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Robert Kirkman compares Outcast to The Walking Dead

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Niko Tavernise/Cinemax

Robert Kirkman set the standard for scary with his Walking Dead comic book and television adaptation. But, if you can believe this, he says his latest comic-to-TV project is “a scarier show.”

And that show is Outcast, which debuts June 3 on Cinemax and tells the story of Kyle Barnes (played by Patrick Fugit), who has been plagued throughout his life by demons possessing the bodies of those he loves. We spoke to Kirkman to get his take on both the similarities and differences between the two comic adaptations.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What are some of the similarities between the two shows and things a Walking Dead fan might like about Outcast?

ROBERT KIRKMAN: I think the thing that I worked the hardest on trying to accomplish — and the thing that I hope that every TV show I’m ever involved with has an element of, and one of the things that makes The Walking Dead popular — is that it’s unlike anything else on television. And when you sit down to watch an episode, you don’t really know what’s going to happen. There’s a certain level of uncertainty, and all the best TV shows have that. I’m very proud of the fact that literally anything could happen on The Walking Dead. Anybody could die, crazy stuff can happen, and the things that you think, “They’ll never do that on TV” — we strive to do at all times.

I think Outcast has that in a huge way. I think that it’s very unusual, and it’s unnerving, and we go into some areas that you wouldn’t expect people to go in in a television show, and we tell different kinds of stories. And so it’s different and surprising and unique, and that, I think, is something that makes it very similar to The Walking Dead.

On the flip side, how is Outcast different from The Walking Dead?

I think if you didn’t know that I was involved, you wouldn’t have any kind of indication of that, because they are so different. Walking Dead is such a visceral, physical threat, and with Outcast, it’s an inward threat. It’s not a smart show, because I don’t ever want to do a smart show, but it is somewhat cerebral to think about things that are inside people, and dealing with the struggles of people who aren’t the people they’re supposed to be. The stories that we’re telling are very different.

It’s not a road show like The Walking Dead. There’s not a lot of traveling or things like that. The town of Rome, West Virginia, is very much its own character in the show, and the community that’s built there is kind of what makes it so terrifying to think about all these people that know each other’s secrets, But there’s this element in this town that is changing them, that’s making them different people, that’s making them a threat. Your friends and neighbors and loved ones can be your greatest enemy at the turn of a dime, and it’s not because they’re mindless monsters — they’re a cunning, manipulative, very dangerous creature that is suddenly in your midst. It’s a scarier show.

The character of Kyle Barnes is also pretty different from Rick Grimes. Rick Grimes is a guy that had his stuff together before this all starts happening, and I guess you could say with Kyle Barnes, it’s always been happening. That’s the difference, but he’s definitely on much more emotionally shaky ground, it seems.

Yeah, a lot of the process of The Walking Dead is watching Rick Grimes being beaten down and having to grow and change and evolve to overcome that. And when we meet Kyle Barnes at the beginning of Outcast, his life has already been ruined, and he is completely at the end of his rope from this phenomenon that surrounds him that he’s been dealing with his entire life. And so, it’s really more a process of him digging himself out of this hole and trying to take control of his life again. At the very start of our show, he’s in a darker place than Rick Grimes has really ever been.