It’s been a wild and explosive (pun intended) ride towards the season one finale for AMC’s Preacher. After the conclusion of season one this past Sunday, we’ve managed to put together some parts of our press conference with Preacher during SDCC, to see if we can grab some hints for the second season now that we know the conclusion.
Both cast and creators remained tight-lipped on the conclusion of the show, which at the time still had two more episodes remaining. Comic creator and co-executive producer Garth Ennis talked a little bit about the creation of the story, and creating a character like Jesse and a story like Preacher. “You have to give the audience something to hook onto. I know there have been a number of successful stories where characters are completely unlikeable from the get-go, Preacher just wasn’t going to be like that, it had to have just enough traditional heroism in it to keep people coming back.”
The show managed to change a couple of aspects of the comic that it was based on, and executive producer Evan Goldberg mentioned that originally they had planned to imitate the comic, panel for panel, when pitching it to the network, casually comparing it to Sin City. But once the show was greenlit, this changed a little. Ennis told Goldberg and executive producer Seth Rogen that as long as they “maintained the core characters emotional arcs and the damage that they had” they could run wild.
Aspects of this creative license came with new characters, a season that read a little like a prologue to the comic storyline, and even character introduction. Ennis commented, “Both those characters, Cassidy and Tulip, were introduced in vastly more imaginative ways than I managed.” Though he mused that both were introduced in far more entertaining and engaging ways, marveling at Tulip’s cornfield escapade and Cassidy’s airplane introduction.
Casting the Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga as the originally white Tulip O’Hare was an intentional move on their part. “We thought having an all white cast was lame,” Goldberg bluntly remarked. “There was really endless reasons to do it, and literally no reason not to do it,” Rogen followed up. Goldberg also added that when Negga came to audition, she knocked it out of the park and left the room, and it didn’t matter what the circumstances were, they had found their Tulip.
Negga, herself, also commented on playing Tulip as a person of color and giving diverse characters visibility, saying, “It’s a relief to play someone like her, but I also like that when I’m watching it, [it’s a relief] to see someone like her.” She also talked a little bit about her interpretation of Tulip. As we’ve seen from the finale, there are some lines that she and Jesse will not cross and there is also a complexity in her past with her family that is only touched on. Negga says, “She has a quite pure sense of justice. […] For her, she can’t bear the idea that there is so much injustice.”
It was a different story casting the British actor Joseph Gilgun, who plays Cassidy. “His mother videotaped him in their basement and sent a video in that Sam Catlin watched, and we just didn’t, for weeks. We just kept meeting people [for the role] for weeks, and Sam kept going ‘you gotta watch this Joe guy,'” Goldberg said. “He’s the least disappointing person you could ever meet. He’s like everything you ever hoped someone was. He just is.”
And, man, is that the truth. Gilgun walked in with a magnetic energy and blunt honesty during the press conference. “I think Cassidy sees a little bit of himself in Jesse, Jesse is someone who is seeing redemption,” he said. “He’s an old man, and he’s fucking sick of it, but I think he sees this young 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. He’s got time, you know what I mean? They’re all gonna fuck off and leave him; everybody dies and leaves him in the end anyway. But this is for the first time, in a long while, this is his opportunity to feel settled, and feel wanted and needed, you know? Everybody needs someone.”
With the ending of the season bringing the three characters together again in Tulip’s car, it’ll be interesting to see how season two will play the dynamic of Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy. Dominic Cooper, who plays Jesse Custer, talked a little bit about what we saw in the finale, and it also gave us some insight on his interpretation of Jesse’s journey so far and moving forward. “He thinks god owes them all answers, and that’s what he’s been searching for by the end. He began as quite heavy, depressed, [and] stuck in his past, and I think you start seeing him come out of the fog of that when he has a purpose, which he’s probably never really had before, apart from violence and crime. And he’s with the best people, he’s with the girl he loves, and he’s met a new great friend and they’re on the road.”
