On tonight's premiere of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg's Preacher, we are properly introduced to the struggles of one Jesse Custer. Jesse's a preacher with a heart of gold, a possible drinking problem, and some mystical force that's currently taken up residence in him (and given him the power to make anyone do anything he says, if he wants). Jesse's losing (then finding) his religion while befriending a drunken Irish vampire and attempting to avoid his mercenary ex-girlfriend. Dude's got a lot of problems; it's amazing that he drags himself out of the bed every morning, and even wilder that he's doing it as a man of the cloth.
Jesse spends his days chatting with the boy with the disfigured face during the day, then ending his nights in a jail cell after one epic bar fight with one of the meaner sonofabitches in Annville. In that one particular scene, Jesse shows compassion, humor, and aggression all at once. It's a tough one to nail properly, but in Dominic Cooper, Seth Rogen and company have found the right man for the pulpit. Rogen himself has said that it was Cooper's range—which has found him playing young Howard Stark in Captain America: The First Avenger and on the Agent Carter series to the insane Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter flick—that sealed the deal on Cooper, and judging by the pilot, we're going to see him showcase all facets of his acting acumen while being flung through Preacher's insane ringers of violence, humor, and drama.
We caught up with Dominic Cooper at a recent press stop for the Preacher cast and crew to talk how he manages Jesse Custer's ticks, why he wishes he'd been into comics as a kid, and where the show could possibly go in a second season.
Now, you’ve said before you didn’t read comics at all; so what was it when you got the script that made you say, “I need to do this project?”
Well, I think it was the chaos of it. I’d never read anything like it. I’m seeing these five grown men talking to me about a boy with an ass face, and a man that’s in love with meat. But yet, at the center of it, the opportunity to play this complex sort of corrupt lost man who is desperate to sort of right the wrongs in his past. I loved their idea for the taste of the show, for the texture of the show, so all of these elements made me attracted to it.
And so after that you went back and read—did you read through the whole series?
Really quickly, cause they come in really cool…
Yeah, seven or eight issues a volume.
So you just race through them. Every time this happened, I’m like, “God, I wish I’d been into them as a kid." They’re wonderful. You really create a film in your head as you’re watching them. I think they’re very imaginative and creative. You can’t stop. I think we’ve hopefully captured some of the style of that as well.
I mean, this is a show that can go from a vampire massacring people on a plane to you fixing the sign outside a Texas church. It's helter-skelter, but it seems to work on the show. How hard was it for you, though, trying to nail a show that will go down those different paths on a hairpin turn?
Again, I think that may have been why they chose the actors that they chose. I think we all really enjoy the change of genre that we’re dealing with on an hourly basis. It’s great. One moment you are doing a dramatic, difficult, complex scene of a relationship with two different people, and the next minute you’re doing full-blown comedy. It’s extraordinary, but really good fun.
Without getting too spoiler-y, how far—for somebody who knows the comics—do you guys go in the first season?
It’s very clever what they’ve decided to do. We have got to a point at the end of this season [using] the beginning of the comic, so that we’re completely establishing where these people are from, what they’re embarking on, what their journey is, and what we expect of them. That’s where we’ll pick up—in the beginning of the comic—and it's up to the creatives to decide where that’s going to head. It could head anywhere.
So it’s almost technically like a prequel?
I think it’s definitely a prequel to the comic. I think it’s a very clever way of doing it, because if you look at the comic, you have more time when you’re reading a comic to establish what’s going on, who people are. We don’t have the time, so if you’re just thrown into the chaos of the comic, it would be very hard for someone who’s never seen or heard it to understand what is going on. So I think it’s good to have flashes of the madness and the chaos and the vampire and the craziness—but to also know who [the characters] are as people. I think that’s what will keep people watching, because they will know what their journey is.
Are you a religious person?
I’m not a religious person, but that’s one element of the show I really, really like. I love that Sam [Catlin, Preacher showrunner] has decided to keep this as a conversation and not a judgment or an opinion. It’s definitely at the center of it; it’s definitely part of it. You’re following a man who’s struggling with his faith but is very faithful to it and desperate to reignite it, himself, and the community. But then he meets a man who he respects and admires and who is a great friend who has completely opposite views. I think that’s a conversation—people say, “Religious people will get offended.” I don’t think so. I think people who are devout believers will deal with it on a daily basis.
If you’re really serious about religion, you have to have these conversations.
You absolutely do. That’s part of it, and I think the conversations are what's interesting. Everyone has their rights to whatever they believe in. I really believe in free will. Different kinds of people who are into this will have that discussion: “Did you see this the other night? What do you think about that?” That’s great. That’s what we all need to be doing. There’s not a day or a week that goes by where we don’t question something in our lives, and what on earth we’re doing here. So I think that’s beautiful.
One of the sequences that really stuck out to me was the fight in the bar. What were some of your favorite sequences that made it to film?
I loved that sequence because when you’re making a pilot, you’re constantly searching for something that underlines and reaffirms what you believe this person you're playing to be. You’re constantly searching. You have made every decision yet, and you’re still unsure and you don’t know if you’re making the right decisions. But there’s a moment like that where suddenly out of nowhere—the director or I can’t remember who said it, he said, “Just smile throughout this fight. Really enjoy it.” I think that informs so much. When I watched it, I was like, “That’s Jesse.” It’s really built up to that moment.
That’s a key thing you pick up on, because there’s even a shot where it’s so fresh. You throw a punch, and there’s like a little smirk, and then you go back into the fight. It’s brilliant.
Exactly. It’s that. Think of an addict, a drug addict. Jesse’s suppressing all this emotion and anger and violence that he’s used to being a part of because he’s embarking upon this new life. And then it just flares up, and it’s like the addict taking the hit, and then loving it and being in the most joyous place for that second. He'll live to regret it, but in that moment, it’s the relief or release of that moment.
You mentioned that you guys just wrapped on Friday. Without being too premature, is there any talk of a season two or any thoughts on how that might look?
You never know. Honestly, with this stuff, it’s kind of moment to moment. From what I can gather, the reaction we’ve been having, it would seem like madness for them to not…
To not to greenlight a season two?
I think so. I think it’s had already kind of a very exciting, different reaction from everything I’ve seen. I know that it’s already going to Amazon in the UK.
That’s a ton more eyes on the show.
It is, so I would hope [for a second season]. And it would be really fun to do to the next phase with it. You look at any moment in the comic book—where we could end up is just...
It could literally be worldwide.
I remember clearly that meeting with the guys at the beginning. Imagine five hairy blokes trying to explain a boy with a bum as a face. [Laughs.] They were saying, “When this goes further, it could end up anywhere. The comic ends in heaven; the comic ends up in this city.” So that’s very exciting.