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Outcast - Interview with Chris Black and Patrick Fugit

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Outcast finally returns to North American television for season two on July 20 at 10/9c on Cinemax. In Canada, you can catch it on HBO at 11pm (12PT). Showrunner Chris Black and star Patrick Fugit (Kyle) joined me via telephone for this interview a few weeks ago. We talked about season one, a bit of what to expect in season two, and the passing of Reg E Cathey (Chief Giles). They also answered a few fan questions. Patrick Fugit = PF and Chris Black = CB.

Q: Thank you so much for talking to me today. I know you have a really busy schedule.

CB: No, of course! We’re happy to do it.

Q: I love the show…

CB: Thank you!

Q: And now I’m a huge fan of the comic too. This is an interesting show because it’s not like other shows that started with a comic and then developed into a show because the show premiered before the comic was actually published. It’s a really interesting chicken and an egg thing. What really drew you to the project to begin with?

CB: The show was developed before the comic was published but it was, in fact, being written. So they were sort of being done at the same time, and I was sent Robert’s pilot script. The pilot was already set up at Cinemax but had not yet been greenlit to be shot as a pilot or picked up as a series. So they just sent me Robert’s script for the pilot episode which I read and just thought was amazing, and wanted to be involved with it. And asked if I could get a meeting with Robert and sit down with him and kind of plead my case. We had lunch together and hit it off, and I wound up coming on board to help him produce the pilot, and then, ultimately run the show when it got picked up. But he was already in the process of beginning to write the comic episodes, so it was being done during the course of the first season as we were producing scripts for the first ten episodes, he was writing the comic. So we were privy to what the comic’s stories were, and he was sending us the breakdowns, and we were seeing sort of preliminary versions of them, but they had not yet been published.

Q: The second season has aired in the UK, but not here in North America. The graphic novel has moved ahead, so is there an interplay between catching up or maybe going ahead of the comic as it moves a little bit more slowly. Is that a goal to get ahead? I’m interested in that interplay as you do change things from the comic regardless.

CB: One of the great things about working with Robert is that he’s very collaborative, and he understands that a comic book and a tv show are kind of fundamentally different mediums, and he understands that for a comic to be translated into a show, it needs to change. The world needs to expand, there’s not a direct one to one correlation between the comic which is only maybe 22 or 25 pages of actual story. Generally not enough to fill an hour of television. So he was very aware and supportive of us building on and adding to his world and characters and adding additional storylines, making twists that he didn’t take. That said, we knew for the first season anyway, very much what the roadmap was. We knew what his arc for those first twelve issues of the comic was going to be and where the first season was going to end. Then, by the time we got to the second season, we’d had a whole year with the show to sort of let it take on a life of its own, and at that point, to some degree, it started leading us. The characters that Patrick and the rest of the cast and the writers had all created started to lead us in the direction that their stories needed to go. And we found that it wasn’t so much that we were ignoring or defying the stories from the comics, we just found that we were less beholden to them.

Q: My next question is a fan question. Kyle is such a cool character that he’s like a superhero, and she wanted to know if we’re going to see more development of his superpowers coming up in the second season.

PF: Yeah, I would say so. What I love about Kyle is that his powers make him who he is and that’s interesting to me. So any decision he makes in season two is driven by who he is and less about where he’s going to focus his powers and stuff. He’s certainly going to use them, but what’s interesting to me about it, is how he’s sort of evolving and learning where to use them and when to actually refrain from using them. It’s also the morality of using them is brought into question in the first season and compounded is that conundrum in the second season because it’s like it may not always be right to exorcise somebody or use his powers and so it’s a lot about him experimenting and deciding for himself what he’s comfortable doing, what fight he’s going to fight and how far he’s willing to go with the powers and that sort of thing.

Q: It was really nice to see the development in season one, until he came into his own and started to trust himself, so I’m really looking forward to seeing that develop. What about Amber’s powers in this second season?

PF: That was one of the most exciting things about the first season to me was finding out that Amber had this power, and now it’s a huge part of the story; it’s a huge part of Kyle’s life now. I think that when he discovers in the first season that Amber has these powers, it’s sort of his worst nightmare coming to life. This is an ability that as far as he’s concerned, it’s ruined his life. It tore his childhood away from him, it lost him his mother, and then eventually, it lost him his wife and daughter. It’s constantly a huge problem in his life, so when he discovers that Amber also has it, I think he’s somewhat heartbroken; he just wants to keep Amber safe and keep her sheltered. She, on the other hand, takes after him more than I think he would like, and she wants to help and fight and do good. And she loves her family just as much as he does, and she has the spirit that will fight for those things, and so, as we see at the end of season one, some of my favorite stuff is the family legacy stuff. And the fact that Kyle does not want her fighting by his side, and that’s all she can think of doing, is being helpful and doing. It’s an interesting sort of tension between the two of them.

