Rome, West Virginia, is the gloomy backdrop for Robert Kirkman and Paul Azaceta’s Outcast comic series. It’s a depressed, rural town with a collection of “Out of Business” signs, which only heighten the creepiness of the location. The muted atmosphere supplies the perfect complement to the vivid lives of the characters that live there.

When taking Rome from page to screen in the forthcoming Cinemax adaptation of the series, showrunner Chris Black was determined that the show would not be filmed on a Hollywood back lot. “We’re not going to shoot in Toronto or Los Angeles, because it needs a look,” Black tells “It needs a specific look.” Production designer Mark White shares Black’s commitment to having the “look” of Rome be just so, describing his work helping to create Outcast’s atmosphere: “My whole desire for the show,” he says, “is the details and the layering and the realness of it all.”

A good part of the television series’ “realness” came from the comic books. Delving into the basis for Rome as it appears on the page, Black says, “Robert [Kirkman] is from Kentucky. It’s a world he’s familiar with, the rural Appalachian South.” When Black and his team began their search for the town that would become Rome, they deferred to Kirkman’s vision and Azaceta’s illustrations, going so far as to carry the comic books around with them as they scouted locations.

It wasn’t long before they landed in Chester, South Carolina.

The small town instantly evoked the Rome that was depicted in the comic book series. As Black tells it, “I would get chills sometimes when we shot the pilot. You would walk up to a set, and you’d hold the comic book up next to it—the resemblance was crazy.”

Delving deeper into the particular appeal of Chester as Rome, White describes with enthusiasm how “every single store in this town has hand-painted lettering on the windows. It’s crazy. I love it.” Despite the difference in region, Black found the shared history of the imagined West Virginia town and the very real Chester, South Carolina, allowed for a lot of visual crossover. “West Virginia is much more mountainous than this part of South Carolina is,” Black says, “but the fabric of it—company towns that aren’t as prosperous as they were years ago—is incredibly atmospheric.” Nonetheless, to ensure a true, mountainous West Virginia vibe, White says dryly: “Hills were always our friend.”

More than just locating a town, finding Rome became a search for a certain “feel, texture, and color,” White says, adding: “The creepy aspect doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure.” That’s a good thing: This is a horror epic, after all.