It was a long road to AMC’s Preacher. Screen adaptations of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s comic series—about a Texas clergyman with a dark past and particularly compelling way of speaking—spent much of the past 20 years in development hell. With the help of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, Jesse Custer and friends found a TV home in 2013, but it was another three years before their Preacher would see the light of day. The A.V. Club wanted to get to know the people behind Preacher in the most efficient way possible, so we asked the same four questions to two of the show’s producers and three of its stars, then had them ask a new question to one of their colleagues. Their responses touched on Preacher’s cinematic and comedic inspirations, the series’ anything-goes setup, and the fierce go-karting rivalry among the cast members.
Sam Catlin: Showrunner
Ian Colletti: Actor (“Arseface”)
Dominic Cooper: Actor (“Jesse”)
Garth Ennis: Co-creator
Joseph Gilgun: Actor (“Cassidy”)
Preacher is a show about flawed people trying to be heroic. Who were your pop-culture heroes when you were a kid?
Sam Catlin: I was very much into sports stars. But pop-culture heroes? For some reason The Dukes Of Hazzard keeps coming into my head. That’s not even true, but I can’t shake it.
AVC: We can count sports as pop culture.
SC: I’m from Boston, so I was very big into the Red Sox and Celtics. Who else did I like? I liked that show [Kolchak:] The Night Stalker. And I liked Columbo—Columbo was the best. I was a huge Monty Python fan. Paul Newman.
Garth Ennis: If you go back far enough, I’m watching John Wayne movies with my grandfather, as a tiny kid. Moving forward, I suppose I discovered Clint Eastwood. A lot of British comedy material like The Young Ones, The Comic Strip Presents, Blackadder, Monty Python. I enjoyed the great American action/sci-fi/horror movies of the ’80s, like Terminator, RoboCop, Predator, Alien, Blade Runner, Road Warrior. Ultimately, Preacher is far more influenced by TV and film than it is comic books. There’s a nice sense of this whole thing coming full circle as Preacher returns to the screen, as it were.
AVC: As you were going through that list, it sounds like the recipe for a Preacher stew.
GE: There’s also, of course, British comics. I didn’t really discover American comics until my late teens, so most obviously—and the one you’re most likely to have heard of—2000 AD, featuring Judge Dredd and various other characters. Also, a lot of war comics. That was my staple diet when I was kid, when it came to comics.
Joseph Gilgun: Ian Brown in The Stone Roses definitely was a big one. Liam Gallagher and those people who came out of the north of England. It was a big, big deal that. Because up until they surfaced—I mean Morrisey as well, all them singers and that lifestyle, that was the cool side of being a northerner. Because up ’til then we weren’t very cool. I was about to say we didn’t have much of a music scene—I think we probably did—but it was my generation. They were the people I thought of, I looked toward. I did a thing called This Is England, and I got to meet Ian Brown. I remember thinking, “Fuck me, this is doable, this. This lifestyle is doable.” You can come from that place and achieve, you know what I mean?
And I love boxing. I grew up watching boxing. I remember watching Mike Tyson in the U.K. fighting Frank Bruno and just fucking murdering him in front of everyone. I’ve never seen a ferocity like it. I don’t think it exists anymore. I don’t know. Fuck, my head’s all over the place trying to think of some really decent cultural icons. I grew up in this ex-milling town, so we were kind of shut off from the world. I lived in this rural area, where you went out and you sort of scraped your knees, you know? So there wasn’t a lot of telly watching for a long time. But I guess once I got into my teens, I started getting into music, and it became about that more than anything. I’m still a massive fan of music. Massive, you know.
Ian Colletti: I think it’s funny: Arseface has a big respect for musicians. I think I grew up the same way. I also loved Nirvana, Johnny Cash, Elvis, the more modern bands. All throughout my childhood, I was exposed to great music. I think that influenced me becoming a musician as well.
Dominic Cooper: One of my favorite films growing up was Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I loved the whole film so much and found it so funny and loved the whole idea of it and him as a character.
I’ll tell you a list of people, and there always seems to be a red Ferrari involved. What’s his face from Knight Rider—I loved Knight Rider. I saw all of these the other day. They were on in my trailer—[the TV] was only playing The A-Team and Knight Rider on repeat. I suddenly went, my goodness, these were so influential. I remembered episodes, and I honestly haven’t seen them since. I don’t know how old I would have been, maybe 10 or something. And I just remember how much of an impact and how influential they were on me at the time.
And then there was some comedy things on in England, like Fawlty Towers is one—the main guy in that, Basil Fawlty. They were kind of television heroes of mine.
