Dominic Cooper in Preacher

AMC presented a panel on the upcoming series Preacher at Wondercon. Before the panel, showrunner Sam Catlin and stars Dominic Cooper and Ruth Negga spoke with reporters. Catlin said he did not know series creators Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg before he started working on the project, and had not heard of the Preacher comic book series. Catlin took a meeting with the pair and started explaining the needs of a television series, to which he says they were receptive.

“I would say, ‘You can’t pace it that way for a TV show. We won’t be able to do X, Y and Z then because where would you put your sets?’” Catlin said. “Stuff like that, because they’d never really done TV before. What I like about Preacher [comics] is it has a modular [structure]. You can kind of lift and place stories all over the place sort of like episodes. He goes to Louisiana. There are these chapters to it, which is really liberating. You can tell stories all over the place. As long as you still have that drive of what Jesse wants, who he’s looking for, you can go anywhere you want.” 

After reading Preacher, Catlin had the idea to slow down Jesse Custer (Cooper)’s crisis of faith. “To me the entry point to it was maybe he hasn’t given up on God from the beginning,” Catlin said. “Maybe we see him actually as a preacher trying to be a preacher. He’s still a hot mess. Once I figured out where we could start with him, without compromising because it’s not Little House on the Prairie. It’s Preacher. It’s crazy, bloody, over the top. It’s got to be that week after week after week but it’s also got to be producible.”

The pilot of Preacher introduces the vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and the power of Genesis. Catlin wants to gradually introduce the audience to the more outrageous aspects of Preacher.

“I think we want to do it step by step,” Catlin said. “If we showed in the first episode DeBlanc and Fiore and Heaven and their floating space station with a hole in it… you need to ratchet these things up. I think the idea of the show is: oh, you’re okay with vampires now? Okay, what about this? What about this and this and this? It’s like putting a frog in a bowl of boiling water or something like that so that by the time you look upon Satan, you’re like, ‘Okay, yeah. That makes sense.’”

Cooper revealed that an episode in Heaven is part of the plan. At least it was when he met with Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin. “They were all talking at the same time,” Cooper recalled. “They were all so animated and so excited and the things they were coming out with, because I hadn’t read all of the comic by that point. They were saying, ‘Some of the episodes will be in this small town in Annville. Then we’ll be in Heaven just for a whole potato,’ something absurd like that. I loved it and that made me even more excited about the project.”

Catlin himself had an actual “F*** Communism” lighter. He plans to include that reference in a later season, and can get it by basic cable standards and practices, but it won’t be season one.

“See, what we’re going to do is, we’ll distress one of the letters,” Catlin said. “It’s not a season one thing. That’s my big breaking news for you.”

AMC is no slouch when it comes to bold content like Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead. “I don’t think people are going to watch the show and say, ‘Oh God, I wish it were on HBO because then they could really fucking go for it,’” Catlin said. “I don’t think people are going to think that. I really don’t. I don’t think people are going to be like, ‘Wow, they left money on the floor.’ I mean, I think people are going to have strong opinions about the show but in terms of AMC, we’ve never gotten word one from them about, ‘Don’t forget, it’s Preacher TV.’ They want us to do Preacher. They don’t want to see us fuck it up by doing the PG-13 version. In terms of the language, there’s a little bit of restriction but Cassidy swears so much in Irish it gets past S&P every time.”

Cooper has shorter hair than Jesse Custer in Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s books, but he said there is a flashback to a time when Jesse let his hair flow. “We did a scene, some of the flashback stuff, the other day and I chose the hair,” Cooper said. “I said, ‘Let’s make it blonde.’ We might go back to that but it’s too ’90s. I kind of wanted the tight white jeans as well. It was all suddenly put together so quickly, it was just like creating a wig may not have been the right thing to do but actually having had more time and being able to look at some stuff with flashback, it kind of felt more him actually. It really worked so maybe we’ll go to that later.”

Tulip O’Hare looks dramatically different in the series too. In the comics, she is a Caucasian blonde. Negga is excited for how her casting might change the storyline for Jesse and Tulip.

“A lot of people have said it’s going to change things because of Jesse’s family and everything, and they’re right,” Negga said. “It will change things. I think, isn’t that amazing that it will change things? Can you imagine Jesse’s grandmother thinking that her great grandchild will be mixed race? It would kill her. That would finally put the nail in the coffin. Brilliant.”

The pilot of Preacher is well over a single hour, as many episodes of AMC series have the freedom to be. Catlin apologized for going over in the pilot. “That wasn’t supposed to be an hour and a half,” Catlin said. “We just didn’t know what to cut. We just had so much story and character. Pilots are hard because you have to introduce so much. Also in this particular pilot, we’re not just introducing three people. We’re introducing the character of the town so it just takes up a lot of space.”

Preacher premieres May 22 on AMC.

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