Patrick Fugit on Outcast, Saved, and Growing Up With Religion All Around Him

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Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Creators Robert Kirkman and Chris Black’s new Cinemax visceral horror show, Outcast, stars Philip Glenister as Reverend Anderson, who’s hell-bent on ridding his small Southern town of evil spirits. But he can’t get far without the help of his reluctant sidekick, Kyle Barnes — a man grappling with his own turmoil after seeing demonic possession take its toll on those he loves.

Kirkman recently told Vulture that casting actor Patrick Fugit as Kyle came after an exhaustive search, but that he was sold when he saw “there was an optimism that he brought to the role and such a sensibility and warmness that made you invested in him almost immediately.” Vulture spoke to Fugit about why he went after the part and growing up surrounded by religion. 

Why did you sign on to this project?
Laray Mayfield did our casting for the first episode. She’s a brilliant casting director and very supportive of me. I’ve always appreciated her bringing me in for different stuff. Whenever her name is on something that gets sent to me, I pay a lot of attention. Robert’s name was on there, and I had watched and appreciated some Walking Dead. But mostly what got me excited was Laray’s office had sent over two scenes. One was this dark scene where Kyle is recounting to the reverend what happened between him and his mother. It’s very dark and very emotional. And there’s this other scene that takes place in the past, and it’s between him and his wife before they were married. It’s a very sweet, bright scene and communicates what drives Kyle in his adult life. It also communicates how tragic it is that everything was ripped away from him. Here you have these dual, opposing themes. I thought, if both themes could play throughout both scenes, it could make for a very interesting character. 

You did the movie Saved, a comedy about deeply religious teens, and you grew up in Salt Lake City. Religion has certainly surrounded your life.
You know, it’s like someone who works in an ice-cream shop and doesn’t think one way or the other about ice cream. I grew up with it around me so intensely. The neighborhood around me was so predominantly Mormon. I am not Mormon and never have been, so I had an outsider's perspective of it. Saved was definitely something I was interested in because of my upbringing and my outsider’s experience of religion — particularly of traditional and conservative religion.

In Outcast, the religion is there as a belief system to communicate what the audience knows already about exorcism. The reverend knows what the audience knows about exorcism because of the movies we’ve seen before, but that’s there to show us how different things are going to be this time around. Kyle has a very anti-religious view. He doesn’t believe it has to be about good and evil or God and the devil. But of course, the things he sees throughout the first episode really challenged that belief. 

Did you and Robert and Scott have conversations about why Kyle has been chosen?
That’s one of the themes that Robert is choosing to explore. Why is this guy like this? Is it that there are a bunch of them out there and we just happen to be focusing on this guy in this town? Or is he just the only one who can do it? Robert really wanted this guy to feel like an Everyman and a guy with simple desires [in terms] of what he wants in his life. It was obviously important that what had happened to these characters in the past informed how they behaved now, but a lot of it is them making decisions to work through that stuff. The focus is definitely what they are going to do.

There are so many characters on TV who are anti-heroes, and Kyle’s pretty much a saint who has just had a lot of bad stuff happen to him.
I like when the audience is in on something that the characters in the story aren’t in on. It’s something you get to share with just that character, so it feels personal. It’s also nice to see the audience learn and watch the other characters in that world learn those things. We wanted people to know that Kyle will go through really drastic measures to protect the values of his family. By the time we’re at the end of episode four, he begins to realize that what he’s doing still isn’t keeping them safe.