Robert Kirkman’s new horror series, Outcast, premieres tonight on Cinemax! We’ve been able to check out the first four episodes, and saying that we have a new favorite horror series… well it’s an understatement. Outcast, which films in South Carolina, has in fact already been renewed for a second season.
We were able to sit down with series star Patrick Fugit and pilot director Adam Wingard a few months ago at SXSW to chat about what fans can expect with the the new series – specially tonight’s premiere. Take a look at what they had to say below!
Coming from a feature world, what was the biggest change for you in terms of coming out to direct the pilot? Was there any sort of change to your approach to storytelling?
Adam Wingard: I mean, there’s definitely a different kind of time constraint, you know? It’s like you’re on a much more accelerated schedule than most films, so that in itself was kind of scary for me, but the main thing that was just different was whenever you’re making a feature film, you’re making something that exists as like a singular event. With this, you’re trying to set up at least one season worth of episodes, which in this case was ten episodes. For me, I was trying to make my decisions based on – when picking locations, when we were casting, and when we were designing the look and feel of it – is this something that’s duplicate-able?
One of the biggest things that helped me out was working with somebody like David Tattersol, who also shot the Walking Dead pilot, but he’s a veteran. He shot so many movies from Green Mile to Speed Racer and everything in between. He really helped me look at how to get through something like this by being smart in the way that you’re picking your lenses and lighting it in a way where you can get a really dynamic look, but it doesn’t take a ton of time, because you just don’t have that time.
On the flip side of that coin, the network and everybody who is putting all this money in, they still want this thing to look and feel like a motion picture. They don’t want it to feel like a network thing, so you have all these pressures – it has to feel and look like a movie, but you have half the time of doing it. You have to really adapt to it, but once you get in the flow of it, it just starts happening.
Kind of following up to that with pressure, directing a pilot, you’re setting a tone for everything that follows. Is there a certain kind of pressure when it comes to that as well?
Adam Wingard: Fortunately for me, all I could do really is just try to put in what was on the page. Robert was a great guide in that sense. He had a very distinctive idea of what the tone was. I come from like more of a humorous kind of horror background. A lot of the stuff I have has humor in it, and the horror that I’ve done in the past has a lot of jump scares and things of that nature. There was actually a moment on the pilot where I was approaching a kind of creepy scene with a character that’s like sitting there, and in the script this possessed woman comes up to this little boy and is looking over his shoulder and smelling him, then grabs his hair, and pulls him out of the chair.
Whenever I was like blocking it out, I was like, “This might be kind of cool if I kind of threw in a jump scare version of this where it’s the same thing, but instead of her kind of looming over him, we kind of creepily push in on the boy and a hand comes into the frame and yanks him out. I was doing a couple takes of that, and I was a good ways into it, and Robert comes out and he’s like, “What are you doing right now?,” and I’m like, “I’m doing this.” He’s like, “Why don’t you take another look at what’s on the page, and just shoot that?” I was like, “But we almost have this. How about I finish this off, and then I’ll go that version?,” and he’s like, “Okay.” Then he kind of reiterated. It’s like this isn’t a show that’s filled with jump scares. It’s not even about the moment of violence. It’s about the creeping dread of that moment.
Patrick, when you got the sides for the character, how did you choose to approach it?
Patrick Fugit: One of the things that’s always interesting to me about character or story is duality, and for me, what’s interesting about Kyle is his story is dark and his circumstances are very dark, but I like to try to get across that Kyle is a very bright person and has a very bright heart. He sort of has these circumstances that surround him in darkness, and so that’s what he’s succumbed to when we meet him in the first episode. Any character that appears one way, but inwardly is something else is interesting to me, and so I wanted to get that across. I didn’t want him to feel too dark or down or depressing or sad… More sort of simmering or restrained.
Did you guys have a scene or a sequence in particular that you felt was really difficult to film, or that after so many takes, you were just done? You’re like, “Screw it. Let’s move on.”
