When AMC announced it was making a Preacher TV show, fans were equally elated and worried. The comic series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon is considered an all-time classic, but everyone thought it was nigh-impossible to adapt. And that’s what the show’s executive producer believed, too.
“I read it and I said ‘That’s incredible, but it’s not a TV show,’” Sam Catlin told io9 and others at WonderCon. “‘There’s no way that’s a TV show.’” The Breaking Bad producer had never read the comics before then, but fellow producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg convinced him to think more about it. He did but, as production reaches the half way point of season one and the May 22 premiere looms, the trepidation about the scale and stupidity of their undertaking is still a huge topic of conversation.
“I don’t know how they’re going to do it,” said Ruth Negga, who plays Tulip on the show. “And that’s exciting to me, because I can’t imagine a bigger challenge than Preacher.”
For those who may not understand apprehension, Preacher is a comic book about a preacher named Jesse, who is possessed by the offspring of an angel and demon called Genesis. Genesis gives Jesse the ability to make anyone do anything he says, but it also demolishes his faith. He then goes off on a quest, along with his criminal girlfriend Tulip and new best friend, a drunken Irish vampire named Cassidy, to literally find God. There’s Heaven, Hell, angels, demons, ultra violence—and so much insanity that Catlin had to go back to basics to get his head around it all.
“I’d never adapted anything before, so when I read the comic I was like, ‘Oh I have to go there,’” he said. “But once I started to think about where I could start the entry point was ‘Maybe he hasn’t given up on God from the beginning. Maybe we see him actually as a preacher or trying to be a preacher.’”
But the show obviously can’t just be a show about a man giving sermons in a church. It has to have the tone of the comics, and that freedom is really what drew Catlin in.
He loved “the characters, the exuberance of the world—like anything can fucking happen,” he said. “You go to the south of France, you can go back in time to the Old West, there’s vampires, angels, Satan. And it’s done with such confidence, and such bravado. There are sex detectives. It’s crazy. There’s nothing like it. Theres certainly nothing like it on TV.”
But it won’t necessarily start out that crazy. Star Dominic Cooper, who plays Jesse, confirmed that the main drive of the comics—that road trip going after God—is not going to be a prevalent part of season one. “I think that’s gonna happen later on,” he said. “I think we’re going to stay in the town for the majority of [season one.]”
That makes it sound like season one is a bit of a prequel. And while Catlin wouldn’t comment on where the season ends up, or how they’ve broken down all of Ennis’ books, he did say nothing is off the table. It’ll all happen.
“[AMC] wants us to do Preacher,” he said. “There are a lot of people there and at Sony who are geeked out fans of the comic. They’re not just dead-eyed widget makers. There are a lot of people who are comic book nerds and they love Preacher and they don’t want to see us fuck it up by doing the PG-13 version.”
But to get non-fans of the comic on board with a show that will eventually contain so much insanity, everyone agreed they had to ease the audience into it.
“We want to [escalate things] step by step,” Catlin said. “Because I think if we just showed in the first episode, [angels] Deblanc and Fiore and Heaven and their floating space station with a hole in it... you sort of have to ratchet these things up. The idea of the show is like ‘Oh, you’re okay with vampires now? Oh what about this? What about this? What about this? So it’s sort of like putting a frog in bowl of boiling water or something. So by the time you look upon Satan, you’re like, ‘Yeah, that makes sense.’”
So yes, we’ll get Satan. Catlin confirmed we’ll get the Saint of Sinners, we’ll go to Heaven, see the “Fuck Communism” lighter and more. We’ll get everything that makes Preacher the classic comic it is. But we’ll get it in a way that will focus more on the heart on the story before pulling the rug out from people
“Hopefully. people see the show and aren’t like what the hell is that?” Catlin said. “We hope they take the show at face value, which is just about a guy who is searching for answers, kicking ass along the way, he’s got a girlfriend who’s a sociopath, and a best friend who’s an Irish vampire drug addict. It’s a simple story people can identify with.”