Warning: Mild spoilers ahead from the Preacher comic books and the series.
AMC has added another comic book-based show to its roster with Preacher, a new show based on the cult '90s comics. Joining The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead and Comic Book Men, the series is another offering for nerdier types who aren't into masked superheroes — and it looks fantastic!
The pilot was screened at SxSW in March, alongside a special signing event and a Q&A with cast and creators, and it was an unqualified success. Without giving too much away, Preacher is smart, funny, balances action with character development, and is perfect for people who are just a little bit messed up. Welcome to the bestest, blackest humor in the West, served up with a shot of whiskey, neat.
One of the most impressive things about the pilot was how complete it feels. There was no sense that the creative team were still working out the details or direction — it seemed more like the start of a third season rather than a first. It's in this attention to detail, the perfect timing, but most of all it's in the cast and the characters. Fans of the comics will not be disappointed, even with some sizable changes being made. Whether you're a long-time fan of the books or completely new to Annville, Texas, we've got you covered with our Preacher character guide.
Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)
Jesse Custer is the central figure of the Preacher trio. A drunk and a man without a higher calling to his church, he spends his days trudging through uninspired sermons to a tiny congregation, and his nights propping up the bar.
In the comics: He has a complicated family history that redefines "messed up" — one that he left behind in order to live a life of stealing cars with a pretty girl. His return to preaching wasn't willing, but it was brief, seeing as the word of God (a.k.a Genesis) comes to him and destroys his entire church. On the run and armed with this newfound power, he sets out to find the God that he never entirely believed in and ask him what the hell he's been thinking for all these centuries.
In the show: We don't know much about him yet, but there is definitely a history with Tulip and a dark un-preachery past behind him. Of course, his past is not completely behind him, as we find out in a stunning fight scene in the pilot episode. It does look like we'll be spending a lot longer in Annville in the series than we do in the books, as we explore Jesse's relationship with the church and the townsfolk. He also seems to have more of a connection to Annville than he did in the books, as mention is made of his past in the town. Genesis arrives in the pilot, and Jesse's search for the Almighty is bound to appear as a future plot, but it feels like Preacher will be a slower burn than the comics overall.
Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga)
Tulip is the long-suffering ex-lover of Jesse, (the pretty blonde I mentioned) who ends up bumping into him again and joining his quest for God.
In the comics: Tulip is a bit of a mystery. When she first shows up, it's by pure coincidence and she is less than thrilled to see Jesse. She still loves him, but hates him for abandoning her. Following their split, she tried her hand as an assassin to make ends meet. Now on the run from some very dangerous people, she's decided to help Jesse out.
In the show: Thankfully, it looks like we'll be skipping some of the early, overly-vulnerable Tulip from the books and heading straight into the world of Tulip the badass. She still has a history with Jesse, but doesn't seem brokenhearted. Instead, she's got a dark past of her own and wants his help with one last job. We don't know exactly what kind of job that is yet (Car theft? Assassination?), but given her incredible and violent skill set, it's sure to be something that no self-respecting preacher would be involved in. Which is why Jesse is clearly the man for the job.
Proinsias Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)
Cassidy is an Irish vampire with a predilection for drugs and alcohol, who ends up joining Tulip and Jesse — although he occasionally does them more harm than good. More Spike than Edward, but a little rougher than both, he's a new kind of bloodsucker for the small screen.
In the comics: Cassidy comes into Jesse's life after Tulip carjacks him and ends up sticking around — because he doesn't seem to have anything better to do. He is an asshole who fails to make the most of his immortality, but he cares deeply for these two, and develops a life-changing (or afterlife-changing) friendship with Jesse.
In the show: Right from the start, Gilgun brings the Cassidy we know and love to life, but beyond his personality, there are some notable changes. Cassidy is still a vampire (functionally immortal, tends to catch alight in the sun, drinks blood to survive), but he seems to have some connections and some enemies that we don't see in the comics. He also lands in Annville in a totally new way — and one that is soaked with drugs, booze and violence. Exactly how Cassidy would want it.
Sheriff Root (W. Earl Brown)
The local law enforcement of Annville, Sheriff Root is a mean, bitter man who has no patience for anyone he doesn't like. And there's no one that he likes.
