On the outskirts of a small town in Kentucky, on top of Shay Mountain, the Farrell Clan rules. Some may label them as primitive, some are simply terrified of them--everyone knows them as the “Outsiders.”
The Farrell Clan have held control of their territory for more than two centuries, living away from society, by their own rules and no one else’s. When they do venture into town, they’re met by fear, derision, and for some... innocent curiosity.
But what happens when the two vastly different worlds collide? We’ll find out in WGN’s latest television series, Outsiders.
I got the chance to talk to show creator Peter Mattei and executive producer Peter Tolan, as well as several of the talented cast.
They each describe their own admiration for the show, and why they think you won’t be able to resist this rugged, unpredictable story.
PopWrapped: What was the inspiration behind Outsiders?
Peter Mattei: There were a bunch of things floating around in my head for awhile: off-the-grid communities, alternative lifestyles, and things like that. I think a lot about technology and the world that we live in, how technology has changed that world pretty significantly. It all sort of came together. I saw a documentary about Appalachia, and I just sort of conceived this family that would be living off the grid in a very different way.
PW: What were your initial thoughts when you read the script for this show?
Ryan Hurst (Lil Foster): Unique, different. Like nothing I’d ever seen. It was just really rich; I just wanted to know more about this world that they were creating. These people that live up on this mountain... it was just so intriguing.
Gillian Alexy (G’Winveer): The dialogue and the interaction between these really unique characters--I was like, ‘This is different. This is not formulaic at all.’ That was really fun; it’s re-energizing to get to work on that kind of material.
Christina Jackson (Sally-Ann): Intrigue. I had never read anything like it before. This family who is just completely off the grid; to know that there is this world that is parallel to what we’re all living right now... Literally, I was fascinated.
Kyle Gallner (Hasil): I would say the same thing. You were instantly intrigued, you wanted to know where this was going to go, and who these people were. The conflict between the town and the mountain, and inner conflict between the people on the mountain themselves--there was just so much going on, it definitely drew me in. The Farrells were such an important part of drawing me to this story--who are these people? I would love to be one.
Thomas Wright (Sheriff Wade Houghton): I just thought it was difficult material, and it was interesting to deal with characters that aren’t straightforward, linear descriptions. It’s set in a really interesting place; it’s a long way from where I’m from. We should feel proud and privileged to be telling a story about [Appalachia]. It’s a fascinating place.
David Morse (Big Foster): It’s taking a world that we think we know in Appalachia--people have lots of judgments and stereotypes about it--and we’re seeing that world in a richer, more fun way. And then you add the element of a clan who have a 200-year history with their own language, their own behavior, and rituals, the way they look, the whole thing.
PW: Of the actors, was there anyone that you met and immediately thought, “You are perfect for this character?”
Peter Tolan: Speaking for myself, we saw a piece of film--he had not read yet--on Thomas Wright, who plays Wade Houghton, and I just went ‘That’s the guy. That’s him.'
Peter Mattei: That happened with everybody, to some extent. We had a long, exhaustive audition process. Ryan Hurst did his own audition for us, because he wasn’t available in town; we all looked at that and just said, ‘Done.’ We had been looking for that part for months, and the second we saw him, there was just no question.
Peter Tolan: He helped define that character a little bit more through that audition. It’s funny, but when you see somebody do it, you forget everything before. There’s a soulfulness that Ryan brings to it that changed that character for us. He’s not just this brutish mountain man; he’s got a real heart and he feels things deeply.
PW: What’s most appealing to each of you about your characters?
Gillian Alexy: I just love the kickass qualities that G’Win has; she’s no wallflower. She’s not gonna sit in the corner and shut up, so [she] speaks to my own heart. I really liked that this was a strong female character with a very strong voice who was gonna say what she believed, and could hold her own in this world of really dynamic, interesting, strong-minded men as well.