Q: And Madeleine McGraw is amazing – she’s just great. One of the things that I really like in the graphic novels that you’re getting to in the second season is the introduction of Kyle’s father. With C Thomas Howell coming on, what is that dynamic like?

PF: That’s another thing. It’s something that I hadn’t much considered because there was so much focus on Kyle’s mother in the first season that the introduction of this sort of estranged father in the second season is very interesting to me. I like that dynamic quite a bit. The idea that Kyle is part of a legacy. He’s part of something that he never knew about before. It’s interesting to watch him sort of learn about, find out about through the second season, and it’s also more… I mean each character and all of their goals are sort of put into a consideration of morality in this situation in the second season. It’s like we thought we knew during the first season who the good guys were and who the bad guys were. And everything was set to go. It’s good versus evil thing and then towards the end of the first season that starts unraveling and things become more gray, and in the second season, that’s certainly an element of it. It’s like who is good? Everyone thinks they’re doing something for the good of the end result, but it’s their methods and their definition of good that really makes it interesting.

Q: A question for both of you – can you pick your favorite episode or even scene from season one and then what episode or scene do you want to tease coming up in the second season that we should look for?

PF: I have a lot of… great memories of doing scenes with all the actors, but I think my favorite scene from season one is when Kyle comes home to find his wife and daughter on the porch and he doesn’t necessarily understand what’s going on but he goes to tuck Amber in, in his childhood room, and she’s got his construction, his mining helmet on, and they have a conversation. I think the writing is so good in that scene and Maddy McGraw kills it. It was our first big scene together and it was this opportunity to see for the first time of the season what Kyle is fighting for. Before that he’d interacted with the two of them, but it was tainted by anger and resentment and the tragedy and all of that. This one was just the bare bones. It was just the authentic family interaction between Kyle and his daughter, and it’s heartbreaking because it’s so sweet; it’s such a touching moment that you realize they’re surrounded by such darkness and that it’s really a sad element to that scene, and I really loved that scene.

And in terms of the second season, if I can remember… Kyle gets a lot of interaction with Chief Giles as well as some new characters. And any scene that I got to do with Reg E (Reg E Cathey) was a boon, it was like… I got to sit around and joke with him and laugh and hear his stories and hear him singing. We would cackle at the absurdity of what we were doing, and then fully immerse ourselves in it. It was a real pleasure.

Q: That’s a really interesting dynamic that develops in the second season between Kyle and Anderson and Giles.
Chris, do you have a favorite scene/episode?

CB: Yes. I think my favorite episode is probably episode four, which is the episode where Megan’s childhood abuser comes to town. And I really love it because it goes to the heart of what I thought we wanted to do in the show which was really do a character driven drama that wasn’t necessarily continuously on a supernatural component. It’s a terrifying episode, and a really wonderful, heartbreaking performance from Wrenn Schmidt. It basically says that evil doesn’t have to come from a supernatural place. It can come from a human place. From the first season, my favorite scene is I just loved the last shot of the season, when Kyle and Amber try to leave town in that gas station and all the people turning around, seeing them and the camera cranes down to her face, and she just says, “Daddy” and that’s the last shot of the season. I think Loni Peristere directed that and it’s just one of my favorite pieces of the season. In the second season, I really have to go with Patrick. We lost Reg E Cathey this year to cancer just recently, and being able to work with him and be friends with him was one of the greatest joys and privileges of my life. And his loss is really profoundly felt. The fact that he gets to come in at the moment. The first season is really a Kyle/Anderson are sort of the co-leads. The second season, it’s really Kyle, Anderson, and Chief Giles, and there’s a moment – I know we’re talking to the “spoiler” – but there’s a moment, a big, emotional, heartbreaking moment, that comes for Chief Giles later in the season that’s just emotionally devastating and just a master actor at the height of his powers. That would be my choice.

Q: We found out at the end of season one that Megan was pregnant. Can you tease how that is going to play out?

CB: In terrifying ways. (laughter) No look. I mean, I think it goes to what Patrick was talking about before. So much of this show is about family lineage. So much of this show is about, even though Kyle and Megan aren’t related by blood in the series, so much of what this show is about is sins of the father being passed on. It’s very much in Kyle’s storyline, and I think it’s going to play out on Megan’s side of the equation as well with the significance of what her child is going to mean to her and other people.

Q: This is another fan question. After what Megan did to Mark, is she capable of redemption or is the possession card always going to trump everything?

CB: Well look, I have to think that she is. I have to think that that is the character that we’ve created. I love that a fan is asking that question because that should be the question that the viewers are asking. Can you forgive or redeem the person for what she did, and I think that as you come into the second season that is what Megan is grappling with. Can she live with what she’s done, and it’s not whether she’s ultimately redeemed in Kyle’s or anybody else’s eyes, it’s whether she’s able to forgive herself, and live with what she did.

