'The Outsider' Star Bill Camp on Getting Stephen King's Approval of the HBO Series (Exclusive)
By Stacy Lambe
A formidable character actor, Bill Camp has built a career on supporting roles in award-winning films -- from 12 Years a Slave to Joker -- and buzzy TV shows like FX’s Damages and The Leftovers on HBO.
After earning an Emmy nomination for his performance on the HBO limited series, The Night Of, the actor is once again the subject of positive reviews for his portrayal of defense lawyer Howard Salomon on the premium cable network’s adaptation of The Outsider. His role on the Stephen King adaptation also coincides with the return of the Forensic Files on HLN, with Camp taking over as narrator of the longtime crime series.
In fact, it’s all those years playing a detective or a lawyer or some other member of law enforcement that makes him a comforting choice to take over for the late Peter Thomas, who previously narrated the series for 14 seasons before he died in 2016.
“I’d like to believe that I’m just telling the story,” Camp tells ET by phone. “But I do think there’s something added I can provide or bring to it because of my experience at least with the terminology and the process by which these law enforcement officials and lawyers go through and the paths that they follow. So having put myself through that process a bunch of times and having talked to people who actually do this for a living, it does give me a little bit of a flavor that I can add.”
Though, he’s quick to say, “I’m not there to duplicate Peter because he can’t be matched.”
Airing on Sundays on HLN, Forensic Files II will give fans a brief opportunity to get a double dose of Camp, with The Outsider airing an hour before on HBO. The limited series has two episodes remaining as it attempts to bring King’s chilling crime thriller to a close.
Based on King’s best-selling novel of the same name, the crime thriller tells the story of a gruesome murder of a local boy and the mysterious forces surrounding the investigation. While Terry Maitland (Jason Bateman) is the initial suspect in the case, detective Ralph Anderson (Ben Mendelsohn) finds himself chasing after a mystery man as he tries to figure out the truth behind this horrifying crime. Camp plays Maitland’s defense attorney who suggests Anderson bring in an unorthodox private investigator, Holly Gibney (Cynthia Erivo), who has the uncanny ability to explain the unexplainable. With her arrival also comes stories about the Boogeyman, which most of the characters are unwilling to accept.
The revelation about a Boogeyman or El Coco, as he’s referred to on the series, is laid out in a particularly great ensemble scene from episode six. Holly returns to Georgia to outline her findings -- a supernatural connection between their murder and others killings. Once they hear her report, Howie and others in the room react poorly. “I like how Howie really hoped she was going to put facts together that did make rational sense and would be able to solve the mystery,” Camp says.
It’s one of the first times that all the main characters have to confront the supernatural elements on the show. And it’s thanks to a cast of outstanding character actors like Camp, Erivo, Mendelsohn and others, that everything they’re going through feels grounded and real.
When it comes to filming that scene in particular, Camp praises Erivo for having to deliver a pages-long monologue while only having to react in real time to her speech. “The focus was on Cynthia having to present all of this information through the tapestry of Holly,” he says, adding that the whole experience was like doing “a piece of theater.”
With only having two episodes left, Camp is remaining tight-lipped about what comes next. Though, he promises that “a lot of cool stuff happens” before the end.
While the series has been met with strong word-of-mouth and plenty of critical acclaim, none of that tops an approval from King himself. A lifelong fan of the author, Camp recalls an unexpected encounter with the author on the streets of Manhattan that happened prior to the series' premiere.
“I was walking along Madison and I walked right by him. I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,’” the actor says, explaining that he’s seen King many times before but never has introduced himself. This time, however, “I turned around and I ran back and I touched him on the shoulder and I said to Stephen, ‘I’m sorry, but my name is Bill Camp. I was in [The Outsider].’ And he was like, ‘Have you seen all the episodes yet?’”
At the time, Camp hadn’t seen any of the show, but was glad to find out King approved. “It was such a cool moment for me, having been part of that universe he’s made, that I was in something that he wrote, and that he seemed quite pleased with it, too,” the actor continued. “He had a big smile on his face and said he thought it was pretty spooky.”
And for Camp, it doesn’t get much better than that.