With the revelation that Genesis is not a gift from God, there is definitely doubt in Jesse’s heart now, however Cooper considered that “the fact that he is capable of having this entity inhabit him and remain there where most people this happened to have had their heads exploded, the fact that he can harness it, means to me that he is half evil and half good, and there’s a very bad side to him.” Obviously we saw some of that after he sent Eugene to hell, and we see glimpses of that in his violent past, as well as in the final act of his story with Tulip and Carlos.
Will we be seeing this other side of Jesse as the roadtrip between the trio goes on? The love triangle between the three characters is described by Rogen as a time bomb, one that you just don’t know when will go off. Both Gilgun and Cooper made mentions to how ugly things get between Cassidy and Jesse because of the love triangle in the comics, and it seems very possible that this will be an emotional mine that the creators tap into in the next season. Especially given now that they have essentially cut their main cast down to five people.
The nod to Ian Colletti’s Eugene in the penultimate scene of the finale seems to show that we definitely haven’t seen the last of arseface, and with the final scene of Graham McTavish’s Cowboy come to Annville, it seems like McTavish will finally get some scenes with the rest of the cast. McTavish joked, “I’ve only just got to know these people! It was like some kind of strange quarantine.” But being a huge fan of the comics, he did admit that he knows his character’s ultimate journey from the comics. “I knew everything about the books before I even started it, so the idea of becoming this iconic character that I loved was quite overwhelming at first.”
And often the scenes with McTavish’s Cowboy, who is likely the Saint of Killers from the comics, felt like walking into a different world and a completely different show. Evan Goldberg described it as “genre jumping”, and that it goes everywhere. This involved not only a different set design, but also a different visual aesthetic. Seth Rogen talked a little about the vastly different visual palettes of the show. “We were really trying to capture what is the cinematic translation of this comic. […] We wanted the show not only to be unpredictable story-wise, but on a visual-level, we wanted it to be unpredictable.”
But as unpredictable as the show could sometimes be, the heart of the show was always based in religion, or maybe more ‘around’ religion. Jesse’s possession by Genesis begins a dialogue with the very conflicted townspeople of Annville. It gives him the ability to tell people what to do, with him believing that he is speaking the word of god. However, as touchy a subject as religion can be, Rogen didn’t shy away from it in fear of backlash. “As long as it feels like you’re exploring an idea rather than telling people your beliefs, I believe it’s a lot easier to delve into subject matter that some people think is very hard subject matter to delve into. […] It’s a conversation, it’s not a statement. It’s a dialogue not a monologue.”
He also added that a few angry people on Twitter is no longer a true controversy for him, when it comes to the more controversial and head-scratching scenes in Preacher. “My barometer for what I would consider controversial has been skewed, I don’t see this show ever doing anything that I would consider to be true controversy.”
Preacher is a unique breed of show. With characters like Odin Quincannon cradling meat babies and talking about the god of meat or moments like a screen projected faux-god speaking to a church full of people, the show often pushes the boundaries of the bizarre. When asked if there was ever anything that they pitched while creating the show that was rejected by AMC, both Goldberg and Rogen talked about the flexibility and freedom they were given.
Goldberg said, “With AMC, we have super rational conversations, and if it’s emotional and character-based they let us do it. If it’s unnecessary, they call it out, and they’re right.” Rogen echoed a similar notion, “There has not been anything we’ve been rejected on, as far as something we’ve wanted to do. There’s things that took many conversations, and many hours of our collective time and energy to make sure we were just on the same page as to why we felt it needed to happen, but, in the end, I’m honestly shocked at how much we’ve been able to do, and truly the only thing we can’t do is say ‘fuck’. Other than that, we can pretty much do anything we want. It’s really been surprising at how free of a creative process it’s been, and it’s been amazing.”
With the first season of Preacher under the belt, it seems like things are looking up for comic fans, as we now find ourselves with our trio in Tulip’s car, riding off into the sunset in search of god. Goldberg has already confirmed that everyone in Annville is dead from the explosion, but is anyone else still holding out hope? With the show braiding in elements from the comics, what kinds of things do you hope to see in the second season?
Also, in case you were ever wondering, James Franco was once a potential option for Jesse, but he “literally has five thousand things” going on. That’s just something for you to know and keep in your back pocket when you are re-watching the show.
Preacher will return to AMC in 2017.