HELL­FIRE AND BRIM­STONE

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Preacher -

When I first read Preacher I was like, ‘ That’s not a TV show.’ It was chaotic

In an age when just about ev­ery genre of comic has yielded a faith­ful, suc­cess­ful movie or tele­vi­sion in­car­na­tion, DC/ Ver­tigo’s line of dark fan­tasy sa­gas is still await­ing its turn. While su­per­hero film fans got The Dark Knight, hor­ror mavens got The Re­turn Of The Swamp

Thing. While The Flash raced up the TV rat­ings charts, Con­stan­tine was can­celled be­fore its oc­cult in­ves­ti­ga­tor could smoke his first cig­a­rette on screen. But to­day’s Golden Age of Tele­vi­sion of­fers mul­ti­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for suc­cess or fail­ure. And with genre shows like

The Walk­ing Dead and Game Of Thrones push­ing the medium’s bound­aries, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Ver­tigo re­ceived its due. En­ter Preacher.

bad re­li­gion

The brain­child of writer Garth En­nis ( one of a hand­ful of Bri­tish scribes who trans­formed comics in the ’ 80s and ’ 90s), Preacher, in its 66- is­sue run, chal­lenged ev­ery taboo in the in­dus­try as it chron­i­cled the ad­ven­tures of holy man Jesse Custer, whose cri­sis of faith co­in­cides with his ac­qui­si­tion of su­per­nat­u­ral pow­ers and sets him on a road trip across Amer­ica with girl­friend/ fire­brand Tulip and best friend/ Ir­ish vam­pire Cas­sidy. The se­ries drew praise from scores of crit­ics and won hordes of de­voted fans, among them ac­tor- di­rec­tor Seth Ro­gen and his work part­ner Evan Gold­berg.

“Seth can have peo­ple killed with a phone call,” says ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Sam Catlin of Ro­gen’s in­flu­ence in Tin­sel­town.

A vet­eran of the ac­claimed Break­ing Bad, Catlin ex­plains to SFX that “Seth and Evan brought this project to me and have this enor­mous pas­sion for it. They’re su­per smart. I can’t be­lieve how much pot they smoke and how much they get done in a day. It’s amaz­ing. They smoke pot and it acts like coke! They’re so pro­duc­tive. They’re su­per re­spon­si­ble. I think peo­ple are gonna be like, ‘ Wow! That’s noth­ing like what they’ve di­rected!’ The stuff they’ve di­rected is very broad com­edy, but they’re filmmakers. So I think peo­ple are gonna be su­per im­pressed and sur­prised. They’re great col­lab­o­ra­tors. They’ve had ev­ery op­por­tu­nity along the way to be dick­ish celebrity ass­holes, and they’re just the nicest, most ap­proach­able guys. I love ’ em.

“When I first read Preacher,” Catlin ad­mits, “I was like, ‘ That’s not a TV show.’ I hadn’t read any­thing like it. It was com­pletely chaotic, but in a way it all made sense. There were great char­ac­ters, and the vi­o­lence and the per­ver­sity and the sex… It was so crazy. I re­ally didn’t know where to start in terms of bring­ing this to TV. I’ve never seen any­thing like it. There was noth­ing like it on TV, so I couldn’t re­ally pic­ture it. But hope­fully that’s why it’s go­ing to be so great. Be­cause there’s re­ally noth­ing like it on TV. There may be a rea­son why there’s noth­ing like it on TV. But we’ll find out…”

As Preacher’s showrun­ner, Catlin’s ir­rev­er­ence is per­fectly suited for a story in which God isn’t all that dif­fer­ent from the devil, an­gels and demons mate and breed, and

sex­ual in­ves­ti­ga­tors are hired to re­trieve miss­ing heroin and porn stars.

While the show’s US net­work, AMC, al­lows vi­o­lence like that de­picted on The Walk­ing

Dead, Catlin ad­mits Preacher’s sex­ual con­tent may pro­vide a greater chal­lenge.

“The peo­ple who make up the rules, they’re just mak­ing it up as they go along,” he laughs. “The sex is al­ways the trick­i­est thing on TV. It’s the thing that peo­ple hand- wring over the most. But it’s an es­sen­tial part of Preacher; it’s an es­sen­tial part of Jesse and Tulip’s re­la­tion­ship. They have a very sex­ual re­la­tion­ship. But also there’s this great sub­ver­sive com­edy around sex, through­out all of the show’s char­ac­ters. So we def­i­nitely want to hon­our that as much as we can.”

