Comic-Con: 'Preacher' Recruits Some Famous Friends for a Live Stage Reading

Preacher - Season 1 - Joseph Gilgun-Dominic Cooper-Ruth Negga-H 2016
Matthias Clamer/AMC

Preacher has been a real godsend for AMC: With hyperkinetic fight scenes and a tongue-in-cheek irreverence, the comic-book adaptation about a Texas holy man with kick-ass supernatural powers has won a loyal following in its freshman season. (In fact, the network has already renewed it for season two.) And those loyal fans made the pilgrimage to the cavernous Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday night to get a sneak peek at Sunday’s all-new episode.

Well, more of an “advance listen” than a “sneak peek”: The main Preacher cast — Dominic Cooper (Jesse Custer), Ruth Negga (Tulip), Joseph Gilgun (Cassidy), Ian Colletti (Arseface) and Graham McTavish (The Cowboy) — began the panel by performing a live stage reading of this week’s episode, aided by special guests like Seth Rogen (an executive producer on the show), Kevin Smith, Jason Mantzoukas and The Flash’s Danielle Panabaker.

Without spoiling too much, expect a blood-soaked flashback to the 19th century, a daring escape by Jesse, an attempted trip to hell, some unfortunate pet carnage (Cassidy, you bloodsucking scamp), a grisly end for one main character (that one had the crowd gasping) and a clever nod to Breaking Bad. The reading eventually turned into a screening, with the episode’s ultraviolent final act being shown to the crowd on video.

After the reading, the Preacher cast and producers (including comic book author Garth Ennis) took a few questions from moderator Kevin Smith and the enthusiastic crowd. The show does take a few liberties with the source material; Smith calls it a “remix,” rather than a straight issue-by-issue adaptation. (AMC's The Walking Dead takes a similar approach to its comic book source material.) But executive producer Evan Goldberg says in developing the TV series with Ennis, he discovered “there were a lot of nice ways to enhance it, as long as we stayed true to its core values.” And Ennis gave his blessing: “I realized early on that they were going to have to mess with it, and I was okay with it.”

Cooper confesses he was uneasy about taking on a character as beloved as Jesse Custer: “I was scared, because I understand the fan base, and what [the comics] meant to the people who grew up with them.” But despite those fears, he was “desperate to play the role.” And he’s learning more about Jesse Custer as the season progresses: “He’s much more dislikable than I thought.”

Rogen’s favorite Preacher character is the endearing Eugene, aka Aresface — who, after shooting himself in the mouth with a shotgun and surviving, is left with ... well, an arseface. In fact, Rogen lobbied director Sam Mendes back in 2008 to play Arseface when Mendes was trying to adapt Preacher into a film. But Colletti isn’t a huge fan of the two and a half hours of makeup required to play Arseface: “It covers my whole face and nose, so if you sneeze, it’s pretty disgusting.”

If Preacher has a true fan favorite, though, it has to be Ruth Negga as the tiny but ferocious Tulip. Negga remembers jumping at the chance to play her: “There was no hesitation. I kind of lobbied for the part. I find her so thrilling. It’s joyous to play her, really. I very much enjoy seeing a woman who can be so dark and nuanced, but also quite funny. There’s not many people like her on TV.”

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