At last night’s Preacher panel during San Diego Comic-Con 2016, the show’s executive producer Seth Rogen led the cast in a raucous live reading of the series’ next episode. There were goofs and laughs aplenty, which is ironic, considering the plot introduces the grimmest character in the Preacher mythos.
After a brief intro by Rogen, the principle cast members walked out, joined by Kevin Smith, Evan Goldberg, Jason Mantzoukas, Danielle Panabaker, and Graham McTavish. The episode opens with an Old West sequence centered on a character referred to as The Cowboy. The former soldier gets into a tense talk with a preacher trying to get him to accept Christ as his savior, peaking in the grizzled gunhand’s frenetic slaughter of everyone in a saloon. Once the killing’s all done, he sits down for a drink, whereupon the entire structure starts shaking violently around him.
Later on in the episode, which cuts back and forth to the present where Cassidy’s trying to heal from grievous sunlight-inflicted injuries, we learn the reason The Cowboy went berserk in the small town watering hole. Just as in the comics, the actions of shitty townsfolk delayed him from getting lifesaving medicine to a young girl in his care. But the episode changes up the framing of the torment that The Cowboy suffers: he’s in Hell, forced to relive that day over and over, until Fiore and DeBlanc come to him with a job. Killing Jesse Custer will end his own personal hell.
Preacher co-creator Garth Ennis came onstage for the panel that followed and had nothing but praise for the TV adaptation of his comics work, saying the series’ creators basically solved all the storytelling problems the book handed to them. “ I realized early on that they would have to mess with it and I was okay with it. I only confirmed the suspicion that Seth and Evan already came to: you’re gonna have to change things but keep the spirit of it.”
Ennis also cited the cascade of coincidences that bring the core trio together in the first issue as the kind of thing that wouldn’t work on television, saying “it’s full of stuff I wish I thought of.” Graham McTavish said that he was very familiar with Preacher before taking on the role of the Saint of Killers, calling himself “a huge fan of the books.” When you love something that much, it’s nerve-wracking,” he said. “You want to honor the responsibility. When I was given that coat, hat and those guns, I was struck by the weight of it all.”
The highlight of the night was Joe Gilgun’s manic cheekiness, highlighting a feeling that this man was born to play Cassidy. He cut up in randy raunchy fashion all night, and when a fan asked the cast how they would use Genesis on the Hall H crowd if they had the do-what-I-say power, Gilgun responded with “An orgy would be nice! ‘Everyone start shagging…’.” Smith observed that it’d be “a cloud of capes and make-up,” with Gilgun adding “I come amongst you like a mist of syphilis and chylmadia…” But, the actor was also heartbreakingly raw talking about how his acting career was for out of a wayward youth:
I couldn’t read or write as a young man. I’m still not that good. Go?! sent to acting school; my dad was like you want to act a prat. Got into girls and drugs, which was fucking ace. And now I’ve got drug-induced bipolar. This job is fucking huge. I’ve never seen this many people.
To a question about how he deals with his ADHD from a fan who also has it: “Embrace the shit out of it. I know I seem like a jovial character but I get really depressed and have to just fuck off sometimes and go live in the woods,” he said. “People can be so boring! ADHD is a label; I’m just a bit of a dick and medically have to be forgiven.”
As things wound down, Ennis continued his appreciation of the TV show by saying “[Showrunner] Sam [Catlin] finds storytelling reasons for stuff I just chucked in there,” and then added that “things that work in a comic don’t necessarily work when you see them acted out in film.” When asked what he thinks about fans nitpicking things that have been changed, Ennis said, “To me, what matters is whether a thing works. And we just got kicked up for a second season so I think it’s working”