Drenched in the Pantone colors of despair, subdued hues of colors that fold into each other like a wooded forest in need of clearing, Outcast returns to Cinemax after a bit of a hiatus as the show aired in the UK but not in the USA.
The somber Kyle Barnes is heading back to Rome, as the series’ star Patrick Fugit imbues his character with a sense of purpose and bit more optimism this sophomore season.
Barnes is very special, a young man who has the curse of demonic possession all his life. Fugit plays this complex character with a subdued gravitas and palpable intensity.
His stalwart friend is Reverend Anderson, (Philip Glenister) a preacher who wars with his own beliefs but fights like a soldier and believes the evil surrounding Rome is a tangible entity and has put his efforts into saving the town and beating back the devil however cloaked he may come.
Created and executive produced by Robert Kirkman (The Walking Dead), the show is based on his graphic novel comics and explores how people who are of meager means deal with the stressors of the sub-human and supernatural world through a lens of faith and fealty to each other.
The season two cast also includes Wrenn Schmidt, Megan Holter, the late Reg E. Cathey, Kate Lyn Sheil, Allison Barnes, Julia Crockett, David Denman and Brent Spiner.
The premiere kicks off with “Bad Penny” written by showrunner Chris Black and directed by Tricia Brock.
The episode sees Kyle (Fugit) accompanied by daughter Amber (Madeleine McGraw), head back to Rome only to find a deeply disturbed Megan (Wrenn Schmidt), who cannot shake the possession episode. Reverend Anderson (Glenister) comes to the aid of Patricia (Melinda McGraw) find her son Aaron and is drawn to a cryptic religious service far into the woods. Police chief Giles (Cathey) sees the malfeasance in town and counsels Kyle and Anderson attempt to track down Sidney (Brent Spiner).
We spoke to Chris Black and Patrick Fugit about this intense drama based on Kirkman’s comics.
Monsters and Critics: Chris, we’ve had a hiatus. The fans are excited that it’s coming back, but what I’ve found interesting this first episode in the second season, The Bad Penny was that I watched it with someone who didn’t know the source material and wasn’t really plugged into the first season. And they fell right into it. Can you talk about what you wanted to accomplish in that episode?
Chris Black: Well, first of all, that’s very heartening to hear, I mean, that’s what you always want. That’s the tightrope that you have to walk and sort of long-form storytelling where you’re trying to tell a larger, overarching mythology that Robert [Kirkman] has laid out in the comic that is going to run episode after episode, or issue after issue with his comic.
But you don’t want someone coming late to the party or to feel they missed out. What you always try to do when you do a season premiere is resolve the cliffhangers from the prior episode or from the prior season, and we really had left Kyle and Amber in an interesting dilemma at the end of the first season standing there in the parking lot in that gas station surrounded by possessed entities.
And I think a lot of people were like, “well, where do you go from there?”, and then we brought the story back to Rome [West Virginia].
You want it to resolve the storyline where Megan ends up with the situation with her husband, with the Reverend ends up in the situation with Sydney and burning down his trailer.
Both of those things and pick up those threads, and at the same time reintroduce the story both in a larger overarching sense and in the smaller sense of individual plot lines to a new audience who might be picking it up for the first time.
M&C: I really got a sense that the story, and please correct me if I’m wrong, but we know Kyle so much better than the first season, obviously, but Rome itself feels more of a character, are we going to learn more about why this particular spot in West Virginia is just so haunted and horrible?
Chris: Well, ultimately yes, that is the long-term goal of the series; to why these people buy this place, you know? And as the show progresses into the second season, we may not find out all the answers to that, but we will certainly start peeling away some of it. And Rome’s always supposed to have been a character in the show.
We found a wonderful place to shoot the series that so invokes the look and feel of the place that Robert [Kirkman] created in the comic and those towns in South Carolina where we shot ultimately became kind of characters unto themselves and I think to answer your question also that the storyline is going to spread in the second season out from the sort of smaller where this was almost a dark secret that was kept inside peoples’ homes and bedrooms, behind locked doors and in Rome in the first season is now going to spill out into the street.
M&C: Patrick, your character Kyle seems to be more comfortable in his skin this second season. It seems like your character is brighter and more focused, like you kind of understand what you need to do, and if you could talk about that?
Patrick Fugit: Yes, I think a lot of Kyle’s tone in the first season is somewhat unfocused and … dark. He’s dealing with a lot of self-scarring, and stuff like that; and he’s also discovering what this power means and what he feels he can or should do with it. And so it’s a lot of exploration and the second season is a lot of finding purpose or finding mission.
I think though he’s not very well prepared for the mission, but he has a pretty true heart or soul; and I think he believes, as we start the second season in the mission he’s chosen, protecting his family, making a stand, and that sort of thing.
And, of course, what’s great about what Chris and the writers did is just as Kyle thinks he’s started to figure that out everything starts to change and he’ll have to find his trueness through the chaos that follows all the new discovery.
M&C: It seems like your character has two Rosetta Stones, one of them is your daughter, Amber, played by Madeleine McGraw, for such a young actress, she’s quite prescient. And also Philip Glenister’s character, John Anderson. They keep you in kind of a check. Is that correct or incorrect?
