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Following a multiple cable network bidding war, Cinemax has landed Outcast, a drama based on Kirkman’s upcoming Image/Skybound comic of the same name, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. The cable network has given a script commitment with large penalty to the project.
The comic and potential series centers on Kyle Barnes, who has been plagued by possession since he was a child. Now an adult, he embarks on a spiritual journey to find answers, but what he uncovers could mean the end of life on Earth as we know it. The comic will debut in 2014.
Kirkman will pen the script and executive produce alongside Circle of Confusion’s David Alpert (The Walking Dead). The drama, which was first announced in March, hails from Fox International Channels — the company that distributes Walking Dead worldwide and a strategic partner on the zombie drama who identified AMC’s ratings juggernaut during its script stage. It will mark Kirkman’s first time writing a pilot.
“At FIC, we’re committed to creating compelling, innovative television with A-list writers like Robert Kirkman, and with Cinemax we have a partner that is as passionate as we are about this very unique project,” said FIC exec vp original development and scripted programming Sharon Tal Yguado. “Outcast is unlike anything on television and has the potential to become another global phenomenon.”
The Walking Dead represents cable’s biggest drama among total viewers and key demographics. In its recent fourth-season premiere, the series continued to shatter its own ratings records, drawing more than 16 million total viewers and again ranking as TV’s No. 1 scripted series among adults 18-49. It has bested NBC’s Sunday Night Football multiple times in the demo this season and earned an early season-five renewal.
“Despite the success of The Walking Dead, Outcast is only my second foray into the horror genre. I think Kyle Barnes is every bit as compelling as Rick Grimes and demonic possession is way scarier than zombies — so this is going to be fun,” Kirkman said. “Starting a new project is like setting off on an long journey and I couldn’t ask for better travel companions than David Alpert and Sharon Tal Yguado and I’m thrilled to be a part of what Cinemax has planned for the next few years.”
For Kirkman, this marks the writer/executive producer’s fourth comic adaptation in the works. In addition to AMC’s The Walking Dead, Kirkman is prepping a scripted companion series to the ratings hit with EPs Gale Anne Hurd and Alpert. The untitled project, which AMC hopes to have on the air in 2015, is also based on Kirkman’s long-running zombie comics and is the third series (including Chris Hardwick-hosted gabfest The Talking Dead) tied to the franchise.
Additionally, Kirkman’s Image/Skybound title Thief of Thieves is also in development at AMC with Alpert attached. Kirkman, who oversees Image Comics imprint Skybound as CEO, will also executive produce an adaptation of David Schulner‘s comic Clone for Universal TV, though a network is not yet attached.
Talking to reporters recently about Outcast, Kirkman said the title marks the first time since The Walking Dead that he’s done a comic that is a very “real-world dramatic take on a horror concept, and this is going to be me doing that again.”
Kirkman said Outcast will explore similar themes to The Walking Dead — most notably the urgency that comes with loved ones affected by an outside force (possession instead of whatever is behind the zombie outbreak). “There are some similarities but hopefully we’ll be [covering] new ground that makes this very different from The Walking Dead,” he told reporters. “This is going to be a big, epic story with a lot of characters and we’ll probably lose a few along the way. I don’t know if it’s quite as much of a bloodbath as The Walking Dead has turned out to be but there certainly is an element of, ‘No one is safe.’ “
For their part, Kirkman said FIC got an early look at the comic Outcast and committed early to the project. As with The Walking Dead, Kirkman will be deeply involved. “It’s a fun balance to strike, but the two projects are kept very separately in my head,” he said of the process. FIC is the international partner on Walking Dead and broadcasts the series in 125 countries.
Kirkman is repped by CAA, Circle of Confusion and Katz Golden.
For Cinemax, Outcast comes as HBO’s sibling network continues to build its original scripted roster. In addition to the second season of Banshee and fourth and final season of its first original primetime series, Strike Back, the cable network also has Steven Soderbergh‘s Clive Owen original drama The Knick set for 2014. On the development side, Cinemax is prepping drama pilot Quarry.
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