Behind the Scenes: Outcast


NEW YORK: Star Patrick Fugit, Executive Producer David Alpert and FOX International Studios’s Sharon Tal Yguado provide a behind-the-scenes look at the new exorcism drama Outcast.

When The Walking Dead premiered in 2010, few could have anticipated that a series about a zombie apocalypse would become a global megahit. Based on Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels of the same name, the show, commissioned by AMC, marked the first time that the FOX global channels portfolio snagged all international rights to a series. When the 21st Century Fox-owned group decided to start developing original content for its global bouquet, it turned to Kirkman and his company, Skybound Entertainment, for ideas.

“I definitely wanted to be in business with Robert Kirkman after The Walking Dead—I would be a fool if I didn’t,” says Sharon Tal Yguado, the executive VP of global programming at FOX International Studios.

Outcast, premiering later this year on FOX globally and Cinemax in the U.S., stars Patrick Fugit as Kyle Barnes, a man struggling with demonic possession.

“What Robert said in our first interaction that got me really excited was that the focus is going to be on a character who is relatable, who is struggling, who has been surrounded by possession all his life. He comes to learn that if he wants to put his family back together and if he wants his life back to normal then he needs to go on this quest to find answers. While trying to put his family back together he ends up battling these dark forces. It’s not about the procedural element of an exorcism. This is a guy who will go on this quest from a very human, personal, emotional place. That’s a character I will get addicted to and want to watch week to week. Putting that against a backdrop that is so unique and special that I haven’t seen on TV yet, that was a very exciting proposition.”

For Fugit, known primarily for film roles in Almost Famous and Gone Girl, among others, both the premise and the opportunity to work with Kirkman were what attracted him to the role. “I have some interest in [the subject of] demonic possession in that it’s something that’s been explored in films for a long time [but not on TV]. And then I found out it was Robert Kirkman, and that was very exciting. Robert Kirkman took the zombie template, as it were, and he shifted the perspective of it and looked at it from a different angle. He’s doing something very similar with possession in Outcast. But also what’s really obvious to me is how Robert has progressed as a storyteller. He’s evolving as a writer and you can see conceptually and through character and story that everything feels more sophisticated. Having that context to step into, as an actor, is very exciting.”

David Alpert, executive producer on Outcast who founded Skybound with Kirkman, says of the casting of Fugit: “When he came in and did his first reading, we all looked at each other and Robert said, ‘I don’t think I can ever imagine anybody else saying those words again. He says them the way I hear them written in my head.’ When we heard that, we all felt the same—we’re done, we have our Kyle Barnes!”

In developing shows that can play across FOX’s 120-market-plus footprint, Tal Yguado is focused on finding ideas that can translate universally. “As a concept, demonic possession and possession in general is a worldwide phenomenon,” she says. “It’s scarier in a way than zombies, because some people do believe it’s real. Every religion has an aspect of possession and a lot of people will relate to it. They will come to it in different ways, but I think it’s incredibly universal.”

Fugit agrees, noting, “You can certainly imagine yourself in a Walking Dead scenario—[but] that’s a fantastic imagining, it’s a stretch. I think people, particularly people who believe in demonic possession, have a much easier time relating to this subject matter and subjecting themselves to the possibility of possession in their own life. This isn’t about one possession and how it relates to some intangible character or family. This is about characters we can relate to and characters we can empathize with.”

Alpert adds, “Most people do not think dragons are real, most people do not believe zombies are real, but most people believe demonic possession is real, so we’re starting from an easier place. In a way, that sets the bar higher for us in that we have to treat this [subject with] even more respect and have to be more factual and diligent in our research. We’re going to ask the questions that I would want asked. If touching [a possessed person] with a cross makes the demon howl in pain, why is that? There should be a reason for that. Is it a metal cross? Is it a wooden cross? Is it crossed fingers? What about that actually works? Why does holy water work? Is it the blessing in and of itself? If the blessing is rendered in Latin, does the pronunciation of the Latin matter? Since Latin is a dead language, can we know that someone actually rendered the blessing correctly? These are questions I have when I watch exorcism movies—everything from The Exorcist to The Con­juring, two movies I absolutely love. I always have those questions. How are those things possible? What degree of them being possible makes sense? We’re going to really examine that. And then slowly, because it’s Robert, the mythology itself is going to evolve to have its own consistency within the Outcast world.”