Exercise the Demons! - Outcast (TV Review)

Patrick Fugit of Almost Famous and Philip Glenister of Life on Mars team up to fight for the souls of the living in Robert Kirkman’s new series set to follow up his cultural phenomenon, The Walking Dead. Set in the heart of rural, God-fearing America, Patrick plays a man haunted by past deeds and Philip plays his local reverend, himself on a quest to rid of the Devil from West Virginia. But is it the Devil? Or something even more sinister?

What first attracted you to the roles?

Patrick Fugit: Umm…

Philip Glenister: After you. After all you are a guest in my city.

PF: I was looking for work. I got sent the initial audition and Robert Kirkman’s name was attached to it and, y’know, he’s done some cool things with television, so that was exciting. Chris Black, our showrunner, him and I worked on a pilot that didn’t get picked up a couple of years ago, so it seemed like a cool, creative team to get in on and experiment with.

PG: For me, it was the first foray into an American TV show, which I never really envisioned myself doing. It just wasn’t something that I thought too much about. So, when I was asked to put myself on tape for it, I did it thinking that I’d never hear from them again. And then they came back and said that they really liked me; that they’re very interested in my performance. I said “Really?!” Then I flew to L.A. to meet with Patrick and Gabriel – who plays Joshua – for a chemistry test to see if we all got on and wouldn’t hate each other. Then after that they said they wanted me to do it, so I was like “Oh. Ok.”

I was very impressed with your American accent. It’s not your first, is it?  

PG: Thank you. It’s not my first, no, but it is a lot easier staying in an American accent if you’re surrounded by Americans, than when you’re playing an American in the middle of fucking Bermondsey, surrounded by South East Londoners going “You a’right Phil? How you doin’ Geezer?”

But as we all had to sound similar to Patrick, to sound like we all came from the same town, they brought in a great dialect coach who came down and went through all the scripts with us. I would just stay in the accent while I was out there. I used to wander around, staying in character while doing my shopping. That was fun. My family were there; I obviously didn’t stay in character in front of them. Although, I got the kids to do it once in the Supermarket. I got them to shout out to their mum at the other end of the aisle. “Mom, mom!” they were shouting. She just stood there going “What?!” in her cut-glass accent.

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On the flip side though, you said you were teaching Patrick some English swearwords. Is that true?

PF: (In his best Yorkshire voice) Northern swearwords.

PG: Christ on a bike!

PF: Fookin’ bag of shite!

PG: Yeah we did quite a bit of that. Yeah but Patrick is a big fan of British comedy, aren’t you?

PF: Yeah, I love British comedy.

PG: It’s amazing the amount of American actors you work with who love British comedy. They really love the British sense of humour; they all know so many of the comedians.

What like?  

PF: I grew up really loving Monty Python. My best friend and I were all about the albums and the films. Particularly, (Monty Python and) the Holy Grail was a favourite of mine. Then I got into Eddie Izzard as I got a little older. Phil, didn’t you introduce me to The Fast Show?

PG: Yeah. Deaf Stuntman. You ever get round to Fawlty Towers?

PF: No! I haven’t done that one yet.

PG: I was so jealous. I’m really envious that you’ve never seen it. You get to experience it for the first time.

Can you talk a little about the journey of your characters in this season without giving too much away? We’ve seen up to the end of episode 4.

PF: Oh with the glass breaking?

PG: Was I in it? Was I marvellous?

PF: You are. Brilliant.

PG: Brilliant? That’s something we used to say on set. “Oh? We gonna work ‘til four o’clock in the morning on a Saturday? It’s gonna be brilliant! They want us to do all our own stunts today Patrick. We get to lie in the mud and in the freezing cold all day. Brilliant!”

PF: Haha! Well, my character, Kyle, starts off in a really dark place and in the course of the series he starts to link up with the Reverend (Philip Glenister’s character), though they have opposing views of what’s going on as well as opposing approaches to the situation, which causes some tension. Kyle starts figuring out that he can actually have a say in what’s going on around him so the tries to take control of his destiny. But there’s still a lot of stuff to explore and questions to be answered.

PG: The Reverend is a complex creature. He’s the big fish in the small pond in many respects. What’s fascinating for me is that he’s kind of a broken man inside. He calls himself a soldier of God and he does so at the expense of his wife and son, who he passed over for this cause. As we see during the course of this series, Kyle comes back into his life, with this healing touch he seems to have; it’s like the new kid on the block taking over from the old guard. There’s some resentment there; an envy. It’s a jealousy that comes spilling out, one that says a lot more about the Reverend than anything else.