Q: Another fan question. The fan says that Kyle is the epitome of the good guy. He saves everyone – his wife, his mother, his daughter, and even strangers – but she worries about whether a happy ending is possible for him because he is surrounded by so much darkness.

CB: I like to think that the ending for each character is appropriate to that character’s story, you know? Whether Kyle is ultimately destined to have a happy ending or not, we’ll have to wait and see. Whether he earns it and gets it… I think so. I think we’ve created a world where he can end up getting what he wants. But, you know, hopefully we have a ways to go before we answer that question. Patrick, what do you think? Do you deserve a happy ending?

PF: I agree with the fan in the idea that we want to love and root for Kyle. I think that Kyle being that way, fundamentally, in spite of all this dark surrounding him and all this tragedy is its own happy ending. I think him living the deeds that he’s living gives him… it earns him a place in our hearts when we watch it as the good guy, the guy that we cheer for and if he dies chasing what we know he believes in, I consider that a happy ending. If he lives and sees his family reunited, I consider that a happy ending. If he fails, that’s not as happy, but you know, I would still like that ending. I would still like an ending where he fails and loses everything, but is himself, but hopefully, that’s not the way it goes.

CB: Well, the one thing we always said was we knew when we were writing the show that we would always remind ourselves that it’s ok for it to be dark. It’s dark material. These characters are dealing with dark issues, but the one thing that we maintained throughout the process was that it can never be hopeless. If it ever starts to feel hopeless, then that’s when we lose our audience, so I think there’s always hope for these characters.

Q: Looking back again at season one, Patrick, Kyle had some really intense scenes with Reverend Anderson and with Sidney. Do you have a favorite between Philip Glenister or Brent Spiner to work with?

PF: That would be like picking a favorite food. There’s so many variations that… I mean it is such… it is two very different experiences doing a one on one scene with Brent and doing a one on one scene with Phil, and I loved both of those experiences.

CB: Who’s the bigger pain in the ass? (laughter) Well, if Chris Black is around….

PF: They have such interesting dynamics on their own that I really appreciate any time I got to do a scene with either one of them, and I think that it’s very interesting because Chris and the writers created a lot of confusion as to how Reverend and Kyle are going to get along. Like how are they going to get synced up and pointed in the same direction with each other, and then is that even possible? And then, I loved that towards the end of the first season, there’s an element even of that to Sidney and Kyle. It’s like Kyle believes Sidney to be this terrible, evil presence, but then starts to question that. And then in my head, when I read that episode, I was like was there a possibility where Sidney was going to become Kyle’s role model? And Kyle’s father figure? Kyle’s sort of guiding force, you know? The fact that that’s a realistic possibility is really interesting to me.

CB: We wanted that. We wanted his character caught between these two father figures.

Q: And they’re really interestingly almost two sides of the same coin. Can you tease how the dynamics between Kyle and those two characters are going to change?

PF: I think it’s going to change more along those lines. I think that the ideas of good and evil are all shifting so much that it’s going to be who aligns on the same path, and will they be able to do it in time. Reverend, obviously, has lost himself at the end of season one. He’s committed heinous acts, and who knows if he’ll be able to recover from it, and that’s kind of the question of season two. The places that these characters are in are not as congruent as they were at the beginning of the season. It was much easier for Reverend and Kyle to work together when they needed each other and were both sort of unaware that the other one had a different end goal, or different methodology. Now that that’s more clear, and Reverend has lost himself so close to attaining what it is he’s wanted for the entire first season, it’s like they’re both going to have to find themselves. Then see if they can even sync up, be pointed in the same direction together. And interestingly, it’s much the same with Sidney. You learn that there’s much more to Sidney and what he’s a part of than you initially expected and that Kyle perceived. And the question is, once more of that is unraveled, is that more of a true path for Kyle than fighting it?

Q: The characters are so rich – it’s fabulous. You’ve been really generous with your time, and I know we’re now a little over our time. Could you each give me just a sentence or two on why people need to tune in to season two?

CB: Cuz my kids need to eat? (laughter)

PF: If people enjoyed season one, season two compounds and fractures all of that in really great interesting ways. There’s more awesome stuff!

CB: And I think it’s like the realization that what this evil is and what this plague or affliction is on this community is a broader and deeper problem than you may have realized. And you shouldn’t feel comfortable in your own home that this is isolated to this tiny rural town in Appalachia. This thing goes far and wide and if you’re not investing in these guys to stop it, then who knows where it’s going to stop.

Q: I feel like season one was just scratching the surface – and I’ve only seen the first three episodes, but they are fantastic!

CB: The way Robert Kirkman describes it is that season one was just setting the pieces on the board and season two is playing the game.

Are you ready to play? Don’t forget to tune in to watch season two on July 20th! 

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