MIPCOM: Patrick Fugit on Fitting In on 'Outcast'

Niko Tavernise (c)2015/FOX International Studios
Patrick Fugit in 'Outcast'

Personal tragedy taught him a brightness that he brings to Robert Kirkman's demonic-possession drama.

It seems like Patrick Fugit grew up on the big screen, but really it was just 122 minutes in Cameron Crowe’s classic coming-of-age story Almost Famous.

“I think a lot of people, if you ask them, 'How do you remember Patrick Fugit?' they would probably bring that up and ask, 'What has he done since?'" he tells The Hollywood Reporter about the lasting impression of his big breakout role over a decade ago.

If his résumé seems sporadic since, it’s by design. He studiously avoided being typecast in similar roles after the Oscar-winning film, taking on passion projects such as Spun and Gone Girl before retreating back to his hometown of Salt Lake City.

Now he’s headlining Outcast as Kyle Barnes, a game-changing role in Robert Kirkman’s demonic-possession follow-up to The Walking Dead that will bow on Cinemax in the U.S. early next year.

The show and story are full of Kirkman’s trademark gory flair with a touch of tragedy, but handling the darkness in Kyle’s life is nothing compared to a recent personal tragedy: losing his lifelong best friend in 2012.

“There were two directions to go in, and one was to embrace the void and live that darkness and let it sort of bleed into my personal relationships — which it certainly did for a period of time — but really the person that he was to me and to all of my friends, we came out of that loss almost obnoxiously brighter than we went into it.”

“If you would have asked me three or four years ago, ‘Your friend is going to pass away, how do you feel about that?’ I would have said I’m going to f—ing drink myself to death because it’s f—ing bullshit, but it had the most opposite and fundamentally life-changing effect on me,” he said.

Producers went through dozens of actors before meeting Fugit, who brought a different energy to the character, they said. Most of the actors played it deeply dark, but Fugit brought an inner lightness that helps the audience understand and sympathize with the character’s actions.

“I feel that Kyle is inherently bright, it’s just the context that he is placed in is dark. So you’re watching him battle that within himself and outside himself,” he said. “If you empathize with him, and he feels bright but has to make dark decisions, it's more interesting.”

Fugit says working with Kirkman and showrunner Chris Black is a collaborative and educational experience. “It’s a really rewarding experience,” he said about being able to openly discuss ideas with the team. “Everybody involved has a high level of creative input and is passionate about it,” he said. That can often be a pitfall on other shows or films, but everyone — including the studio and network — have rallied behind Kirkman’s creative vision.

The show, now shooting its sixth episode, will follow major plot points of the comic but various characters and storylines change organically as the production process continues. The number of season have not been planned, but the show does have a narrative endpoint as the light at the end of the tunnel.

Fugit reflects on his relatively short career, even though it has been half his life, and the perspective it has given him. There are no rules for actors, especially in the digital age, he says.

“When I started acting we were shooting on film; there was this huge emphasis on doing things a certain way and that’s changed,” he says.

While Fugit thinks directing “would be a hoot,” he’s happy to stay in front of the camera now. Still, he doesn’t rule it out.

“If I had come up with a plan like when I was 17 I think I would be batshit crazy by now because it would not have gone the way that I wanted. I wanted He-Man: The Sequel, where I could play both He-Man and Skeletor,” he said, joking: “Though it’s not too late, I can still make it happen.”