But during the course of the series, we see that the two of them need each other. As much as the Reverend needs Kyle, Kyle needs the Reverend. They have to come together for this common cause. It begins to spark something back in the reverend. It gives him a purpose. That’s what I think he gets from Kyle, they give each other the purpose they were both lacking. That’s what brings them together; that’s what they have in common. They’re both quite dark, broken spirits in a bad place.

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What sort of research did you do? 

PG: I’m not big on research. People ask me if I watched lots of exorcisms on YouTube. No. Did I watch The Exorcist? No. But I did watch some of these TV evangelists on the American stations, which are absolutely fucking riveting. They say things like “I’m gonna hE-al!” or “I can feel the power of God coming through me!” There was this one guy, I think he was a local, one Sunday morning me and the missus were in bed. We flipped the telly over to his channel, all this just before I had the big sermon scene in episode 2, and watching him was almost like an epiphany. He’s a young guy, like a rockstar. He looks like something out of One Direction, with ripped jeans and he’s got the microphone on the end of a lead; he looked down on these two people in the audience and said “Look Bryan, you’re gonna be Adam; Tasha, you’re gonna be Eve. Come up on stage. Now, what’s the purpose behind this?” I’m on the edge of my seat and I’m like, “Fuck, this guys good.” So as we’re watching, it clicked. He’s a rockstar. The Reverend is a rockstar.

So when we were shooting this scene in the church, I went running up to the director Howie Deutch and I said “Howie! Howie! I’ve had an epiphany!” He just thought to himself “Fucking English guy.” And I said that it would be great that if instead of being stuck behind a pulpit, we used the whole walkway down the middle of the congregation and just go for it. So he said we’ll set up the scene on a crane and do a big, wide master. He asked me if I wanted to rehearse and I said “No, let’s just go for it. If I screw up, I’ll just pick up from where we left off.”

So that’s what we did and just saw what the reaction would be from the flock – all the extras in the church. We went right through the scene. There were a couple of hiccups but we got through it. People started clapping. A little old lady came up to me, grabbed the back of my trousers and said to me “I’m converted!” And I thought “Boom! We’re off!”

I take it there was no intimidation you felt tackling such a controversial subject?       

PG: Well, what do you do? Say ‘no’? Just ignore it? It’s a TV show at the end of the day. It’s drama. I respect people who have faith. But I equally respect people, probably more, who don’t have a faith. I’m not a religious person particularly. I believe in the spiritual and being a decent human being up to a point, I don’t go round shooting people or anything like that. But I won’t be told by any religion what I should think and what I can and can’t do.

How is this show different from other shows?

PF: Well, with something like the Zombie genre there had been a lot of different films and perspectives on it, then someone like Robert Kirkman came out with this idea that the Zombie apocalypse is never-ending. Which was interesting, because he’s taking a horror genre and then making it character-driven, which then makes us look differently at the zombies and the rules of that world. I think he’s doing the same thing here with possession. We’ve got possession genre films that we’ve seen and that we know the tropes of. They feel more familiar as we look at the more recent films and compare them to the older possession films such as The Exorcist.

But what Robert’s good at is changing the rules and changing the perspective, but also playing off those tropes, making it seem familiar (snaps his fingers) before he changes what’s going on. Also, I know that Robert has concentrated a lot on developing the story. He wants it to feel like these guys are trying to look at the bigger picture. He talks about how The Exorcist is all centred on that one exorcism, and then when the demon is out of the girl, that’s the end of that. With Outcast, he wants it to be about what happens to the next person and how do we stop it from continuing. So it’s about what happens before, and what happens to this person afterwards.

Did you read the comics before you started filming?

PF: There were I think, five or six issues out when we started auditioning, soI read those just to get an idea of the tone and the physicality. I wanted to get an idea of what Robert and Paul were using in terms of panels to communicate what the visual language of the series was going to be. But once we started filming, the scripts have an opportunity for a lot more texture in them. There’s so many more tools that we have at our disposal than you do when you’re writing an issue of a comic book.

PG: They were kind of a built-in storyboard for the crew, the camera, and director, so whether it was a comic book or a script, we used to just take it off of the page.

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Did anything creepy happen during the filming?    

PF: We had some people that, when we were shooting in their neighbourhood, had signs on their garage doors saying that Outcast was going to bring the Devil.

PG: They also had signs saying “Vote Trump!”

PF: This was in South Carolina.