In the comics: Root is a short-lived character in the comics who goes after Jesse — even though he believes that "Martian n*****s" are actually the cause of the strange murders in Annville. He's not a complicated man, just a racist small-town law enforcer who comes to a particularly unpleasant end involving the word of God and self-sodomy.
In the show: We'll be seeing a lot more of Sheriff Root in the series, as he now presides over Annville (and the show is staying put there, at least for the first season). Still a belligerent and unpleasant man, he's also a lot lazier than his comic counterpart — this Root would rather just look the other way and avoid any trouble at all. We're yet to see if he exhibits the kind of appalling racism from the books, but there's little doubt he'll be small-minded.
Arseface/Eugene Root (Ian Colletti)
Sheriff Root's son Arseface is a horribly disfigured teen, desperate for Dad's love.
In the comics: Aresface has an interesting comic book journey. Motivated largely by his father's death (at first), his life is full of ups and downs, from obscurity, to fame and fortune, and back again. His disfigurement is the result of a failed suicide attempt, and is so disgusting that it makes people vomit on sight.
In the show: His injuries are toned down slightly — presumably because it wouldn't make for ideal viewing fodder to have viewers constantly nauseated. However, the characteristic puckered face is still there, along with his father's shame and his desperate desire to make it up to him. Because he and his father will now have an existing relationship with Jesse, it remains to be seen how Arseface will develop through the series, but it will definitely involve some differences to the comics.
Fiore & DeBlanc (Tom Brooke And Anatol Yusef)
Two angels sent to Earth to find Genesis, Fiore and DeBlanc are the ones who first reveal the truth of Heaven to Jesse and set him on his quest.
In the comics: While these two start off as good servants of Heaven, and meek ones at that, the human world completely corrupts them. They go from searching for Genesis to feeding Jesse information, having given up on their original mission.
In the show: We see only glimpses of these two in the pilot — strangely dressed, clearly less than comfortable on Earth, and on the search for Genesis. The two will undoubtedly be instrumental in moving the plot forward and connecting Jesse and Annville to the larger concepts and his coming quest.
Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley)
A ruthless and disturbed businessman, Odin Quincannon runs the town from behind the scenes using his ill-gotten wealth.
In the comics: Quincannon appears in a different town in the books, called Salvation. The character runs a meat plant, is a member of the KKK, and clashes with Jesse many times in his brief tenure as the Sheriff of Salvation.
In the show: Quincannon has been transplanted to Annville, but otherwise appears largely unchanged. He does his fair share of underhanded dealings, and doesn't get along well with Jesse's more principled (if slightly lackluster) approach to the town. It will be fascinating to see how the stories of Annville and Salvation are combined in this first season, and where Qunicannon will come into play.
Emily (Lucy Griffiths)
The church organist and bookkeeper, Emily is a hardworking woman doing her best to keep the Annville church on its feet — to say nothing of Jesse on his.
In the comics: Emily was created for the show, so she has no comic history.
In the show: Emily is the polar opposite of Jesse — devout, innocent, generously giving her time to the church and the town for the sheer Christian duty. A mother and a waitress, she is diligent and compassionate, although life seems to have beaten her down a little.
Who Else Could We See?
Preacher seems like it will unspool with a little less reckless abandon than the comics, taking the time to really build the characters brick by brick, rather than tossing the viewer in at the deep end. This will also allow for the story to expand, and if the show is successful, it gives us space for many more seasons to come.
With that, we are sure to see some more of the major characters from the comics who are integral to Jesse Custer's search for God, but who might not need to appear within the first few episodes. The Saint of Killers as well as Herr Starr, The Allfather, and the other members of The Grail are pretty much guaranteed in order to keep the Preacher name on the series. Jesse's parents John and Christine Custer are sure to appear to further build up his backstory, and unless his past is changed completely, we should see Marie L'Angelle, TC and Jody as well.
Beyond that, there is a huge cast of colorful characters who might appear, but few who are truly vital, especially as we can already see that the writers are taking liberties with the storyline in the combination of Salvation and Annville. Some of the more detailed stories can be recreated into something new without losing the heart and soul of Preacher.
Preacher airs Sundays on AMC