After a long and winding journey from the comic book pages to the small screen, Preacher has become the latest hit for cable network AMC. Based on the acclaimed series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, the show follows Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), a former criminal trying to mend his ways by following in his father’s footsteps and becoming the preacher in a small Texas town.
With a supporting cast that includes a fiery, gun-wielding ex-girlfriend (Ruth Negga), a hard-drinking Irish vampire (Joseph Gilgun) and a suicide survivor with a deformed face (Ian Colletti), Preacher isn’t exactly your standard television fare – which might explain the decade-long development cycle. But executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg were finally able to crack the code and get the project moving, and with consistently high ratings and a second season renewal, it seems like Preacher is here to stay.
Last week, the series made its first trip to San Diego Comic-Con, and before the cast and creators took the stage to answer questions from fans, they participated in a lengthy chat with a group of journalists. Check out some of the highlights below.
Evan Goldberg on making changes to fit the television medium:
Well, when we pitched it, we were like “we’re gonna do it like Sin City, just do the comic panel for panel.” And then we pitched it and AMC bought it off that pitch, and then Sam Catlin was like “well, we’re not doing that, obviously. That’s an absolutely terrible idea.” And then Garth kind of set us free by saying as long as we maintained the core characters’ emotional arcs and the damage that they have, that we could kind of run wild. Which, if he hadn’t said, I would’ve been trepidatious the whole time and uncomfortable changing too much, but he told us to go for it.
Dominic Cooper on Jesse’s evolution over the first season:
Physically doing it myself and actually watching it is quite different. I actually see it as much different than how I imagined. I’m much less sympathetic toward him, and I wonder why these people stand by him. I mean, he’s vile, and I was quite unaware how vile he was, actually. But I think he’s sort of in a place of reflection, and I think he’s established that he’s no good with this power: he’s not the one who should harness it and use it.
And I think now he knows the next part of the journey together with these people that he’s now met and that he loves, [Jesse will be] in search of answers. He’s demanding them, and he thinks that God owes them all answers, and that’s what he’s in search of. He has a purpose, which he’s probably never had before, apart from violence and crime, and he’s with the girl he loves, and he’s met a new great friend and they’re on the road. And I hope that you’re left excited and compelled by what may happen once these three go in search of [answers].
Seth Rogen on introducing new readers to the comics:
It’s funny because now that we’ve been making it, people are like, “I’ve started reading the comic.” Part of me is very thrilled to hear that and part of me’s like, “It’s kind of just going to ruin the show.” I’m actually torn. Part of me thinks the comic’s not going anywhere, maybe wait until the show’s over and then read the comic. Or, if you’re the type of person who loves comics then read it, but it will for sure put you a few steps ahead of what we imagine to be our average viewer.
Dominic Cooper on Jesse’s misuse of his newfound powers:
I think he’s making a mistake – in fact, Arseface clears it up quite well, he suggests that you can’t force people into being something they’re not. They have to make the choice to change. I suppose that he [is a superhero] in that he can make anyone do anything, but he’s a flawed superhero because it doesn’t actually work. And it’s going against what he actually wants to achieve, which is to improve a place that he cares a lot about.
He’s a man desperate to change himself, desperate to make himself a better person. He knows that he’s flawed, he feels guilty about what he did to his father, and he thinks he’s the Chosen One – he’s coming round to that way of thinking very quickly. At first he didn’t want anything to do with it, and it seems like it’s absorbing into the very fabric of who he is, but he thinks he can still do good with it. And the truth is power on that scale is very dangerous, and the fact that he’s not yet realizing it says a lot about him. The fact that he’s capable of having this entity inhabit him and remain there, when most people it’s happened to have exploded, the fact that he can harness it, to me, means he’s half evil and half good. There’s a very bad side to him, he’s had a tough life, and he’s struggled, but he’s desperately trying to improve himself.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on casting a black actress to play Tulip:
Goldberg: We did it intentionally. We just thought having an all-white cast was lame, and it’s also interesting for their love story, because it’s the South.
Rogen: We thought it added to the character, to the story, to the themes, and it made it slightly more of our time in some ways – literally, of 2016 – and allowed us to potentially explore some of the things that are clearly going on in our world and our country. There were really endless reasons to do it, once the idea came up, and literally no reason not to do it.
Golderg: And then Ruth [Negga] showed up, and it was like “I don’t care, it’s you.” It was one of those auditions where she just knocked it out of the park.
Ruth Negga on portraying Tulip:
I suppose what attracts me to her is what repels most people, her sort of unapologetic and violent tendencies. But for me, they’re not really meant in any sort of aggressive way just for the sake of violence. I think it’s an armor of sorts, to protect herself, but also she has quite a pure sense of justice, and I think that’s evident throughout the series. When she says to the kids in the pilot “he was a really bad man,” it’s not just to excuse her behavior, I think she really believes that.
In terms of women of color, I think it’s a relief to play someone like her, but I also find when I’m watching this it’s a relief to see someone like her. It’s very important for me, and I’m glad there’s discussion now about visibility, because I think for so long we’ve been so complacent about there not being enough people of color, and I think that conversation needs to keep happening.