Christina Jackson: Sally-Ann’s not too far from who I am. Black girl, small town. There were so many similarities between us that it wasn’t too hard, but I know nothing about Kentucky. That drew me in. There’s a vulnerability about her, because you don’t know much. But to have her meet this guy [Hasil], at this point in time, when he’s embarking on a curiosity--to have them crash into each other at this time, that was interesting.
Kyle Gallner: Hasil’s a wild child, he’s like Tarzan. I actually based a lot of him [on] my two-year-old; there’s an openness to a child and such a wide-eyed way of looking at the world. I took the approach to town as that, watching my son grow up. It’s really a beautiful way to look at the world, and that’s who Hasil is. He’s not tainted by all the stuff that you learn about. There is a part of me that does want to step off, and does like being separate, and does love being in the woods and climbing, running. It was a fun way to get back to an inner child and reach into that part. [It was very] freeing.
PW: Are there any characters that you’re rooting for?
Gillian Alexy: I’m kinda rooting for everyone. Who are the Outsiders, really? That’s one of the qualities of the show--you’re not quite sure who you’re supposed to follow or who the lead man [is].
PW: What do you think people are going to love about this show?
Gillian Alexy: The beards.
Ryan Hurst: I think there’s an aesthetic that everybody is going to be drawn to because it’s so different. That, and as time goes on--the different lifestyle that they’re creating. Almost Little House on the Prairie meets Mad Max. What tools do they have? What technology don’t they have? How did they survive on top of this mountain for 200 years all by themselves?
Thomas Wright: I hope people really love and really relate to these flawed people, and find some humor in them too. They’re not all doom and gloom, they’re really funny characters with a great sense of irony and also a really great sense of family. And the story is really about family on both sides.
David Morse: People keep saying is there a good guy or bad guy who you’re supposed to root for; I think, ultimately, you’re going to be rooting for both communities and each of these people. You’re gonna feel them all as real people. It’s gonna feel like they’re your characters, because you get them.
Kyle Gallner: Even if there are things about the show, as a whole, that maybe you don’t relate to, there’s absolutely something in there for everyone--and a storyline to follow, and characters to fall in love with.
Christina Jackson: I think even if just for the Farrells. We’ve never seen something like this depicted. They’re separate from us, but they have their own issues. I think that’s worth tuning in alone.
Peter Tolan: I think that the Farrells and the way that they live, how close they are as a family [and] to the earth, how raw they are as people, will be really appealing to the audience.
Peter Mattei: I think a lot of people will just see ATVs whipping through the woods--that’s appealing. And then a whole other segment of the audience will just be: hair extensions. That’s gonna be a huge draw. We’re gonna be on the front cover of Hair Extension Monthly.
PW: The world is about to be introduced to Outsiders. What are you most excited about with this project?
Peter Tolan: Just that it got made, for God’s sakes! It’s pretty out there; it’s not your typical television series. I said to the head of WGN America the other day, ‘You’re either a genius or a lunatic to have, not only just picked it up, but to say we’re gonna make 13 of them.’ I think it’s gonna cut through a lot of clutter on television.
PW: Who’s your favorite character?
Peter Tolan: I think I’m still gonna say Big Foster; he’s big and he’s opinionated. He’s got a definite world view. I always love to write for him.
Peter Mattei: I’m just gonna go out on a limb and say Krake, the guy who brews the moonshine. He’s a very strange person and, again, originally I conceived that character as being a tiny, wide mini-me type. Someone more like [Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones]. When we saw Mark Jeffrey Miller do that--physically, absolutely the opposite--I saw the character very differently.
PW: There are some shockingly violent moments during the pilot. Is that something we should get used to?
Peter Mattei: I would say: Don’t get used to it, but there’s a lot of drama.
Peter Tolan: As beautiful as it is to live that, especially at this moment of conflict, I think you can expect more problems.
Thank you to the cast, Peter Tolan, and Peter Mattei for hanging out with us.
Make sure to check out this show next week--we guarantee you’ll get lost in it.
Outsiders premieres Tuesday, January 26 at 9 pm (EST) on WGN America.