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SDCC: Kirkman & Cinemax's "Outcast" Possesses Comic-Con International

When Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta's "Outcast" hits Cinemax next year, executive producer Chris Black, pilot director Adam Wingard and cast members Patrick Fugit (Kyle Barnes), Philip Glenister (Reverend Anderson) and Wrenn Schmidt (Megan Holter) will help bring that story to life -- and, on Saturday afternoon at Comic-Con International, they took to the stage to discuss the upcoming show and offer a sneak peek into the first season. Though executive producer Kirkman was slated to attend, he was unable to due to a minor throat surgery.

Moderator Kumail Najiani introduced the panelists one-by-one, saying that Kirkman's absence was due to demon possession.

"[Kirkman] would love to be here," Black said, running a video featuring Kirkman.

Kirkman describes the basic plot of the show in the video. "We're going to come at things at a different angle," he said of the story. "It's about the people and their struggles because that's the stuff that actually matters."

"I read Robert's script, and I was trying to do my own things and get my own thing going and Fox sent me the script and I thought, 'This is great!' Then Robert and I just hit it off," Black explained.

"For me, exorcisms and stuff like that is something I need to get into, but there haven't been any goods ones in quite some time," Wingard explained. I read the script and I liked this one because it was doing something totally unique within its subgenre. To try to get influences for the show, the only real good thing was... 'The Exorcist.'"

"Working with Robert was really great because he did want me to bring my own experience to this story. I felt like I just wasn't trying to bring about the material in a way I wanted to, but I wanted Robert go get what he wanted out of it," he added.

"For this one, I had to step it up and try. That was a new experience," he joked.

"For me, I've always been interested in television. My real goal is I want to do soap operas. One year, I actually sat down and watched every single episode of 'One Life to Live' over like a year. I had Stockholm syndrome. Ever since, I wanted to do TV."

Najiani then cued a preview clip, which showed a young boy watching a cockroach intently on the wall, before suddenly slamming it with his forehead and licking up the his own blood and the cockroach's remains. Several quick cuts showed the show's horror elements. At the end, a little possessed boy says that he recognizes Barnes: "I know you, Outcast."

"So you can see the 'One Life to Live' influence," Wingard joked.

Fugit, Glenister and Schmidt admitted that it was their first Comic-Con.

"I think that's anything that's different from what I've done previously is pretty exciting," Fugit said. "I was like, 'Oh, yeah, "The Exorcist" is cool.' I read it, and what Robert is really good at doing is taking things that we've seen before and shifting the perspective and making it feel new."

"The Brits have taken over American television, so I'm joining the bandwagon," Glenister said on taking the role.

"It was a really difficult role to cast," Black shared. "He was the guy. He walked in and read with Patrick and it was like, 'Okay, these are the guys.'"

"I am fortunate that I fit the mold they were looking for. The accent is a challenge. I never play my accent, even when I have British roles... it's quite fun. You can hide behind an accent. The Southern drawl is good fun."

"I play Megan Holter, who is the adoptive sister of Kyle Barnes, and her job specifically is to draw her brother back into society," Schmidt said. "He's sequestered, and she calls him on it. She's like a dog with a bone. She kind of strong arms him. She's a real firecracker. I would describe her as someone with demons of her own, and she's fighting that on her own but doing it secretly. Her outward veneer is to be positive, and focus on someone who she can fix, like Kyle."

Najiani revealed that the preview clip was the first scene of the show.

"I think that's why Robert wrote it the way he did: if this show isn't for you, then this scene will let you know," Wingard explained.

"It is in some extent a thesis statement," Black said. "It's going to be a dark show. This is what you're going to get. The network has been incredibly encouraging."

Wingard said that casting the child actor was one of the most difficult parts going into the show. "I'm terrified of children. It turns out child actors are even smarter than I am. There's actually a point in the show when, we were filming a scene with Patrick and Gabe [the child actor], Gabe told Patrick, 'You're a very generous actor.'"

"When we read him and he read with Patrick, Gabriel was sitting there and I was sitting behind Patrick and he turned around and looked at me like, 'What was that?'" Black recounted.

"He just walked in and just said, 'Hey, I'm Gabriel.' And he's tiny! We sat down in the chair and he had no fear. Then he folded his legs and started being really creepy... all possessed in anything. I didn't even need to act. I was like 'Damn, he's really scary!'" Fugit laughed.

"We ended up being like brothers at the end of that thing. He would jump out of closets at me," he added.

