For me, exorcism stories will never get old, simply because these movies are terrifying as all hell. Pun very much intended. From the OG flick The Exorcism (1973) to The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) and The Possession (2012), there is something about the unknown of demonic possession that’s impossible for my human mind not to find fascinating. Even for the world’s biggest non-believer, I doubt anyone can say they haven’t wondered about the possibility, why these mysteries exist, and what occurs beyond the human eye. There’s a new exorcism tale in town, and while it includes many of the common tropes we’ve seen in these stories, Robert Kirkman’s Cinemax show Outcast brings a new element that’s yet to be explored, by delving into why such things occur in possession cases. But does The Walking Dead creator and his crew actually believe in what they’re conveying on screen? Bustle sat down with the gang amidst the show’s premiere to find out.
Before we get into it, know that exorcism tropes — such as aggressive projectile vomit, crazy looking possessed eyes, and physical self-destruction —that are involved in this story are delivered upfront for a reason. “I think they’re all in the pilot, pretty much,” says the show EP, Chris Black. While acknowledging these genre staples are included, Kirkman explains how he gives viewers a new lenses to view them with. “While we’re playing with the tropes of the genre, we are coming at them in a little bit of a different way,” he says. “What is levitation? What is the phenomenon that actually causes that? Why are people who are possessed behaving this way? Why don’t they like light? Why are they harming themselves in terrifying ways for seemingly no reason?”
I know I’m very curious and possibly even a believer, but let’s see if the cast and creators are as big of a sucker as I am.
Kate Lyn Sheil (Allison Barnes)
I’m open, but I can’t say at this time that I do, ‘cause I have never seen any evidence of it. Also, I’m constantly amazed by human beings and the power of what they can do, so I sort of believe that a human being has the capacity to work into a fervor of incredible proportions. So, I’m not sure. If I ever meet a demon, I’ll let you know.
Wrenn Schmidt (Megan Holter)
I’d go the same [as Kate]. My character, it was kind of cool because I got to play the skeptic on the show. My storyline revolves around things that happen early on in the season, but are all interacting with very much human and present evil. What’s been cool is seeing a lot of that stuff in retrospect. Seeing how all those things are executed and being really fascinated like, ‘Wait, what? What’s real, what’s not real?’ The practical stuff is actually really interesting, because most of it is actually practical. It’s not a ton of CGI. It comes off as feeling more tactile and realistic verses smoke and mirrors.
Reg E. Cathey (Chief Giles, right)
It’s funny, sometimes I believe very much. There are more things on this earth than are taught of in your philosophy. But, other times, I think it’s complete[ly] ridiculous. But I believe in ancient aliens, too, so. That’s a whole other discussion. But if we only use, I might be wrong on this math, but we only use like seven percent of our brain. Our DNA is only one percent different from a chimpanzee. So, if that small difference makes a chimpanzee and people who can make an atomic bomb, then, if some creature used ten percent, and they were like another point ahead of us, what would that look like? What would we call them? Devils? Ancient aliens? Gods? What is that, really? What we’re doing on Outcast… if these devils are just us, but different.
Philip Glenister (Reverend Anderson)
I’m skeptical. I used to be one of those agnostics that’d sit on the fence. We seem to use such a small part of our brain in terms of what’s out there and what we’re capable of, we haven’t tapped into stuff. But I wouldn’t have the arrogance to say no. I’m probably more of a non-believer. I don’t know. Sometimes you do look at it and go, ‘There must be some other life forces out there somewhere, why wouldn’t there be if we’re here?’ I have to dispel my own feelings and tap into somebody who has taken up this journey and neglected his whole family life, which to me, is insane.
Chris Black (EP, Writer, Showrunner)
I think you need to be true. You could write the X-Files without necessarily believing that aliens were coming to earth. What’s important is that the characters that you create and the voices you give them, you give them their own personal integrity. In the way Fox Mulder was passionate about his beliefs in our show, you have Reverend Anderson (Glenister) who’s just as passionate and committed to his own beliefs. We never look down our noses, we never judge him. We treat that character with complete respect.
Robert Kirkman (Creator and EP)
[Chris and I] both have religious upbringings and I have a darkly religious past that I’m not gonna talk about, but there’s certainly some inspiration drawn from our own lives. There are religious aspects to this show, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a religious show. We’re being true to the region of dealing with people who have very strong beliefs and I think we’re portraying those characters very respectfully and trying to honor their traditions and way of life. That’s a lot of fun to explore.
OK, so it seems most of these guys think it’s total hogwash. But as for me? I’m still a skeptic who may or may not sleep with the lights on after watching some of these episodes. Check them out on Cinemax, Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Images: HBO/Kent Smith (3), HBO/Niko Tavernise; Cinemax (2)