot of the times they were talking over the phone. You get a sense of them being in contact because their characters are so connected. But yeah it did feel a bit like being in a different story line but at the same time I do think that’s really important to the show. I think it’s that having that heart and that weight are the things that ground the material in many ways. That’s true not only for Megan’s character but I think also for Kyle Barnes and for the Chief and the Reverend and in addition to all of the supernatural things that are going on all of the characters have these really intense family story lines that I think are incredibly important to the show.

As a character Megan really does go on an incredible journey. The scenes between Megan and Donnie are really powerful. She starts off so optimistic and in control and then we see her vulnerable and frayed at the edges. How was that to play? It’s pretty dark material that you’re working with here…
It is but it’s really fun! It’s really challenging material so for any actor it’s exciting and while it’s intense material it’s complex and it’s deep and it’s gritty and there’s a lot of shades to play which is always…I don’t want to say a gift but it’s really exciting to dig into. 

We particularly love the relationship between Megan and Kyle, did you and Patrick Fugit work on that relationship?
I would say that that piece of the puzzle evolved organically. Patrick and I actually tested for another television show together maybe six or seven months before Outcast so it was kind of nice walking into the room to audition with each other it felt like there was already a sense of camaraderie between the two of us having had that shared experience. But also having a degree of comfort from having met each other before. A lot of the relationship I would say was already crafted into the story line by Robert in that pilot script and in the comics. For me it was about fleshing out that material and then also drawing on my own relationships that feel very much like they’re rooted in that familial bond. I don’t have any brother’s unfortunately, I always wanted an older brother but I do have an older sister and there’s a sense of ease within that relationship. It was all of things having known Patrick a tiny bit before and what was in the writing.

Comic book readers are a discerning bunch, what has the feedback been from the comics fans?
I don’t have a huge understanding of what that feedback is, I try and put my hood up after the work is complete as far as how the material is received. I think being too aware of that, at least for me personally it can interfere with my work. So I kind of do the work and get really excited to do the work and then hide! [laughs] Because someone can say a million and one nice things and one person can say something really negative and if you become aware of the negative thing it can kind of grow down deep into your head and get stuck there like a thorn. So I kind of just let my representative if they see something great let me know about it but often times now I don’t look at that either. But it is really nice doing the Comic Cons that we go to because for me that’s the real moment when you get to interact with people face to face. I would say particularly at the last New York Comic Con it was the first time I think that we’d all sat down in front of an audience where pretty much everyone there had seen all of the first season and the most exciting thing for me was hearing their interest and their curiosity about the show as well as their questions that meant that they had really delved in deeply with the characters. That’s just awesome as an actor to realise, ”They get it!” [laughs]. That they’re invested in it and that they want to know more, honestly that’s a really nice compliment that we’ve gotten, to know that you’ve had people say, ”What’s next? We want more.”

Outcast Season One is available now on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment.

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