AVC: There’s been a Monty Python thread in the responses to this question. Both Sam and Garth cited Monty Python as heroes.
DC: Oh, yeah, really? Same here, exactly the same. Monty Python is massive. I’m obsessed. They then made a film called A Fish Called Wanda that John Cleese was in, and I used to know the girl who owned the house where that was filmed, and that’s before I had any idea about film or the world of film, and I kind of went into this house, and that was kind of magic to see where something has been set. Those guys and their imagination were just excellent.
SC: Oh, believe me, I’ve tried. Usually I just say, “It’s not for you!” I would say it’s a sort of crazy, comic-book, violent, silly road show about America and about a preacher who’s lost, or losing, his faith in God. And it has vampires and angels and Tom Cruise dies.
AVC: Is that similar to the pitch that you and Seth and Evan were taking around as you were trying to get Preacher sold?
SC: No, I think we just said at the beginning we were going to do a page-by-page remake of the comic. But then we realized we didn’t have $500 million to make the show, so we had to call an audible.
GE: I would say it’s Wild At Heart meets Near Dark with Unforgiven showing up at the end to shoot everybody. And then I’d probably have to give them some of those movies to watch. There are some relatives I wouldn’t try to explain it to, actually. I think they would be happy not to see or read it.
AVC: This is a premise that you’ve been explaining for years and years by now.
GE: Well, that’s where I got my little Hollywood pitch there, because I couldn’t figure out how to explain it either. Steve Dillon and I have often talked about how we proceeded largely on instinct with Preacher and came up with something that people weren’t expecting, largely because they didn’t know you could do that in comics, largely because we didn’t know you could do it in comics until we tried.
JG: Sexy chaos. I’ve said that before, I should come up with something else. Sporadic nonsense. I think it’s like there’s no reason to not want to watch this show. If you want to fucking turn off, if you enjoy violence and good fun, if you’re not easily offended, watch it. If you are, definitely don’t watch Preacher.
IC: Preacher’s just kind of this absolutely crazy, ridiculous, asinine world where anything can happen. It’s filled with these dark, compelling, but often funny and very human characters in a world that’s quite unlike anything else on television right now.
DC: A mixture of the insane meeting the supernatural, and that meeting a desolate town where a man is searching for his faith to reclaim his lost youth and is met by his manic ex-girlfriend, who tries to bring him back into a life of crime.
SC: Probably Cassidy. I think being around Jesse would make me nervous. He’s so strong. I think Tulip would be fun, too, although she’s kind of volatile. I’d always worry I’d say the wrong thing and she’d stab me. But Cassidy seems the most easygoing and is always somehow scaring up trouble and fun. So yeah, probably Cassidy.
GE: I don’t think I’d want to be friends with any of them. I think they’re either downright dangerous or the kind of shit magnets that if you’re standing next to them when the time comes, you’ll be very sorry.
JG: Fuck. None of them, really. None of them. I mean, Eugene’s a nice guy, but he’s fucking irritating. There’s not a single one. I’d probably have to be friends with Jesse. And Tulip. I think that would actually be it, which is really interesting. I don’t really have much in common with any of the others. No, yeah. I think I’d be friends with pedophile [Linus, played by Ptolemy Slocum].
AVC: To try to keep him on the right path.
JG: Yeah, I think I’d try to keep him on the right track, sort him out a little bit. No, I think it’d be Jesse and Tulip, definitely.
IC: I think everybody loves Cassidy. He’s just the coolest. I’d love to be friends with him. It might be a little crazy, though.
DC: The one that I am friends with, definitely.
AVC: So, Cassidy?
DC: Jesse really enjoys his company. Jesse’s from a small place and someone who has experienced the world as much as Cassidy has and who challenges Jesse’s ideas of the world and existence. Someone who brings the questions to the front and not just needing him for needy purposes like the rest of the community. It’s a breath of fresh air for him.
I say that, but I don’t want to be friends with any of them. I know what they really can achieve. They’re all terrible.
If you could add one thing to the show that’s purely to entertain yourself, regardless of logic—a talking dog, ninja skills for everyone, etc.—what would it be?
SC: That’s the joy of doing Preacher: There’s really not anything that I can think of that I can’t do. I mean, I can make a case for pretty much anything on this show. I really can. That’s what Garth’s world affords us. If you can think it, and you can justify it, then you can do it. There’s really not too much that’s off limits. That’s what’s great.
GE: Oh, you know, I don’t think I would add anything to it. I like it the way it is. I think they’ve done a smashing job.
