SXSWorld March 2016 – Film & Interactive


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3 8 S X S W o r l d | F I L M / I A M A R C H 2 0 1 6 | S X S W. C O M obert Kirkman's The Walking Dead is one of the biggest success stories in comics, and the television show adapted from the series has attracted an even larger audi- ence. In it, Kirkman may not have reinvented the zombie, but he certainly reinvigorated the genre with a focus on character and consequence. Now audiences at SXSW are going to be the first to see if Kirkman can do the same for demons and the devil that he's done for the undead, when Outcast screens its debut episode tomorrow. As television grows more adventurous and audiences are less concerned about where they see something as long as it's made well and treated with integrity, it makes sense that more and more television would appear at SXSW, and Kirkman has put together an impressive team to join him for a post-screening discussion. Director Adam Wingard (You're Next, The Guest) will join Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous), who stars in the pilot, as well as Kirkman and his showrunner, Chris Black. Fugit stars as Kyle Barnes, a young man who has been plagued by demonic possession. When we meet him, he's an adult surrounded by supernatural events that have wrecked his life. According to the official synopsis, "with the help of the Reverend Anderson, a preacher with personal demons of his own, Kyle embarks on a journey to find answers and regain the normal life he lost. But what Kyle discovers could change his fate - and the fate of the world - forever." Asked what he's learned from watching the way the translation from comic to television has worked with The Walking Dead, Kirkman laughed. "I'm really bad at learning things … The Walking Dead has been an education in audience expectations and how to steer those and how to react to those and how to play with those." He spoke of how ongoing narrative gives him a chance to get his audience fully involved in characters and ideas. As the series begins, Kirkman says that Kyle is going to finally stop running and hiding from these demonic events that have been part of his life since childhood: "He decides that he is going to face it head- on and try to figure out what this phenomenon is, what causes it, and why it seems to happen around him so frequently … He wants to lead a normal life. He wants to not be this outcast that he's become." More than anything, Kirkman wanted to take the basic model of the exorcism story and turn it on its head. "No one's ever really looked at this as a solvable problem," he said. "They never really go, 'Why did this thing get in this person and why did it pick this person and can it happen again, and most importantly, can we stop it once and for all?' "He joked about hoping to explore that story for a hun- dred seasons, but looking at the juggernaut that is The Walking Dead, he may not be completely kidding. TV horror is having a particularly strong moment right now, with networks allowing more extreme imagery and ideas. Even since The Walking Dead went on the air, there has been a loosening of stan- dards, something Kirkman attributes to Dead as well as shows like Hannibal, and even crime shows like CSI. "Those shows allowed those boundaries to be pushed. They really threw the bloodgates open. I would watch Hannibal and just be in shock about what they were showing me in my living room." Working on Cinemax means that there aren't even the mild restric- tions that exist for cable or broadcast network shows, and Kirkman has reacted by surprising even himself: "I feel like something opened up in me. It frees you in a storytelling sense to break new ground and do some really interesting things. I've watched this pilot with some international buyers, and I found myself thinking, 'They prob- ably should have edited us a little bit more than this.' I feel like we definitely went too far here and there. That's exciting. I would never go back and change things. If anything, it makes me want to push the boundaries deeper and deeper as we get into the series. But … the things they let us do!" Kirkman had nothing but praise for his collaborators on the series, and in particular, how Wingard and Black were part of making the choice about who would play Kyle: "We went through dozens, maybe even a hundred actors, before we found someone who could carry this show. Most of the actors got the darkness of this character, but that made him off-putting in a lot of cases. They were showing us 90% of what we needed, but we needed that 10% of the humanity that still remains. Patrick Fugit brings a light to this very dark story that makes you want to see him succeed." T Outcast will world premier tomorrow (Monday, March 14 at 1:15pm in the Vimeo Theater at the Austin Convention Center. The series will air on Cinemax later this year. Can Robert Kirkman Make Demons the New Zombies? by Drew Mcweeny R Pa t rick Fu g it in Outcast N I K O TAV E R N I S E

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