In hon­our­ing both En­nis’s epic and its read­ers, Catlin claims, “We’re gonna go there un­til some­one tells us ‘ No’. No one’s said ‘ No’ yet. I think ev­ery­one’s wait­ing for some­one else to tell us no… But yeah, we’re gonna go there. Be­cause the comic is like a romp. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s got all this sex. But also, Garth pulls no punches. Ev­ery­one, ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion is gonna get a black eye on this thing. That’s part of Preacher, and we can’t back down from that.”

Some of the show’s cast­ing choices may at first sur­prise long­time fans of the comics, in­clud­ing na­tive Lon­doner Cooper as the Texan Jesse. Catlin in­sists the cast hon­ours the spirit of their char­ac­ters. “Some of the char­ac­ters, like Cas­sidy, he sort of looks like the guy from the comic. Tulip doesn’t. But she’s Tulip to us, and I think she will be to the view­ers as well. There were some sur­prises along the way in terms of type.”

ori­gin story

Other sur­prises in store for long­time fans in­clude the show’s sto­ry­line, which be­gins at an ear­lier point than the comic book, in or­der to show how Jesse fared as a holy man be­fore he gained his pow­ers.

“In a lot of ways it’s sort of a pre­quel to some of the events of the comic. So we’re go­ing to see Jesse as an ac­tual preacher for a lit­tle bit longer than fans might be ex­pect­ing. The way the comics are laid out, you just can’t do that on TV be­cause of the way it’s paced. The lo­ca­tions, the be­ing on the road, it’s like a half- bil­lion­dol­lar TV show if you were to just do the comics.

“I can hear the fans say­ing, ‘ Well, get the fuck­ing half bil­lion dol­lars, dude! Shut up!’” laughs Catlin. “But it’s also a dif­fer­ent way of telling a story than it is on a TV show. You sort of need to get to know the char­ac­ters more. But that doesn’t mean it’s not the same crazy world. It’s just a dif­fer­ent way of telling the story. It wasn’t un­til three of us fig­ured out ‘ Where does it start?’ that it felt… Okay, Jesse’s in this lit­tle town. We’ll take a lit­tle step back and say, ‘ Alright, what was he like when he was a preacher? He was prob­a­bly a shitty preacher. But at least he was a preacher.’ We see him al­ready dis­il­lu­sioned. Al­ready sort of break­ing with God right when the comic starts. But in this we say, ‘ Let’s ac­tu­ally roll it back just a lit­tle bit and get a run at that.’ That sort of helped in terms of where we could be­gin the show and how we could be­gin to tell the story of Jesse Custer… But one of the great things about Preacher is it skips time. You go back and forth, you go to all th­ese dif­fer­ent places.”

Catlin ref­er­ences The Walk­ing Dead when de­scrib­ing how Preacher will reach the same big mo­ments as its source ma­te­rial, though the road it takes in reach­ing them might change. “How you get from A to Z... as writ­ers, if we’re do­ing our job, we’re hope­fully sur­pris­ing our­selves all the time.”

The exec tells SFX that though Preacher is an orig­i­nal adap­ta­tion, he’d read screen­writer John Au­gust’s Preacher adap­ta­tion for di­rec­tor Sam Men­des, who was at one point de­vel­op­ing it for the big screen.

“There are a lot of great peo­ple who were at­tached to this over the years. And prob­a­bly a lot of peo­ple do­ing a lot of sec­ond- guess­ing over ‘ How do we make a Preacher TV show?’ Be­cause the doors hadn’t re­ally been blown off the way they have now. Now we can be at AMC, where they say, ‘ Just go do it.’ Be­cause peo­ple have taken th­ese other big swings at

Walk­ing Dead and stuff like that and re­alised, ‘ This can ac­tu­ally be re­ally great and peo­ple might not ac­tu­ally be freaked out and run for the hills and start burn­ing their TVs! It might ac­tu­ally be a hit!’”

Preacher be­gins in the US on AMC on 22 May. UK broad­cast is TBC.

The sex is al­ways the trick­i­est thing. Peo­ple hand­wring over it

Ian Colletti is the ac­tor tasked with be­ing the one and only Ar­se­face.

Our man spots Richard Dawkins at the back.

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