Sam Mendes. John August. Kevin Smith. Mark Steven Johnson. D.J. Caruso. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood have been trying to adapt “Preacher” for years, with a movie, miniseries, and TV series all on the table at various points. All of that possibility turned to reality in early 2014 when Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg agreed to serve as Executive Producers and develop the series for AMC, with “Breaking Bad” veteran Sam Catlin joining as showrunner.
On Sunday, May 22, “Preacher’s” long road to live-action finally ends — and a new journey begins — as the acclaimed Vertigo comic book series created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon debuts on AMC. Starring Dominic Cooper as Jesse Custer, a small town Texas preacher inhabited by a mysterious entity and granted a bizarre power as a result, “Preacher” follows Custer on his journey to find God, and hopefully answers, alongside his vampire best friend Cassidy and long-time love Tulip O’Hare.
Ahead of the series premiere, CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland welcome showrunner Sam Catlin in the world famous CBR Tiki Room at WonderCon to discuss what it was discovering “Preacher” for the first time, how it compares to other shows he’s worked on and whether AMC is letting the show get as extreme as the comic book. He also talks about Garth Ennis’ involvement in various aspects of the production, finding Dominic Cooper for the lead role and what surprised him about working on the first season thus far.
In the first part of his discussion with CBR, Catlin talked about reading “Preacher” for the first time when discussing the TV version, whether the adaptation has proved trickier than any of his other TV work, and how much the absurd and often violent elements fans can expect to see on the show. He also talks about how starstruck he’s become working with Garth Ennis and how involved the co-creator has been now that the book is finally being adapted after years of false starts.
On how he reacted when he read the first six issue of “Preacher”:
I’d never heard of it. My reaction, because it had been brought to me as a potential television show, my reaction was, “This is incredible. It’s not a television show.” I didn’t really read graphic novels that much, and now I’m a big fan, so I didn’t realize, “Wow, you can do that?” Why couldn’t you do that? [Laughs] But yeah, I just couldn’t believe how crazy and perverse and silly and dark and violent [it was], all in one universe.
On whether adapting “Preacher” has been more challenging than some of the other shows he’s worked on:
It’s different. It’s a different kind of challenge. The rules are all baked into “Breaking Bad” in terms of human behavior, what’s possible, the laws of physics apply. There’s no Heaven, there’s no Hell, there’s no vampires. It’s not jumping genres. It’s not going from a Western to a crime drama to a Monty Python sex farce and all that stuff that’s in “Preacher,” so we sort of have to make up our own way of having all those things work together. On the other hand, that’s sort of the best part about “Preacher.” You can do whatever the fuck you want. [Laughter] If there’s a world that has Satan and vampires and old cowboys — it’s liberating, because if you can think of it, and you can justify it, you can do it on “Preacher.”
On whether AMC has placed any restrictions on the show’s content, and how much of the book’s over-the-top violence will make it on television:
Everyone keeps asking when is AMC gonna tell us, “Stop doing that.” They just haven’t done it. They’ve really just, they want to do “Preacher.” They knew what they were getting into and I think a lot of these people forget, a lot of these people that work at these networks, they’re “Preacher” fans, they’re comic book fans, they’re interested, a lot of these people, they want to see “Preacher” on TV. They don’t want to see “Preacher,” it’s the PG-13 version on Sunday nights. We’re all committed, and Seth and Evan and myself, we want to do “Preacher.” We want to pull no punches just like Garth and see what we can get away with. And so far they’ve been letting us get away with pretty much everything.
In the second half of the conversation, Catlin talks about finding an actor to play Jesse Custer, the traits the character possess, and how they’ve found the show across the course of making Season One. Plus, he comments on whether readers will see some of their favorite shots recreated on TV.
On whether any actors were scared off by the book’s content:
I think actors, when they see a character like Jesse Custer and all the different things he gets to do and the sort of power and the rage and the strength — he’s also got that sort of old fashioned movie star quality, you know? I think actors would be excited to play a role like this. I mean, I’m sure some of them weren’t, but I don’t care what the other ones think because we got Dominic. And I agree with you, I think he’s fantastic.
On the biggest surprises since the show went into production:
I would say the thing that we’ve all had to learn in terms of tone — I don’t know if it’s a surprise — I think when we first approached the show it was like, “It’s such a crazy world, anything can happen, all this crazy stuff is happening.” I think we had a sense that the acting style had to be sort of heightened. And I think what we’ve all begun to discover, really since the pilot, is that the more people act like, “There’s just vampires in this world.” “Oh, there’s angels.” The more people are sort of just like regular people in this world, the more it has this effect of making the world bigger instead of smaller.
The first year of any show you’re always trying to find your way, but the first year of a show like “Preacher” it’s even more like from design to the actors to the directors to the writers, just figuring out, “Is that too funny? Is that too violent?” I don’t mean like is that inappropriately violent, I just mean like if you go that violent right there, can you really come back for this nice little romantic moment in the next moment. Sort of calibrating all those moods that all happen within the space of a scene sometimes.
On whether there are any of Steve Dillon’s iconic visuals from the comics that will be exactly replicated on TV:
There’s so much great artwork and paneling that we’re definitely — we have a bunch of them on our wall which is like, “We gotta get to that shot. We gotta do that shot.”
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