‘The Walking Dead’ creator talks ‘Outcast’ with producer Chris Black.
AiPT! recently sat down with creator/writer/executive producer Robert Kirkman and executive producer Chris Black to chat about season two of their possession series Outcast. Kirkman is well known for another little show you might have heard of called The Walking Dead. Black has executive produced a handful of television shows over the years, including Star Trek: Enterprise, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, and even a few episodes of Mad Men. Along with a couple other members of the press, AiPT! dove into a range of topics with Kirkman and Black.
Kirkman showed off his sense of humor immediately, with the first question being what they’re excited for people to see in season two.
Robert Kirkman: The show. (laughs) No, I mean I’m excited for it to finally be out and to be able to share it with the US. It aired overseas but it’s great to be here and have Cinemax behind it. I think it’s gonna be awesome. I think it’s a more intense season. We established Rome and we established the characters and everything in the first season, but season two gets much deeper into the mythology and kind of reveals how much bigger the problem is and how entrenched in the city of Rome it is. And we also expand some new characters and some new directions that aren’t completely present in the comic, which is exciting. So there’s some new, cool twists and turns along the way and I think it’s going to be awesome.
AiPT!: Are there any character arcs this season that you guys are particularly looking forward to?
RK: I think the Sidney (Brent Spiner) storyline goes into some interesting places and Megan (Wrenn Schmidt) has some of the best scenes.
Chris Black: Yeah, you (Robert) took the words out of my mouth. Watching what Sidney goes through and where he ends up at the end of the season, his struggle for dominance and control, and bringing him into contact with other characters on his side of the table (in terms of other people involved in the ongoing issue of possession) is really fun. Megan’s character, who is portrayed by such a wonderful actor, bringing her out of the first season dealing with everything that happens with her and her family, we take her to a really dark place and then try to pull her out of it, which I think really generates an interesting storyline. And it’s just always fun to watch those actors work.
AiPT!: Yeah, Sidney I feel like from day one in the show, he’s been such an interesting character to watch evolve and go through everything he goes through.
CB: Yes. He was a little bit of a lone wolf in the first season. In the second season, you get to see him interact a lot more with both our regular cast of characters and some of the new people we bring in in a really fun way. And Brent Spiner is just so much fun to work with.
RK: Oh my god. Brent Spiner. He’s so cool. I annoyed him so much on set.
CB: He needs to be referred to as “science fiction icon Brent Spiner.”
RK: I had this conversation with him on set and he kept talking about Star Trek, and was telling some stories about Next Generation, and he stopped after about ten minutes and goes “I don’t mean to bore you with Star Trek stories.” And I said “Brent, every minute I am around you I am stopping myself from asking you questions about Star Trek and getting you to talk about Star Trek. You can talk about Star Trek all day long.” And he goes “Robert, you can ask me about Star Trek any time you want. I just won’t respect you.” (laughs)
Keeping with the theme, someone then asked Kirkman and Black their thoughts on the upcoming Quentin Tarantino Star Trek adaptation.
RK: I don’t think Quentin Tarantino has a bad anything script in him. I think he is a genuine Star Trek fan. I’m very excited for that. I think it’ll be cool.
CB: Having worked on one of the Star Trek iterations, I think anything that takes it in a new and fun direction is great for the franchise. If he brings something new and exciting to it, I can’t wait.
Another person asked if there any challenges, being that it’s such a dark show, working with kids on it and keeping it from being too terrifying?
CB: It’s just fun to torture and traumatize them. (laughs) Look, they’re just such professionals. You forget sometimes that they’re eight or nine years old, and at a certain point you just deal with them and interact with them the way you would any adult actor. Because they get it, they’re excited about the stuff you bring them. They want to challenge themselves and push themselves. When you bring them something physical, demanding, or scary, they eat it up. They want more of it. Amber (Madeleine McGraw) has a slightly bigger role in the show as Kyle’s daughter where she would be working all day and there are very strict rules about how long you can work young actors.
RK: Mind you, how many things they can lift…
CB: How many times you can punch them in the face. (laughs all around)
RK: It’s zero! (more laughs)
CB: But seriously, she (McGraw) wouldn’t want to leave. She’d want to hang around on set and watch the other actors work and be a part of the process. You’d literally forget “Oh you’re a third grader, you need to go home and go to bed.”
AiPT!: Robert, with Outcast, it seemed like when you developed the television show, it was similarly timed to when you started writing the comic book. With Walking Dead, you obviously had a ton of material when it started. Is there a big difference between how you work on the two shows?
RK: It’s very different, just because the comic (Outcast) is much more fresh in my mind. There would be times where I’d be like “we can’t make this work in the comic, we could maybe pull this off in the show.” I feel like it made me less precious, because I was like “we can totally do all kinds of different stuff in the show.” But I’m not very precious with The Walking Dead either, so I don’t really know. I love the differences between the two mediums (comic books and television) and I love being able to surprise people, so I’m always pushing to change the adaptations so that people who have read the comics are going “That’s not right.” I feel like that’s exciting.
Kirkman was asked what he is precious about.
RK: There are little scenes. There are times where “can we just make sure that this thing remains?” I do feel like there’s a backbone, certain things that have to be done. Season one it was probably Reverend Anderson (Philip Glenister) getting the pentagram carved in his chest.
Kirkman and Black laugh, and comment that they don’t need to get into that story. We urge them to please tell.
CB: It was the first scene. The makeup guy had applied it (the pentagram) to Glenister’s chest right side up. So it looked like Captain America’s shield. And I was like “I don’t think that works that way.” I called Robert.
RK: To Chris’s credit, he said “A tremendous amount of work has been done, is there any way we can let this fly?”
CB: I knew what the answer would be. Robert was like “NO! It’s not a pentagram if it’s not upside down!” And I was like “Yeah, we gotta turn that back around.” And the makeup guy to his credit, went back to the makeup trailer, peeled this elaborate prosthetic thing off of him and re-applied it the correct way. And it looked great.
Robert is a great collaborator in that he gives you a lot of room to play. He understands that a TV show is a lot different from a comic book. He was a good course corrector. During the first season, we’d text every day. We’d talk on the phone even on the days he wasn’t in the writer’s room. Then sometimes I’d get a call and he’d be looking at the notes from the day and he’d say, “Yeah don’t do that.” It was always very nice and respectful though.
Robert was then asked if he envisions Outcast going on as long as Walking Dead.
RK: It’s a much more finite story. And it’s a story that has a planned ending. The Outcast comic book series will not go as long as Walking Dead.
I have an ending in mind (for Walking Dead). I know when it’s going to end, we just haven’t announced it yet.
But yeah, this (Outcast) isn’t going to go on for as many seasons. But that’s by design. This is a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. I knew the ending of the story before I started the first issue, before I started the pilot, and we’ve been working towards that every minute along the way. It’s just a much more contained story. It’s not a sprawling zombie epic.
I think it’s a little more maturity on my part. As a storyteller, I’ve always been scared of endings and I’ve avoided them. It’s served me well in a lot of places, but I feel I’ve grown to the point where I feel comfortable going “the story’s going to be better if it goes here.”
AiPT!: If things went your way, how many seasons do you think you’d want Outcast to be?
RK: This is where I jokingly usually say 100. But I think, like Breaking Bad, it’s like a five (maybe four) season show, depending on how the story breaks down.
AiPT!: Four or five seasons seems to be a sweet spot.
RK: (making fun of himself in regards to TWD) Yeah, not this eight, nine, ten season stuff…who wants it!?
Outcast returns for season two on Friday July 20, 2018 at 10PM ET/PT.