The Garth Ennis comic book series “Preacher” was once considered too dark, too profane and too gory to make into a movie or TV series. Leave it to the irreverent minds of executive producers Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin to bring it to AMC.
The hourlong series, which premieres Sunday (May 22), stars Dominic Cooper (“Captain America: The First Avenger”) as the title character, Jesse Custer, who returns to his West Texas hometown of Annville to assume the preaching duties of his father. He’s also on a mission to find God. But what this conflicted cleric finds instead is a mysterious entity that inhabits him and causes him to develop a highly unusual power. And the results aren’t pretty.
He’s joined by Tulip (Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga, “World War Z”), his semi-hostile ex-wife who when she’s not building homemade bazookas is on the run from someone; and Cassidy (British actor Joe Gilgun, “Misfits”), an Irish vampire who literally drops into this bucolic burg from a plane.
The opening scene gives a good idea what to expect. What appears to be a shooting star enters Earth’s atmosphere and heads toward Africa, where it lands in the body of a Christian priest. After briefly appearing possessed, the cleric’s body explodes in a shower of bloody chunks all over his congregation.
Some variation of that scene is repeated with religious figures around the world, until the entity lands in the body of Custer, who doesn’t explode but rather becomes possessed.
Cooper, a Brit who like his cast mates had to adopt a Texas accent for his role, told a recent gathering of TV critics in Pasadena, Calif., that he was excited and nervous about taking on a character that is iconic among comic book fans.
“He’s a very complex, conflicted individual,” Cooper says of Custer. “I don’t know whether he’s a good man. He’s trying very hard to be a good man. He’s trying very hard to change his life and to help the people of this sort of crumbling society that he finds himself a part of. But there’s a lot more to do and to find, and … I was pleased with where we have got to at this present time. I’m very excited at the prospect of where he’s going to go and end up.”
The series is a passion project for longtime “Preacher” fans Rogen and Goldberg and the three producers tried to keep the production as true as they could to the original comic book.
“I don’t know if you could translate the comic strictly to television,” Rogen says. “I think everyone involved thought we should not do that directly, including Garth … . But … we love the comic. There’s tons of stuff in the comic that we hope to include, and again, we also hope to subvert lovers of the comic’s expectations at times, and then, hopefully make them love everything that we deliver in the end, and to have both of those things would be an ideal scenario.”