The staff of Pop Break sat down with the cast and crew of AMC’s Preacher — Dominic Cooper (Jesse Custer), Academy Award nominee Ruth Negga (Tulip), Joseph Gilgun (Cassidy), and series creator, executive producer, and sometime director Seth Rogen. This interview took place in July during San Diego Comic Con. The interview was conducted y AL Mannarino, and Ryan DeMarco, transcribed by Melissa Jouben, and edited by Bill Bodkin.
Tulip and Jesse are kind of meant to be, but Cassidy is over there waiting in the wings whenever Jesse messes up. Is there any hope for the two of them?
Joe Gilgun: Yeah, he’s like a turd that won’t flush, Cassidy, for that relationship he’s constantly waiting. I don’t know if the turd is waiting, it’s more to do with fiber. But anyway, yeah he is waiting and he loves her. It’s unrequited love, it’s the worst thing. I mean I know that feeling, I think everyone’s had that at some stage. And it’s really long and drawn out for him, it’s a bloody shame. And he wants to be honest, he wants to be honest with his friend as well about what he’s done. I don’t think Cassidy understands Jesse like Tulip does. Tulip is in that side of him where – I don’t know though, I don’t know how much to say without completely fucking ruining Preacher right now –
Seth Rogen: So don’t do it.
JG: But yeah he’s definitely, he loves her and he absolutely adores Tulip and he just wishes Jesse I think maybe appreciated her a little bit more as well, he struggles with that.
Ruth Negga: I think the dynamic is interesting, isn’t it, because – it feels those kind male and female roles are sort of inverse. When he wants to be honest and have the kind of conversation and pour his heart out and have like, a nice year and talk about his feelings. And Tulip is like, no, I don’t want to do that actually, I would like to keep that compartmentalized somewhere else. Which you don’t really see that, do you, women portrayed as that, compartmentalizing their emotions.
But Tulip is very good, if it’s not broke don’t fix it, we don’t need to tell him. I like that dynamic, and that tension is very constant, it’s a constant theme. Because I think for Tulip – what I love about her is she doesn’t think it’s necessary to reveal everything, because she’s had a life outside of him and that’s not healthy, but it’s a part of her and I think we see all of those unhealthy bits of her sort of laid bare this season. Especially in terms of what she’s been doing when she hasn’t been with Jesse. Sorry, rambler, just a general rambler.
Dominic Cooper: No, very coherent. Articulate.
[This] question is for Ruth. [We] like how multifaceted Tulip is, and [we’re] wondering about your approach to [being a] badass [which] is often associated with masculine traits, and what people associate with men. But in many ways Tulip is a very boyish badass […] but also she’s a very feminine character as well And with the introduction of the plotlines of like, having a child, not having a child. what are your thoughts and feelings on multi-facetedness of that?
RN: Well, I remember very distinctly, it was in our panel last year. I remember Seth, you said, someone was saying something like – I don’t know, but you said she’s a human being, as much as you can portray a human being, and I think that’s what we do. And those terms, masculine and feminine, we’re sort of defined them and locked them in and I don’t think that’s really done us, as humanity, any favors. Because we share all of [those traits], you know, as human beings. I think that’s what we want to do is just portray humans with everything that they are, that we can be.
Can you could talk about the latest Hitler scene and how Eugene (aka Arseface played by Ian Coletti) participates in beating the crap out of him and how in that episode also, Hitler almost becomes a sympathetic character.
SR: That’s right, speaking of Eugene, these things [in the room]look like buttholes, these things that are hanging – a beautiful chandelier of buttholes. [laughs] It’s quite gorgeous actually, if you told me that eight buttholes hanging from the ceiling would look amazing I would have never said yes. But actually, they look a lot like his mouth! Anyway [laughs] They really do. You’ll never not see that now.
That last scene – again, I don’t want to ruin what happens basically, but yeah, I mean we’re definitely trying to play with the ideas of redemption and rehabilitation. I guess if there is a Hell, what’s the point of it, is something we kind of talked about a lot. Could you change in Hell? Is there a point to changing in hell? Is it bad to change in Hell? Because if you act good it kind of goes against the nature of hell – I mean, I don’t want to ruin where it all goes basically, but those are the kinds of questions.
JG: So don’t.
SR: Exactly. [laughter] Fuck [you] Joe. But those are the kinds of conversations we had. That and you know, it would be very expected to just show the kind of pure evil version of Hitler. It’s much more interesting to kind of explore, like Ruth was saying – they’re all people, even Hitler was a person, and the worst one at that. But you know, if you’re kind of embracing the idea, which we did, of having him be a character on our TV show, then we thought we should treat him like any other character as far as the thought we put into him goes.
And for Eugene, again, he’s nice to him, he inherently believes Christian philosophy of forgiveness and things like that – but he’s in Hell, which he also believes in, and he’s Hitler. So there’s a lot of things going on there. But it all adds up nicely, that’s all I guess I’ll say. It’s weird though.
The show has really hit its stride this season and the episodes have just been remarkable. Is it just a case of getting more familiar with the process, or just getting everybody out on their own?