Adam Wingard: For me, I was nervous going in, because there’s so much physical action with child actors. There’s some pretty extreme stuff that happens with Gabriel that involves him levitating and him getting knocked around and all this stuff. Even beyond just the fear of working with kids for the first time, like am I going to be able to direct them in a way that feels realistic? I had a lot of questions like how are we actually going to technically achieve the physical aspect of it? Those fears immediately went away once we hired our stunt coordinator and just the whole team, because they just had a great handle on it. Hiro Koda, who is the stunt coordinator, has a great knack of finding the perfect stunt person for a kid. He’ll find a full grown adult who looks like a child from the right angle, and who can act believably in that way.
Also, he’s able to coach the kids to do as much on screen as possible while keeping them safe the entire time. There was a lot of fears going into it, but once we got going it was more just like can we get all this done in the time frame that we have and less about like the technical ability of doing it. I don’t know what you felt.
Patrick Fugit: Yeah. I mean, that stuff is always… Any kind of sequence when you have to express physical space and time can be difficult to story-tell because, if you’re sitting there watching it like it’s a play or something, your mind can track what’s going on, or if you’re watching an actual fight you can kind of track what’s going on, but as soon as you have to start telling the story and tracking for the audience, it becomes much more complicated. There’s a lot of stuff that goes into that, like he’s talking about, but also from the actor’s perspective there’s a lot of things that have to happen with your emotional pitch that are pretty exhausting, especially when you’re looking at a sequence like we filmed, which took how many days?
Adam Wingard: Which one? The possessions?
Patrick Fugit: Yeah, the big one.
Adam Wingard: It was like two and a half days or something. It was kind of spread out with a couple different possession scenes.
Patrick Fugit: Yeah, and it’s like two and a half days of pretty high pitched physical exertion and portraying emotion on top of that. Then resetting all the makeup and the hair. Then getting fake sweaty again and wiping blood off that may have happened. That sort of thing, and then going in and out of wire harnesses, it can be pretty exhausting.
Can you guys talk a little bit about the research you did with possessions and what you came into this with?
Adam Wingard: I was already really familiar with real life possessions and a lot of different possession movies. The Exorcist is one of my favorite films. I sort of ironically but not really love Exorcist 2 as well for different reasons. For me, I was really familiar with the idea of that, but Robert, his approach to it… You know, Kirkman, he created this completely new mythology to the way that we were approaching the exorcisms. What I thought was fun is that you’re watching characters who are kind of looking at it in the same way – playing by the rules that we know of it – and then kind of discovering that things are different… that this is a different reality that we’re dealing with here.
That was also what drew me to the project to begin with is that I didn’t want to do another Catholic exorcism movie or show or whatever, because in the back of my head, I’m always thinking I’m going to try and tackle a lot of different sub-genres over the course of my career hopefully. Exorcism is just one of those that is just kind of lingering out there, and I was always like, “If I’m going to do it, it’s got to be something new and different and attractive,” and that’s what this is without really giving too much away.
Are either of you superstitious about making the show about demons?
Adam Wingard: I’m trying to think if I ever had any moments like that. We were shooting in a real church, and I was like I don’t want to be disrespectful to the people actually running this church, even though the first thing we did I think when we were doing one of our location scouts, everybody is kind of just swearing like normal, and then you have to kind of check yourself sometimes.
Patrick Fugit: Yeah.
Adam Wingard: You’re like wait a minute, because you don’t want to be disrespectful at the end of the day, even though it’s not my belief system, you know? I feel like there was one point where I felt a little bit like that, but not really.
Patrick Fugit: Yeah. We had people that put up signs that were like on the street that we were shooting, or signs on somebody’s garage that was like, “Outcast is going to bring the devil to South Carolina.”
Outcast premieres June 3, 2016 on Cinemax! Will you be watching? Let us know your thoughts on the new series below!