Robert Kirkman, the mastermind behind The Walking Dead franchise, wants you to know something about his new television venture Outcast: “There are no zombies.” However, that doesn’t mean the show won’t have the ability to rock your world just as much as the beloved TWD does. The writer and executive producer is adapting another one of his comics for the small screen and this time, he’s going dark. With no relation to TWD whatsoever, Outcast explores demonic possession dominating the lives of locals (one in particular, Kyle Barnes, played by Patrick Fugit) in a small southern town. It includes familiar tropes of exorcism stories, yet many more layers. Like I said, nothing to do with zombies. That said, after catching up with Kirkman and his Outcast wingman, show runner/writer/executive producer Chris Black, in Los Angeles on Tuesday, I learned the unexpected ways TWD die-hards will find familiarity and enjoyment in Kirkman’s new on-screen baby.
“One of the things that makes The Walking Dead as popular as it is is the fact that it’s so unlike anything else on television,” Kirkman says. I think we’d all agree. Although storylines and themes completely differ between the two stories, Kirkman sheds light on a specific element that ties them together. “TWD offers this atmosphere of anything could happen at any time. There’s not really a way to telegraph what’s going to happen, there’s not really a way to guess where the story’s going,” says the 37-year-old. “I think Outcast offers that exact same thing, but it proves that experience in much different ways.”
So if there are no zombies, what makes Outcast so suspenseful and, at times, random? “It’s a much creepier, much more foreboding dread that’s in this town that centers around this phenomenon that’s happening around them,” Kirkman says. “But this is very much an unexpected show that goes into some places you're not going to be able to anticipate.”
There’s also the aspect of being niche. Breaking into the zombie genre was Kirkman’s first challenge. Demonic possession is his next, and hopefully, fans will tip their hats.
One thing that is similar is the fact that we’re exploring a specific genre in new ways the same way that TWD explored the zombie genre and did different things with it and became the zombie movie that never ends. This is going to be the exorcism story where they actually treat demonic possession like a solvable problem. They’re not going to do just one case and then go, 'Welp, we’re gonna go home and hope this doesn’t happen again, but we’re never gonna do anything to actually try to prevent that.' This is about the journey of trying to find out what is going on and how to prevent it.
At this point Kirkman has proved himself to be an amazing storyteller, so fans shouldn’t expect anything less from him. Take it from his sidekick Black, who says he was a huge fan of TWD before joining this project. “I think what people appreciate about TWD is that they appreciate about any good story well told. I was a fan, had been a passionate fan of TWD since the beginning and I was a fan of the zombie genre.” But if there’s one thing Black wants to see live on through Outcast, it isn’t the zombies. It’s the fans’ commitment to the show and its characters.
“The reason I kept watching [TWD] is because I invested in those people, I invested in the characters, started following those stories. The true horror of that show, for me, was not from zombie carnage, but was from the ongoing threat being presented to people that I cared about,” says Black. “I hope that [with] absent zombies in Outcast, you will will feel the threats to [characters] the same way and you’ll invest in [them] the same way you invested in Rick and Glenn and everybody.”
So I suggest TWD fans give Outcast, which is on Cinemax at 10 pm PT/ET, a chance. Because Kirkman's new crew, though they are not zombies, is worth your time. I promise.
Images: HBO (2)