Patrick: I would say that’s absolutely correct. I also adore Madeleine McGraw and some of the most fun scenes were the Kyle and Amber scenes for me. Those scenes almost spoke to who Kyle was and who Kyle wanted to be more so than any of the other ones, any of the other character interactions was just a bit farther away from why he was doing what he was doing in the first and second seasons.
And who he was as a child and what he wants to protect Amber from that sort of shadowed his own childhood and stuff like that.
I find it such a great dynamic…Those were kind of my favorite times but equally important, I think, is the sounding board that is Reverend Anderson played so greatly by Phil [Glenister].
That’s an important one because they have these two [Kyle and the Reverand] very different sets of morals. It’s almost like their mission goal is the same mission goal, but their methods are very different…I think they need each other to challenge their structures.
A structure that is not challenged is a weak structure, and so, they’re continually finding the weaknesses and having to strengthen their moral beliefs and things like that.
Those themes were so fun. I had so much fun acting with all of the other powerhouses in the series. Reg E. Cathey and Wrenn Schmidt, everybody, you know?
M&C: Yes and Brent Spiner, a Star Trek icon.
Patrick: Yes, and an icon of my sort of childhood, watching acting happen with him and Patrick Stewart, and all the different tones of character he played in Star Trek: The Next Generation; that was all influential on me when I was growing up and getting excited about acting, learning about acting, and things like that.
M&C: Chris, regarding your director Tricia Brock. Did you pick her for your written episode?
Chris: Yes! She did such a gang-busters job in the first season. We loved working with her; she’s a wonderful director. I can’t speak for Patrick, but I think the cast members really responded to her.
She had a great intuitive sense of what we wanted to do on the show and the wonderful energy on the set. We actually jumped through a lot of hoops to get her back. We really wanted her; we felt we needed a strong hand on the set to launch the second season.
And we wanted someone who knew the show, and knew what we wanted to achieve in the show, and we were confident would bring everything to the screen. She’s a very sought after director, we were thrilled that we were able to fit into her schedule to get her to come do the show.
Patrick: Yeah, Tricia was great.
M&C: The palette of the Outcast, there’s a tonally bleak wonderfulness to it that gives it such an evocative feel. And I was wondering if, for our Below The Line geeks and the people that love your DP, and all those interesting shots. When you talk about how you want Outcast to look, what do you say?
Chris: Well, everything started with the comic. Everything started when we shot the pilot… with the direct photography. Everything came from what Robert’s [Kirkman] vision of this town was and it was very important to Robert to feel grounded.
He said it in West Virginia, in rural Appalachia. Robert himself is from Kentucky and he wanted this world to just feel textural and organic; and if you’re telling a story that has supernatural elements to it, you don’t necessarily want it to play out in a heightened space. You want the horror components to feel that they have more impact if they play out in what feels like an authentic world.
We tried to do that in all components of the production. As you say, the color palette is something that we talked about extensively with our DPs; first David Tattersall and then Evans Brown.
In the wanting that sort of slightly muted look to it; no bright, poppy colors. It went to the wardrobe Emmie Holmes who did an extraordinary job on our costumes, giving everybody that look. And our production designer, the brilliant Mark White, and the whole team, everybody, all the departments. If I start naming names, I’m going to leave people out and I don’t want to do that. So the whole team.
It’s easy to say, “Oh, this is the showrunners’ vision”, but our showrunners are only as good as the people we hire and allowing them to have creative freedom; to not to dictate to them not necessarily what you need, but to send them in a direction and then let them work creatively. And that’s what we fight to do in all aspects of the show.
M&C: Patrick, there’s some really graphic stuff, there’s some physical stuff. How do you guys unwind this intensity? I’ve read somewhere that you’re pretty good with impressions. Is there any other little tidbit for fans that you can share?
Patrick: Yeah, I like mimicry. I’ve always liked mimicry and I’ve already been impressed and wowed by people who are good at it. And I find it a very useful training tool to sort of choose somebody to mimic and then impersonate.
Chris: Patrick had great fun with one of our assistant directors on the show. Patrick can do a basically an absolute spot-on impression of this guy, and so, he would then get on the walkie-talkies on set as the assistant director and start issuing commands that were hilariously amusing to some people and endlessly infuriating to others.
M&C: Chris, this season, would you say it’s a bit of redemption and warfare?
Chris: Redemption and warfare, yes! I would say yes, I mean, the redemption may still be coming. But the redemption is long term.
I mean, these characters have done things and will do things moving forward in service of war, the greater war, that they may not be able to redeem themselves from.
I think that part makes the story so dramatic and gut-wrenching at times. And you look at a character, like Megan, and where we left Wrenn at the end of the first season; how is that character going to come back from what she thinks she did?
Is she going to be able to come back? And how is she informed moving forward? All of that, but in terms of the warfare, yes, everything gets cranked up this season. What battles have been waged inside peoples’ homes, behind drawn curtains, in places like Josh’s bedroom, are now spilling into the streets and the battle is definitely joined, absolutely.
Outcast returns for its ten-episode second season Friday, July 20 at 10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT, on Cinemax.
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