JG: I’ve always wanted to do a version, a scene, where the crew is topless.
AVC: So, the behind-the-scenes crew?
JG: No, the whole crew. Everybody. All the men on set. That’s the trouble, you see? Because there’s ladies there, and they’re obviously not going to want to go topless. Or just a no-pants version, where no one has any pants on. I always suggest it—I’m like, “Can we do a no-pants version now?” It’s never taken off. But I think, one day, maybe it will happen, where we’ll shoot a scene, and the whole crew won’t be wearing trousers. Or I’d make them just remove their socks or something like that. I’d love that. At least one scene, every week, there has to be a stupid item of clothing removed. Like, no underpants day.
IC: Anyone who’s read the comic knows there’s no need for any of us to try to add anything crazy. I think there’s so many absolutely ridiculous storylines in the comic that I’m praying come to life on this show. The Allfather Herr Starr, even my story as a rock star later on—I’m just kind of crossing my fingers that those things eventually, as the series progresses, come to fruition on our show. I’m not sure if I’m imaginative enough to come up with anything crazier that’s not already in that comic.
DC: There’s bound to be such mental, crazy things that could be coming, from what I’ve seen in the comics. My imagination cannot go to the extremities with which Garth has done already. The fact that I have this entity where I can speak the word of God, I don’t know what more I could have.
SC: Ask [Garth] if he really does like the show, or if he’s just being polite.
GE: I like it very much. At this point, I think he knows that I genuinely do like it.
AVC: Is there a question you’d like to ask Joseph?
GE: Oh, god. Can I bum a smoke?
JG: No, he can’t, and I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’m on an e-cig now. I’m smoking an e-cig, which is fucking laced with THC. I just don’t ever see myself going back. I’ve found these things, these vape pens, and you can just smoke them anywhere. And it helps—I do a lot of running. So he can’t bum a cig. He can fucking buy his own.
Plus, do you know what? It’s not like he ain’t got the shillings to do it now, is it? He’s got some money. So no, he can’t bum a cig. I’ve got to say I love that. Him and Steve Dillon are fucking awesome, man. And so humble and earnest about what’s happening around them, this thing that they created all that time ago. It’s been a pleasure meeting them two old bastards. It really has.
AVC: What would you like to ask Ian?
JG: Ask him how it felt to be absolutely ruined on go-karts. Ask him to tell you of the crushing defeat of me being the second-best lap of the fucking week. Let me tell you about go-karting. I’m dumb in particular, like, we have this sibling rivalry where I’m super competitive—not on set about our acting where we should be, as professional actors, but stupid shit like who’s got nicer trainers? Or who’s got a bigger hotel room? Or where did you get that fucking Starbucks? That kind of shit.
And so we all went fucking go-karting, and the first time I went, I was really good. I was in these small karts, and I genuinely thought Dominic and the rest of them were just going to kick my ass. Turns out, I was good at it, because I weigh a little bit less. I’m like this super-skinny heroin addict. So the car was faster. And eventually, after seven races, you get put in big-boy karts, where it’s a little bit quicker. But I suddenly lost my powers like Samson. As soon as they put me in this fucking faster car, I was useless. I was slower than I was in the small-engine car. They kicked my ass. I was, like, third. Ian completely destroyed me. Dominic was first. Ian came second. I came third on the podium. Heartbroken, right? Heartbroken. It ruined everything. It nearly kicked off depression.
The next week, instead of learning my lines, I was in bed like fucking Sanka—you know in Cool Runnings—going through the course, trying to work it, watching YouTube clips, like, “What am I going to do? I’ve got to beat him. I’ve got to. I’ve got to.” Anyway, I did, man. I was so worried about losing that I came second-best lap of the week. But I kicked both their asses. And I’d love to know how it made Ian feel. I’d love him to talk about his despair.
IC: It was a dark day in my go-karting history. But I’m softened by the day where Dominic completely destroyed him, as well, and he left in shame. So that gives me solace.
AVC: Have you been able to get your revenge on them yet?
IC: No, I suck. They’re both better than me. So I just kind of hang back. Joseph Gilgun is legitimately a madman. He will risk his life on that track, and I’m not really there yet. [Laughs.] No, it’s so fun. That’s Albuquerque. We go go-karting, like, every other weekend.
AVC: What would you like to ask Dominic?
IC: Ask Dominic to explain to me why it’s fair that someone could be so devilishly handsome. ’Cause I don’t think it’s fair.
DC: How is it fair? That’s ridiculous. Coming from him? That’s ludicrous. He’s so handsome, it’s ridiculous. Nothing in life is fair.