In the town of Rome, West Virginia, demonic possession is something of a way of life. Kyle Barnes, played by Patrick Fugit, is caught in the middle of it all, while coping with his lifelong ability to exorcise these demons.

In the second season of Outcast, which is based on the comic series by Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and illustrator Paul Azaceta, Kyle has a much more focused approach to this ongoing battle. Which is good, as things aren’t exactly looking up in that regard. Which, considering the first season, is really saying something. As the history of Rome starts to be explored, Kyle comes to learn more about his mysterious abilities, as well as exactly how, and why, he ended up there in the first place.

Ahead of Outcast’s second season, which premieres this Friday on Cinemax, Fugit took a few minutes to talk about how he’s approaching the character this time around.

In the first season, you seemed like you were approaching the whole situation like a Whac-A-Mole game. Now, Kyle is a little more focused on how he can effectively handle things. 

I think Whac-A-Mole is a great way to describe it. It’s funny, when you stand in front of the arcade to play Whac-A-Mole, you ready the club, and then you have to react to what the game does. It puts you in this already losing position of being reactionary, and that’s a great analogy because that’s largely what Kyle’s doing at the beginning of the first season.

He’s a reactionary subject to his circumstances. Throughout the first season, he had a troubled upbringing, so he’s never really been challenged to create learning formulas for dealing with problems like this. I think he’s really in over his head in the first season. He has a good heart, and he has good intentions, and the reason he fights is for his family, which is, of course, noble and relatable for most people watching.

But… he’s not the brightest guy. [Laughs] So, he ends up reacting to a lot of the stuff going on, and a lot of times he doesn’t react the best way. But it’s him and the reverend figuring out where they should stand in all this, how they should be reacting, that sort of thing. Then, at the end of the first season, I think they decide to start dictating. They want to control their destiny rather than just react all the time.

Has that changed your approach to the character at all?

Part of what I was excited about was to see Kyle grow along those lines. Of course, that all starts to change once the landscape changes, and he starts learning about the history of Rome and the legacy that he’s part of.

Speaking to that, there’s been a large gap in time between the first season and this one. Was it that way on the production end of things?

No, I actually preferred it that way. We just went almost one year to the day; we wrapped season one, and then started season two pretty much the same time of year that we started season one. And I had gotten a chance to be in the Kyle research headspace since we’d done the pilot the year before. It was actually a great timeline format me. I got the chance to really think about the character.

Then we did some press, and that gave me the opportunity to learn about the character while I was talking about him. Taking all that going into season two was quite helpful.

I’m curious about what exactly the research to get into Kyle’s headspace entails.

I think a lot of it was thinking about Kyle. I, myself, had a great childhood and a great relationship with my family and my parents. I also do not innate exorcism power. [Laughs].

But, the things Kyle was dealing with needed to feel universal to the observer, to the audience. So, a lot of it was sifting through what I was reading and talking to [showrunner] Chris Black and Robert Kirkman and really figuring out what we wanted to communicate, and how we wanted the audience to feel about Kyle. When you’re playing a character that you don’t share experiences with, it can be a challenge. But I feel that Kyle’s written very simply, and somewhat eloquently by Chris and Robert. It made it easier on me to understand what was up.

Given the plot of the show and its overall tonality, it’s not terribly uplifting. Is that hard to shake off at the end of the day?

I’ve always been a fan of immersion, both as an audience member and as an actor. I like being immersed in a tone and a character’s headspace. I think, as an actor, you learn from a pretty early stage that if you hold on to stuff from work and bring it home, it can get into your personal life in ways that are hard to predict. Usually, I would learn about that through experience. I figured it out pretty early on, but I had some great mentors to help me avoid those pitfalls.

In terms of Outcast, I was very well aware [of it]. I actually enjoy the Outcast headspace. It is dark and tragic and horrifying and disturbing, but it’s about character, and we were always trying to bring optimism and hope to the characters’ mental forefront. That was an important storytelling aspect for us, and created quite a lot of levity within the characters.

Does that levity spill over onto the set between takes, too?

The people we work with on set, everyone from the grip department, camera department, the writers’ room, the actors, everyone was so fun to work with and it was such a great atmosphere that you’d have to be a sad sack to get down on the Outcast set. It was really a lot of fun.

What are you most excited for fans to see in the upcoming season?

I was always excited about the Amber character [Kyle’s daughter]. Once I met Mattie McGraw, who plays Amber, and we started becoming friends on set, as I got to know the actress I got to watch her play the character, and I talked to Chris and Robert about how that’s a character that should evolve.

I found it really exciting that, at the end of the [first] season, she exorcises Megan. I was like “What, that’s fucking epic!” Then I said, “So, clearly, the season two opener is Kyle throwing Amber like a spear of exorcism into a group of possessed people and she’s making their heads to explode, right?”

They were like, “Well, maybe not at the beginning of the season two…”

But I was so pumped on that. If he can pass it to his daughter, how did he get it. His mom doesn’t have it, so what’s up with that? Really, it falls into this legacy concept. The history of Rome. Why is Rome like this? Why does it have so many of these possessed people, and why is Kyle there in the first place?

Before I go, I have to ask what you can tell me about First Man.

I’m so pumped to see it. I went in and did some voiceover for the trailer that just came out, and I’ve only gotten to see about that much of the film. Damien [Chazelle] shot that in such an interesting, unique way — almost like a found-footage documentary from the era. It was really interesting to be a part of that and work with him. He is a sharp director. Very good at what he does, obviously.

Outcast premieres Friday, July 20th on Cinemax