'Preacher' Will Take Departures From the Comic — But Reward Diehard Fans

AMC Preacher Screen Grab H - 2015

AMC's long-awaited adaptation of iconic graphic novel Preacher will depart from its source material — but reward diehard fans of the property.

Executive producers Sam Catlin (Breaking Bad), Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (This Is the End) showcased both their love of the comic and their desire to do right by the franchise during their Friday session at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour.  

Based on Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's 1990s comic series from DC Comics imprint Vertigo, Preacher revolves around Rev. Jesse Custer (Agent Carter'Dominic Cooper), a badass Texas preacher who, after losing his faith, learns that God has left heaven and forsaken his duties. Jesse becomes the only one who is able to track God down and hold him responsible for his abdication. Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga, already earning early praise for the role following a Thursday screening for critics), Jesse's beer-guzzling vampire ex-girlfriend, accompanies him on his quest for answers.

But the story doesn't end there: The Saint of Killers, an immortal killing machine and Western lone gunman type, is hot on their trail with his sights set on Jesse. The cast includes True Blood's Lucy Griffiths as Emily Woodrow, a church organist and Jesse's loyal right hand; This Is England's Joseph Gilgun as Irish vampire Cassidy; and Ian Colletti as Eugene Root (aka Arseface).

"It didn't seem at first we should [deviate from the comic] that way and then we talked to Garth and he encouraged us to make small changes," Goldberg said, noting their priority is to "make it a good show first and foremost. ... We want fans who love the comic to get everything they want — but we make twists and turns."

Preacher has had a long road to the screen. First put in development in 2008 as a feature film, the drama landed at AMC in 2014 and was picked up to pilot in December 2014. Producers then embarked on an extensive casting process that saw them pluck Negga and Gilgun from abroad. Rogen and Goldberg, both diehard fans of the comic, directed the pilot. Ennis and Dillion are on board as co-exec producers.

"[We want viewers to] still be surprised," Rogen said of deviations from the source material. "[The closed-ended comic] wouldn't stretch out to what we hope is a successful series. We're going to make a show we like and we hope that translates to people who loved the comic as well. Our goal is to make a great, entertaining, fun TV show that even if you've never heard of the comic book you'll love."

Producers stressed that while there will be major deviations from the comic — as well as details that in some regards serve as a precursor to the events depicted in the graphic novel — there will still be Easter eggs planted for fanatics in a fashion similar to AMC's The Walking Dead, which is also based on a comic series.

"People who know the comics, there are all orts of Easter eggs throughout it," Catlin said. "We're very conscious of what the Preacher audience is expecting and the mythology they know about. … [We're going to have] that subterranean dialogue with fans of the comic that doesn't confuse people coming to the show for the first time."

While The Walking Dead does include major moments adapted directly from Robert Kirkman's comic series, showrunner Scott M. Gimple takes a "remix" approach to the source material. The difference with Preacher, Rogen noted, is that he doesn't know if the comic could be translated 100 percent for the small screen.

"Everyone involved thought we should not do that directly, including Garth. We love the comic; there's tons of stuff in the comic we hope to include but also hope to subvert lovers of the comic at times and hopefully make them love everything we deliver in the end. … To have both those things would be an ideal scenario."

One of the departures will be with Arseface and some of the events connected with the character. Catlin revealed they knew they didn't want the character to mirror his comics counterpart but needed to make the character "more palatable," adding "we wanted the character to be more sympathetic and be someone you rooted for," he said, noting there was a constant discussion about the line of where the boundary for the series is.

As for its long road to the screen, Rogen admitted that the multiple attempts at adapting it as a feature film didn't work for a reason. "For as many characters as it is and as giant a world as it has, that's why it never worked as a movie," he said. "Far more talented people than us tried … it wasn't them, it was the format. We got lucky we were the guys around when someone decided to turn it into a TV show."
A premiere date for Preacher has not yet been announced.