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg on Joseph Gilgun’s audition:
Goldberg: His mother videotaped him in their basement and sent a video in that [showrunner] Sam Catlin watched, and we just didn’t, for like weeks. We just kept meeting with all these people and Sam kept being like “you’ve gotta watch this Joe guy.”
Rogen: “You’ve gotta watch this video this guy made in his basement.” And for some reason, we were like “no, we’ll be auditioning actors with agents.” And we didn’t realize that he was an actor with an agent, just the tape had come in from his basement. But we finally watched it, and we were just kind of blown away by it, and then we Skyped with him and it was like talking to the character. It was amazing. I don’t know if you’ve met him yet, but he truly is that…
Goldberg: He’s the least disappointing person you could ever meet. He’s like everything you ever hoped someone was.
Rogen: Exactly, it’s not like you meet him and you’re like “he’s so different than I expected.” You meet him and you’re like “I just met Cassidy from the Preacher comics.”
Joseph Gilgun on Cassidy’s loyalty to Jesse:
I think Cassidy sees a little of himself in Jesse. Jesse is someone who’s seeking redemption, and I think Cassidy sort of sees this guy, this younger lad who’s having a stab at making it right, and I think more than anything it’s just going to be interesting to watch that unfold. They’re all gonna fuck off and leave him – everybody dies and leaves him in the end anyway – but for the first time in a long while, this is his opportunity to feel wanted and needed.
Rogen and Goldberg on considering another actor for Jesse Custer:
Goldbderg: We had a nice conversation with James Franco at one point,. He looks very Jesse-ish. He was into it, but just literally he has to make 4,000 things in 20 different formats. It would take up his time and he wouldn’t be able to do a Tori Spelling movie or whatever the hell he was going to do.
Rogen: He was dangling from a crane in Venice at the time, so he couldn’t work us in. I think that was even before, that was in a very preliminary phase.
Ian Colletti on the challenges of emoting through prosthetics:
That was one of the most challenging things about playing the character, but kind of what I found most seductive about the role was the fact that because half my face is taken up by this prosthetic, it forces me to have to really rely on my eyes. When it comes to subtext and telling the story beneath the lines, you have to communicate that with your eyes.
From a technical standpoint, it can be quite difficult. It takes about two and a half hours to get it on every morning, and I can’t eat when I’m wearing it. I’m literally drinking smoothies onscreen and offscreen, all day. But it’s been a joy to play the character, and really the greatest challenge of playing this character was really being able to try and humanize him, and make this sort of larger-than-life comic book character Arseface into Eugene: a flawed and empathetic human being. My hope was that as the series progressed, people begin to almost kind of forget about the prosthetic and forget about his deformity, and begin to just see him as a human being, and a character that oftentimes is surprisingly relatable.
Rogen and Goldberg on balancing the tone:
Rogen: We were really trying to capture “what is the cinematic translation of this comic?” Obviously, a lot changes when something goes from a comic book to something onscreen. We’ve seen it go horribly, disastrously wrong a lot of times, and we’ve all seen it go really well.
Goldberg: The comic goes from genre to genre. It’s something that will make you laugh, and five minutes later you’re be disgusted, and five minutes later you’ll be crying because it’s sad, and then you’ll feel emotional about a love story.
Rogen: And when we were making the pilot, especially, what we talked about a lot was creating a show that had an infrastructure that allowed it to go to any style or tone or genre at any moment, and it would’ve feel like it was diverting or subtracting from the sum total of the show. That was probably the biggest conversation we had, over and over, how do we do that? How do we make it not feel like just a grab bag of shit? How do we make sure each style is really behooving the story?
And at the same time, one of the things we talked a lot about was we wanted the show not only to be unpredictable storywise, but on a visual level we wanted it to be unpredictable. We wanted that you didn’t know what the next scene was gonna look like, or what the palette was gonna be.
Graham McTavish on playing the Saint of Killers:
I’m a huge fan of the books, so I knew everything about [The Saint of Killers] before I started. The idea of becoming this iconic character that I loved when I was reading them was quite overwhelming at first. I felt a little bit, justifiably so, of a responsibility in playing the character. But I know his ultimate journey, which is a very interesting one that I look forward to playing out.
But I have felt a little lonely and sad and isolated in my 19th century world, with my horse – and the horse doesn’t last! He’s dead within a few minutes! But it was interesting, and in fact I’ve only just gotten to know these people. It’s been terrible, I was in isolation, like some kind of strange quarantine up in the desert. But I look forward to hopefully seeing a little bit more of them.
Seth Rogen on future seasons becoming more controversial:
All I know is that after the events of the past several years, my barometer for what I would consider controversial has been skewed significantly. I don’t see this show ever doing anything that I would consider to be true controversy. A few angry people on Twitter is no longer a controversy – if the President is not talking about it, it’s not a controversy. It’s not something that we’re worried about, honestly.
Garth Ennis on possibly writing future episodes:
Yes, a provision has been made for me to do so. I do have this ongoing feeling that I should just sit back and leave them to it, because what they’re doing is so good. But yes, I would like to try my hand at it, eventually.
The season finale of Preacher will air on Sunday, July 31, exclusively on AMC.