outcast robert kirkman adam wingard patrick
Courtesy of Cinemax

Cinemax has given a vote of confidence to “Outcast,” the upcoming drama series from “The Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman, handing the show a second-season pickup nearly three months before its June 3 premiere.

News of the early pickup was unveiled Monday at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Kirkman is exec producer of “Outcast” along with showrunner Chris Black. The series hails from Fox International Studios. David Alpert, Sue Naegle and Fox International’s Sharon Tal Yguado are exec producers. “The Guest” helmer Adam Wingard directed the pilot.

“’Outcast’ has been a passion project of mine for many years,” said Kirkman. “Seeing it come together has been a huge thrill for me. What we’ve been able to achieve on Cinemax, with its unprecedented creative freedom, frankly, almost scares ME at times.”

Patrick Fugit stars as Kyle, a young man plagued by demonic possession. In his search for answers and redemption he sequesters himself from those he loves for fear of causing greater hurt. Philip Glenister plays Reverend Anderson, an evangelist who comes into contact with Kyle. Gabriel Bateman plays Joshua, an 8-year-old boy who also appears to be possessed by demons and has a connection to Kyle.

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“Going into the first season of ‘Outcast,’ we knew that Robert Kirkman had once again created a world that would scare us to our core,” said Kary Antholis, president of Cinemax original programming. “But what he, Chris Black and the rest of their team have delivered has exceeded even those high expectations.”

“Outcast” has a 10-episode order for season one. The series is based on the Skybound/Image comic-book title by Kirkman and artist Paul Azaceta.

At the Sunday afternoon panel for the project, Kirkman revealed his inspiration for the demonic thriller: “I had a slightly religious upbringing that I don’t like talking about, so this stuff has always terrified me,” he said. “I think it’s somewhat therapeutic to try and face these kinds of things and work through them in a way that makes me money.”

Kirkman has found major success adapting “The Walking Dead” for AMC, which remains the highest-rated drama on television, and he told the SXSW audience that “Outcast” will follow a similar format to the zombie series. “It’ll end up being more or less the same as ‘Walking Dead,’ in that there’ll be iconic, important moments, integral to what makes ‘Outcast’ ‘Outcast,’ that will exist in the comic and the show,” he explained. “Working with Chris Black and the other writers on the show, we’re expanding characters; we’re adding different storylines; doing different things with Kyle and Reverend Anderson. There’s gonna be a lot of new stuff for people who have read the comics. I have to work on both things, so if I was just doing the same thing twice, I would get bored.”

Since the comic has only published 16 issues to date, Kirkman was quick to reassure fans that he’s not planning to emulate George R. R. Martin and let the show overtake his written work. “If you’re worried about a ‘Game of Thrones’ situation, I think we’re pacing ourselves well,” he quipped. “We’re putting comics out a little faster than we’re putting the show out, so we shouldn’t catch up, I hope. But it’s something that I lose sleep over.”

Kirkman also addressed the pitfalls and positives of adapting such new material. “Comics as a medium shouldn’t be beholden to television, so I feel like if I’m writing the comics and I’m focusing too much on how it’s going to be adapted, it might change the story, so I try to put it out of my head, which is sometimes difficult to do,” he admitted. “But there is an excitement to writing when you know ‘this is happening on a page now, but eventually we might be filming this and I can film it a different way.'”

While “The Walking Dead” is on basic cable – and still gets away with plenty of mature themes and graphic visuals – “Outcast” will air on premium cable, and Kirkman admitted that Cinemax encouraged the producers to go darker when necessary.

“The character of Joshua got a little older as we kept developing the script, and then Cinemax said ‘we need to add some more edge to this; is there anything we can do to make this a little more edgy?’ and I was like, ‘we’ll just take him back to his original age, this is fantastic!'” Kirkman laughed. “We were definitely pushed to push boundaries and it’s great being able to know that we can follow things wherever the story goes. We don’t want to do anything gratuitous — that’s not what we’re after — but I think pushing boundaries and doing the unexpected, knowing during the writing process that you can do those things is very freeing. It’s a great fit.”

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