PG: A city called Rock Hill. And Chester was the town that was our ‘Rome’.

What are the biggest sacrifices you both made for the stunts?                 

PG: Not using my stunt double more? Duke, my stunt double was called Duke.

PF: Duke!

PG: He looked a bit like Daniel Craig. I thought that if I could just get him to act then I could just sneak off to Pinehurst for a round of golf. I’ll work on it for season two.

PF: We ended up doing a lot of our own stunts. We had a great stunt team, but the directors would always want to put the cameras where they could see our faces. So we would be the ones breaking glass.

PG: Or denting the Reverend’s car.

PF: There’s a great sequence where it was cold and rainy. It had been raining for two days and we had to be on the ground in the mud, and we were just sitting there towards the end of shooting. Somebody had an umbrella over us so our faces and hair didn’t get wet, and we’re supposed to explode as soon as they call action. It was three days until the end of shooting so we just looked at each other like…

PG: Hi-diddle-dee-dee, an actor’s life for me!

How do you punch a ten-year-old’s face on camera?

PF: Well logistically it’s tough because if I really punch him we get into trouble. Little Gabriel who plays Joshua was an animal; an absolute terror.

PG: He ran fucking rings around us.

PF: I was like “Man, I’ve got to keep up with this kid.” That was a very physical sequence. I think we shot that over two days or something. All the levitation stuff required different kinds of rigs where we had to be getting in and out of; harnesses and things like that. Gabriel was a pro, man. He committed 100% to every single take. We had a stunt performer who was a woman and was roughly the same height as him so a lot of the physical stuff was either her and myself, or my stunt double and her. But, y’know, beating up a ten-year-old is a crazy thing to do.

PG: The point is no ten-year-olds were harmed in the making of this series.

PF: Yeah, we wanted to make sure that whoever was playing the kid pushed my character enough that it could feel in context. Also, he had to feel threatening enough.

PG: He was smart and incredibly brave. He comes from a family of nine brothers and sisters. All home educated. He’s got this maturity and this instinct. We were all like “We have to up our game here. This little fucker is stealing the show.”

It seems you get along well in real life. Did you have a good working relationship before filming started?

PG: Well I knew of Patrick – as everybody does – from Almost Famous. Then when I saw him I thought “My gosh, he’s grown.” But no, we had never met before. But then when I went out to the States, that was the first time we met. He was very kind and gave me a lift back to my hotel and I thought “Oh, we’ll get on. I’ll use him as a cab.”

PF: I think we spent a lot of time getting the lines down, we were out in rural areas, and there were nights where it was really very cold. And any time we got into the Reverend’s car the stench was incredible. I don’t know where they got that car from, like they picked it up at an automobile graveyard or something like that and somebody had been murdered in there. It was terrible. So we had a good amount of hardships to bond over.

PG: Oh and we stayed at the Rock Hilton for three fucking weeks.

PF: Haha, yeah!

PG: You were obviously filming more days than me, so I used to go over to this place called Chili’s, just over the road. We filmed the pilot just before Christmas 2014, so I used to go to this bloody Chili’s because I had nowhere else to go. I used to just sit there at the bar watching sport. And the waitress would be like “You have a good Christmas, now!” And I’d say – still in my accent – “Honey I’m going nowhere.” Two days later I’d go back in, she’d say it to me again and I’d tell her I’m still not going anywhere.

Then one day I was watching the Premiership, she switched it over and I shouted “Oi! Can you switch that back!” breaking the accent for the first time. And she gave me this look that said “Where the fuck did this guy come from?” I dropped the accent as soon as my boys were taken away from me. Turned over to the bloody Rock Hill Thrillers or whatever they were called.

How was it to work with different directors?

PF: I’ve never done that before as most of my experience is in film. I sort of felt bad for them. They only had a few days to prepare. They come in like paratroopers. They jump into unknown territory, they have to get used to the way that the cinematographer likes to work, they have to get the landscape of the show down and figure out what kind of cinematic language they’re going to use. So it’s a tough job, but for the most part, it worked out.

PG: Yeah. I think if you just have to be adaptable, as they have to be adaptable to you. Some are quicker than others and some are much slower. So you get an instinct for it. I’m used to working with more than one director because working in TV they will tend to get a block. So they do two episodes of something, then someone else will do another two. And everybody brings their own personality and character to their shoot. But if things are going a little too off-kilter, if they try and force your character somewhere you know they wouldn’t go, then you say no. Personally, I do it with a look.

Outcast premieres Tuesdays at 10:00pm, only on FOX