JG: I think so, yeah, we were all just very, really comfortable with one another, and the characters now, there’s a bit more breathability. And in the pilot certainly, in the first series, we were still finding the direction we wanted to take the characters in. I think this year around there’s much more trust, it feels much more like a collaboration, and you feel like you can invest a piece of yourself into it – I certainly feel that way.
DC: The writers are getting to know us as well, you can sense that, they know the kind of work we’re doing and the characters were portraying and we’re portraying them and they enjoy writing for us for that reason. Of course, the crews being similar.
SR: We’ve been able to accomplish a lot. [laughs] With not a ton of resources. I think the nature of the story – the first season we’re compressing the spring and this season we’re really letting it go, you know? We always knew that was kinda gonna happen, it’s a weird strategy [laughs] in retrospect because we could have just been canceled.
And then that would have been really frustrating. [laughs] But in the end we weren’t so we got to do the thing that we kind of were slowly building towards. Some would maybe argue too slowly, but we are where we are. [laughs] We looked at the first season and thought, can we make it? The thing we kept saying is throughout the first season there’s maybe like a dozen moments where when you look at them and you’re like, ‘Wow, that shit can only happen on one thing on Earth and that is the TV show Preacher.
And then me and Evan [Goldberg] were like what if there was two hundred things like that instead of just a dozen? And that was something you really encourage the writers to try to do, is indulge in the tone and take big, crazy swings and not be afraid to try to be funny or irreverent and really try to push the boundaries of the tone of the show as much as humanely possible, basically.
[Recently] especially, Jesse went extremely dark; darker than we’ve ever seen him. Where do you think that darkness comes from and how did you enjoy or dislike displaying that darkness?
DC: I’ve always been aware that he possesses that darkness. I think it comes from an incredible amount of guilt that he harbors about the death of his father and about the responsibility of the death of his father. And a life living with the most crazy people that have ever been portrayed in anything I’ve ever seen. They’re living in a coffin under a swamp as we saw in the comics.
JG: It’s not good for child development.
SR: I’m writing a book that supports it, actually.
DC: He has that darkness which is constantly bubbling under the surface. There is one thing which will really infuriate him and reveal that darkness — any danger towards the person he loves more of out anybody in the world,Tulip. That’s because that’s the only family he has and the only family he’s ever known. So I think when he finds out about the marriage and the disloyalty about not knowing about it and the other things that have happened in the past. You know that saying about seeing red? It goes blank for him, and I think he can become extremely volatile and dangerous and quite nasty.
The more the writers write about him and the more is revealed about him, the more he terrifies me in his inability to see compassion. Or, his use of genesis often astounds me, because he doesn’t do it sometimes to help his best mates in a time of need, but he will use is sort of sporadically and without warning and sometimes, for fun, which is a sort of schizophrenic nature to him. And that I think will go much further and become more and more unsettling as the seasons progress.
[This question if for] Seth this question is for you. As far as boundaries go that you were speaking about in the writer’s room. Do you ever find yourself having to balance or try to convince them to do things like bringing Hitler on the show, and even just the design of Ian’s makeup, or there meetings that happen to discuss this stuff?
SR: Yeah. [laughs] they’re phone calls, normally, not – no one wants to look at each other in the eye while they’re discussing this shit.
But there’s been a few of them. Ian’s thing was not one of them, actually, they were ok with that. Hitler, yeah, that required a few conversations.
But they more just want to kick the tires I guess you would say, and make sure there’s thought behind it and like, a plan, an overall kind of plan behind it and that it’s not just us doing it because we think it’s funny or incendiary or something like that. Yeah, blowing up Tom Cruise took maybe two conversations.
There’s been a couple things, there’s a few things that maybe haven’t happened yet.
RN: Did you know that Joe’s invited for season three?
JG: I received a personal invite from Tom Cruise.
SR: Really? It’s a trap, don’t go! He knows your involvement.
JG: He terrifies me.
SR: No, I got a call from his – someone – they were like ‘Why did you blow him up?’
I had no good answer. [laughs] There’s a few things that do require a conversation. But they are generally pretty cool about it. And when I watch the show, like most things I’ve done throughout my life, I’m shocked with what we’re able to get away with. Not what we’re not able to get away with. Like, the things that we’ve been stopped from doing pale in comparison to things we’ve actually done. And so that is something that I’m constantly just surprised by what they let us do. Like, yeah, it’s crazy. Hitler is a character on our show.
A quick question for Joe and Dominic. Which of you is the more badass vampire because you played Dracula?
JG: Oh did you?
DC: Right, yes.
JG: We should have a vampire off one day.
DC: We can do it later on actually.
JG: Let’s having a romping vampire off later off tonight on the beach. Join us later on for a romping vampire off at the beach.
DC: They’re both kind of romantic vampires I think as well, though.
JG: I mean he’s a very gentle lover. [laughter] Very, very gentle.
DC: And you know, vampires get a bad rap for that.
JG: Yeah we do but we’re not all bad.
How was it to film that awesome sequence on the highway in the first episode of the season?