"We had to wait on Robert," Black said. "It needs to be its own thing. There's just not enough story in any given issue of comic to fill 60 minutes of a show. You want it to take on a life of its own. They're different mediums. The great thing about working with Robert is that he's very understanding of that. If you pitch something he didn't think up, he's like, 'That's great.' We have a character, played by Reg Kelly, who appears in the comic twice... and he gets a backstory [in the show]."

"At the same time, he's one of the most collaborative people I've ever worked with. The best idea always wins out," he pitched in.

"[The comic] did give me a template going into it," Wingard said. Sometimes, there are some elements of the comics you really like... but to actually bring that to reality you have to search far and wide. That was the blessing and the curse of it. It looks so great on the page, so you want to make a reality of that."

"In comics, it's the way the way the art melds with the words is a really critical part of the comics," Black added.

"Robert was never like, 'Hey, I want you to match this to the comic.' It was a great experience, because everybody allowed us to find it on our own," Wingard said.

"Even for this, I always want to read the script first," said Schmidt of her approach to the part. "I want to see what the story we're telling is first. I want to be able to talk to the director or go back to the source material. There is a whole other aspect to a period drama... the costumes just make it. I feel like that, in so many ways, adds to much to your process immediately... This, for me, was challenging in some ways -- the trap is wanting to add a spin to it. I also think, with a contemporary character, you don't have that boat you're stepping into where you're sailing off. Like the clothes, it feels like it's just me. The coloring is already done; Robert has already done it. I'm just bringing it to life. It's a little scarier being closer to yourself. I feel a little naked doing this."

"When I first got the script, they had 3 or 4 issues of the comic out, so I checked that out," Fugit shared. "Comics have to communicate a lot with very little... and whenever they put a panel there, it's telling you a lot. I got physicality from that. Like Phil said, Robert has really created the characters through his writing. It's really cool, reading the comic and then seeing the pilot. You get these sort of snapshots in the comics, and then there's all this material in the show that comes in between that moment."

"I read the script and the comic book together, but going forward I think I'd like to read the script alone," Schmidt said.

"In a comic book, exposition can come across much more subtle than if you're translating it to film. You can tell if the actor or the character melded together. The first thing that pulls it apart is having to put in exposition. Sometime you have to do that," Wingard said. "That is one of the things, even in doing a pilot like this, is trying to get the audience caught up to who these characters are."

"It's okay not to answer every single question," Black added. "You drop something in. It's the way people live and talk. You don't say each other's names all the time. It's fun to be challenged."

"The most difficult part of TV is setting up the pilot," Wingard said. "You want to just exist with the characters. Going into this, I made a big effort to try to get past that."

"I think initially I was drawn to horror films because I could accomplish it on a low budget and people would actually watch," he shared. "You have to make movies for somebody to watch. If you're saying you're doing it for yourself, you're lying. My love of sci fi films like 'Star Wars' and those kind of things... Well, I can't afford to do sci fi. Why don't I try to do a horror film?"

"It's following Kyle's story as a guy who's been haunted by demons his entire life," Black explained. "He's looking for answers and by the end of the pilot it's like he realizes that there's something he might be able to do about this, that there's a battle he can fight... that he can get back what he's lost. In Reverend Anderson, he finds a partner. Robert gets bent out of shape if you call it a horror show... it's a character show with horror. It's a show about everyone having a demon to fight. In Megan's case, the demon doesn't come from hell. Sometimes evil comes without the benefit of the devil."

Oscar-winner composer Atticus Ross, who worked on "The Social Network," also joined the cast and crew on stage. "Like everyone said, I read the script and there's something incredibly disturbing that happens... and I felt I had a fairly good tolerance for being disturbed and I thought, 'There's no way there's going to do this.' And then when I watched, they had done it. I felt like, if they were willing to not compromise on that level and after seeing the pilot, I just felt sometimes you're offered something and it's obviously good, you should probably do it."

"I was thinking probably something jolly," Ross joked as to the tone of the music he had created.

"I spent quite a bit of time talking to Robert and Adam and Chris, and they've been very generous. They're open to wherever I want to go."

"Every episode will have a standalone component, but they will be of a piece... there is a mythology that Robert wants to enfold about why this is happening," Black shared. "Hopefully, what we want to accomplish week in and week out, it's not going to be like a police procedural show. There will be some weeks without exorcisms. We hope every episode will add a piece to this mystery."

"We start shooting in August. We filmed the pilot last December. We begin airing in 2016 in a huge global launch. It's going to be in 120-some countries," Black announced.

Najiani rolled the trailer one more time, and the panel drew to a close.

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