INTERVIEW: Philip Glenister on performing exorcisms in Outcast and Top Gear rumours
We’re most used to seeing Philip Glenister as old style English cop Detective Chief Inspector Gene Hunt on Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, so it’s a big jump to see him as the hedonistic Holy Man Reverend Anderson in the latest exciting new thriller from Walking Dead comic creator Robert Kirkman.
Outcast is the story of Kyle Barnes (Patrick Fugit), a young man whose entire life has been plagued by the demonic possession of people close to him. After a local child begins showing signs of possession, Barnes meets with charismatic preacher Anderson to offer his knowledge in exorcising the demon. The unexpected partnership leads the two on a journey to banish Kyle’s demons.
We spoke to Glenister late last year, while he was on a break from filming the eighth episode of Outcast, about how he dealt with performing exorcisms, maintaining a thick Southern accent and those pesky Top Gear rumours.
Our first question is about the preacher Reverend Anderson, an enigmatic and charismatic new Holy Man who has appeared in the local community in Outcast. Glenister portrays an all-drinking, all-gambling yet remarkably devout preacher. Will his status as a walking paradox be something that is explored further in the series? “He’s just not a conventional man of the cloth in that respect,” teases Glenister, “but it’s sort of much more complex than that.”
His relationship with Kyle Barnes is particularly interesting: “I suppose that the relationship to begin with is a bit like mentor and student. As the series carries on, there becomes this conflict of interest and I think there’s an element where Anderson starts questioning his own beliefs and his own powers, and he sees this upstart coming along who has had a very complex background. But, we kind of need each other. They kind of need each other which we can see as the series progresses. It gets much darker and more complex.”
The scene in the pilot of Outcast where Anderson performs an exorcism is one of the most intense sequences I have ever seen on television. It is fast-paced, it is terrifying, and it is incredibly effective. How hard was this portrayal? “The hardest part was remembering my bloody lines because the language is so flowery. One minute you’re saying the devil, demon or whatever, just trying to process that in your head and keep that flow going and that intensity.”
Another decision that separates Reverend Anderson from DCI Gene Hunt is the use of a strong, Southern American accent for the role. Glenister slips into it with ease, and – much like Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead – one would otherwise never know he is a Brit in an American cast. How did he master the accent? “We had a dialect coach for a start. I quite enjoy doing accents anyway, I’ve always done them as a kid and done impressions and things. I think it’s one of those things where if you have a natural ear for stuff then you do it. I’m so used to not doing my own accent, whether it’s Mancunian or whatever. And so in a funny sort of way, it’s quite fun. I wouldn’t say it was easy for me, but I prefer doing it to doing just sort of standard American accent. It’s more specific and you have something more to go on.”
It’s clear the latest Robert Kirkman brainchild is going to go down a storm with fans of the science fiction and horror genre. It’s an out-there take on the world of demons, and does not shy away from language, gore or unbelievable shocks. Simply put, it is very different to some of the other shows Glenister has become known for. “Because this is a cable show, there’s much more artistic freedom in many respects, I mean I can’t really see Outcast being commissioned on ITV Encore.”
Whenever a British actor makes it big in America, there’s always the fear that they will never return to their successes on British Isles, but Glenister is adamant we haven’t lost him to the States: “No, I’d love to be able to do both. I’d love to be able to flip between the two. I’ve been very lucky with my career here, and I wouldn’t want to just pack that up. We’ll see how it goes, if something good here is sent my way and I’m asked to do it then of course I’ll do it.”
One offer of work in Britain, we slyly add, would be if those Top Gear rumours we heard last year were to be true. Glenister laughs that off: “Oh no, that’s all nonsense. I did a TV show called The Love of Cars and as soon as you’re attached to a show about cars, as soon as the whole Top Gear thing happened, the world and his wife [was suspected of being involved in the new Top Gear] – I think [even] my garage mechanic!”