SR: We planned it intensely, that’s the only way to really do something like that, is to like, meticulously plan every single shot of it. So me and Evan storyboard a lot and we spend a lot of time playing with toys and figures and making sure that the physicality of the sequence makes sense, and then we show everyone our storyboards and we’re like, ‘Ruth, this is you, you’re on a cross over here and you go behind the car and you yell, over here! And this is you Joe, you’re getting shot at over here.’ And they literally go through shot by shot, not in order. We shot it over the course of two days, I want to say, the whole everything on the road was two days, which is pretty crazy.
I’m shocked we – and the effects, it’s like, everyone coming together. The effects guys were amazing, the camera, the crew. Without a very strong crew – and it was the first two days of the entire season, we really threw people into the boiling water as far as that goes. But it was fun. I love doing that stuff.
And for me and Evan that’s one of the most fun things about directing the show — we get to do things that you don’t see, in directing and coming up in comedies. So for us it’s fun to do entirely different types of sequences and work with actors that didn’t come up in, you know, an improvisational comedy background and they’ve taught us, honestly, a ton about directing. Because we’re like, ‘Oh, they’re the first real actors we’re directed in a while.’ [laughs]
As far as having a purely acting background, and not people that we were friends with for years, and years, and years, that we could just kind of you know, we had to talk to them like actors. Which was really interesting. And educational. I think very helpful for us as directors.
Especially Ruth, you can see in the pilot when you interact with those children and that is a very interesting view to look at that.
RN: Quite poignant, yeah.When we were filming it, it was quite an emotional day, wasn’t it?
RN: But I felt it was a really interesting dissection of a relationship that’s in free fall, and when two people can’t communicate, and what that does. And how it changes you. It changes you. And how that – something so big and so intimate can be so explosively divisive, it can shift these two people so far away from one another. I did really love that storyline because I thought this is real life, this is what happens, is that sometimes these things can do that and they can shift your soulmate so far away that there is no communication and you’ve reached a cul-de-sac for now. And that the only way to go – when they leave, they don’t look at one another. And I think that’s what happens, that’s real heartbreak. And these traumatic things, that’s what it does to even the most intimate of relationships. I really like the way we’d done this actually.
This question is for Ruth. Tulip throughout this season does not like Jesse using genesis at all. How do you think you’re going to respond to Cassidy using Genesis on her?
RN: Not well at all. No, I think the reason that she doesn’t like the use of Genesis – I think she understands the arbitrary nature of power, I think she has an innate sense of decency and fairness. And I think for her, his use of Genesis, she’s very suspicious of that because I think she understands that if you have an authority, you must use it wisely, and I think she really doesn’t understand the way that he can just arbitrarily just use it on anybody. I think if there’s a fight, she wants it to be a fair fight. I think the scales of justice for her should be balanced, even though she’s a notorious criminal. [laughs] But I always think she’s sort of like a – she’s Robin Hood robbing the sheriff, and I think she sees Genesis being part of the sheriff world and I think she just, she resists that. It’s not fair to her.
[This question is for Seth] As directors, you and Evan [Goldberg] have so much power creatively, it must be awesome, but with that power is a lot of responsibility obviously. You probably need to make some shitty decisions along the way. What, as directors, either on the show or you guys together, what’s like the shittiest thing you’ve had to do?
RN: Good luck.
SR: That would be… In what way? Personally? [I mean] I had to talk a girl into pretending to eat Michael Cera’s ass [in This is the End], that was kind of shitty. [laughs] I guess that was. There’s things like that, that are just awkward – I didn’t talk her into it, she was more than happy to honestly. But it was an awkward scene to direct. There are, there’s awkward scenes to direct. It’s never that bad. I think we have a good demeanor on set.
JG: I had to piss in front of you, didn’t I?
SR: We made Joe piss himself one time. Because we wouldn’t let him out – he was in a pile and there’s a scene where – this is going to make me sound like a dick – but there’s a scene where he’s landed after jumping out of an airplane and he’s like splattered in a field basically so he’s in a crater with his guts out. And to shoot it he was buried in a hole, basically, with like a prosthetic thing. And it took him a good 45 minutes to get in and out of the hole and we were kind of fucked for time and the sun was going down and he was like ‘I have to get out of the hole to piss’ and I was like, ‘you’re not getting out of that hole to piss.’ [laughter] ‘We – I can’t let you.’ And I made him piss himself while he was in the hole.
JG: I pissed my pants, man.
JG: I pissed my pants in the desert. In the middle of the desert.
SR: Yeah, I made a grown man piss his pants in a hole in the desert.
JG: A dark moment. Tons of crew was going about the business while …
SR: Just pretending it’s not happening, everyone knew too. [laughter] I think things like that – but I mean, that was all in good fun. If he actually cared, I wouldn’t have made him do it. He was in on the joke, I think.
SR: Directing TV is good, you learn lessons with time efficiency, you just don’t have a lot of time to do everything so you go in with these lofty plans sometimes and then like, if anything goes wrong at all, then like the whole plan kind of goes out the window. But I think that’s kind of the biggest challenge in television is making it look interesting while shooting things basically in as few shots as humanly possible. But it’s not shitty. I love it. Directing this show – and directing in general – is a fantastic job and is really fun and I hope I get to keep doing it.