NYCC: Cinemax's "Outcast" Possesses the Con

After the success of "The Walking Dead" on AMC, Robert Kirkman is set to debut the next adaptation of his comics work next year on Cinemax. "Outcast," created by Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta, tells the story of a man struggling with demonic possession, and then finding things get worse. On hand for the panel at New York Comic Con were executive producers Kirkman and Chris Black, and lead actor Patrick Fugit, with Jon Glaser moderating.

Glaser came to the stage wearing a "shiny silver blanket," which he explained was a warming blanket given to people who have run a long distance -- in this case a half marathon. Though he could have simply gone home to relax with his family, Glaser said, "to paraphrase Egon Spengler, when someone asks you to do a Robert Kirkman panel, you do it!"

"I love the exorcism subgenre or horror, I think it's a lot of fun, and I think there's a lot of ground to break in that genre," Kirkman said. He said that most movies tended to follow a similar pattern, "and then at the end, the demon's out, job's done." "But that's not done, the demon's just going to possess someone else," so "Outcast" looks for explanations and solutions to demonic possession.

Kirkman talked about hanging out at comic cons, where creators "sit around and talk about their next projects." "Outcast" came, though, by casually explaining the show to a producer who had asked about his next project, who said, "ok, let's do that show." Though he was too busy at the time, "eventually I got around to it."

Kirkman put on Glaser's blanket. "Now I<.i> ran a half-marathon today." The cape then passed to Fugit.

Asked about playing a comic book character, Fugit noted that only five issues had been published when they started. "It sort of gave me a physicality," but there was more "absorbing it from the writing [of the script] than the comics."

Kirkman said that other actors auditioning "brought things down" to the level he didn't think people would want to watch such a depressing show, but Fugit's take had an uplifting element. "And I love you."

"Patrick does look similar to the comic book character, though the comic book character is slightly more handsome," Kirkman joked. "You know that isn't true; you have mirrors. Lots of mirrors."

"We open up the casting and try to find the best actor, and every now and then we get lucky and they look like the comic," Kirkman said. "Wren Schmidt, who plays Megan, doesn't look anything like the comic."

Glaser continued to banter about his half-marathon, and Kirkman asked what place he came in. "If it's less than 18, I'm not going to be proud of you."

"I think it was definitely in the thousands," Glaser said.

After placing the blanket atop Black's head, Kirkman joked, "I cannot stress enough how serious this show is."

Black said he was excited to work with Kirkman -- who interjected "How do you feel about this now?" -- but beyond that, he loved the script.

A new clip and trailer played next. In the clip, a terrified boy breathes heavily as he stares at a roach on the wall. Then things get gross.

"I want the Humane Society to know that we killed like 75 roaches," Kirkman joked after the clips.

"'Walking Dead' opened with a little girl getting shot; you've got to set the tone in the first ten seconds," Kirkman said. "There's something else that happens like 30 seconds later... I don't like children. I like my<.i> children..."

"To be honest, when Cinemax came on and they read the script, they said, 'Is there any way you can make this edgier?' Yes. Yes, we can," Kirkman said. He added that, with Cinemax being a pay channel, there is greater freedom of content. "Snickers isn't going to call you up and say we can't advertise on your show, you've got kids bashing their heads against the wall and eating roaches."

Black spoke about an episode he wrote that is "I think from the second or third issue, that we knew was a story we wanted to tell." Kirkman stage-whispered, "It's issue 5." "I guess I should read them," Black joked before assuring fans that he has read the series. Black said that filling the TV format allows creators to expand on what's in the comics.

"The overall story is the same one that is in the comics, but it is expanded in really cool ways," Kirkman added. "I love doing TV shows that make my comics look inferior."

"For most of my career I've done films," Fugit said, "and in most films you've got about 90 minutes to go through a character's life." "The great thing about a show is you've got ten hours to explore the life of Kyle Barnes," he added. "You get to really draw from the source material and flesh out the character, and then build from that template."

"A thing I love about episodic television is you get to hang with the characters," Fugit said. "I can't tell you how much I love 'Star Trek: The Next Generation. I put it on before I go to bed when I just want to hang out on the Enterprise ... I've watched them enough to know what they're going to say, so I can pretend to have a conversation with them."

On that note, Kirkman confirmed that Sidney is played by Brent Spiner, who played Data on TNG. "It's a completely different role for him, we're really excited to have him on board," Kirkman said.

Fugit said, though he enjoys "The Walking Dead," "Robert's storytelling has evolved" since he began that series. "It may not always be that we're pushing the envelope, but the scenes that we're pushing the envelope with feel a bit more real."

Whereas "Walking Dead" keeps viewers guessing which characters might live or die, the shock of "Outcast" will be "you have no idea what you're going to see at any given moment."

Fugit said that, because of "The Changeling," "I have this thing about empty chairs -- like, fuck that." And as he was exploring a house being used for the show, "I found an attic I hadn't noticed before, and I opened the door. And I wish I hadn't done that. Because there, bolted to the floor, was a chair, empty, facing me."

Black said the show's "oh shit" moments are less related to scenes like the kid with the cockroach and more "I can't believe the character is going to do that, to make this decision."

Kirkman assured a concerned fan that Gabriel Bateman, who plays the boy shown in the clip, that the boy is not disturbed by the material. "There are some intense scenes, and after, he'd be like, 'that was awesome!'" Fugit added that sometimes Bateman would complete his scenes but ask to keep going to inspire Fugit's on-screen performance.

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