If you've never strayed far from superheroes in your comic book tastes, you may not have heard of Preacher - until now. Definitely not a caped crusader story, Preacher became a cult classic after its initial run in the '90s, in part due to its twisted humor and willingness to throw out the kind of violence and swearing that would make Captain American swoon.
The comics follow a disillusioned preacher in a small Texas town, who is suddenly struck by a bolt from Heaven and gifted with the power to make people do exactly as he tells them. It's a blessing and a curse, and leads him on a journey to find God (and demand to know what the heck he's been doing all this time!) alongside an alcoholic Irish vampire and a sharp-shooting Southern girl. They discover conspiracies on Heaven and Earth, meet the dregs of humanity (and some of the good guys, too), and leave a trail of bodies (and one rockstar) in their wake.
It's black humor at its finest, and doesn't shy away from sacrilege. However, it's more than just a shock-jock story - at the heart of all that violence is a story of friendship, and it's fantastic.
Now, Preacher is coming to television, courtesy of AMC (the same network to bring us The Walking Dead). Ahead of the season premiere on May 22nd, we headed down to the set in Albuquerque to chat with the cast and see how they'll be bringing the comics to life.
To say they're excited about the project would be an understatement, says titular lead, Dominic Cooper.
Dominic Cooper: I think we all feel the same way [about the show]. That when you wake up in the morning, or when you are approaching a scene, or about to go into work, you are so excited about each and every moment of it, each and every aspect of it. Developing each scene and getting into it and finding new stuff... That's how each day is, there's never a boring day, there's always a challenge to each day, and every scene is so well-written.
Long-time fans may be a little apprehensive at first, as the set is entirely centered on a white-clapboard church in Annville, Texas (well, the Albuquerque desert, which happens to be dressed up as Annville for the purposes of filming). In the comics, this is a location that is brutally destroyed within the first moments of the story, sending Jesse Custer out into the wider world. The show, meanwhile, appears to have chosen to spend the entire first season (at least) in the small town, while Jesse figures out his powers and his relationships to Cassidy and Tulip while still in the pulpit. It's clear that the relationship remains the core of the show, and it's something the cast is excited to explore, agree Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun.
Ruth Negga: I love the supernatural elements of the comic, but I also love the more human elements and the nature of the relationships, and this strange triangle between Tulip and Cassidy and Jesse.
Joe Gilgun: I'm looking forward to hanging onto him [Jesse] in the scene where he holds onto him and he's burning [while hanging out of a plane], and that side of things. It's not just a fun trip, killing people, it's actually about who they are, and that they'll die for one another at that stage.
It seems like a big change, but fans shouldn't worry - the heart and soul of the comics are still there. Centering the first season on Annville gives us more time to get to know the characters, some of whom have slightly new backstories, and a get a feel for the show. The comics jump right in at the deep end, and while that can work in a comic format, it can be a little hectic for a television series.
The cast has also been reading the comics themselves - and unlike with some of the longer-running superheroes in comics, these are books that can be read relatively quickly. Not having to wade through decades of material means that the actors can get a solid grasp on the original Jesse, Cassidy, and Tulip, while still considering what they can bring to the table.
Joseph Gilgun: We've brought new elements to each character, I mean, you have to. It's being put on the television, it can't all be like the comics, it's just not doable. So it's about what we can get away with, and how close we can bring it to the comic as possible, but also be able to cater for that wider audience.
Ruth Negga's Tulip, for example, might be a bit of a change for comic fans. While Tulip does end up a total badass in the books, it's a bit of a long journey for her to get there. Negga, on the other hand, is thrilled to be playing a woman who can hold her own right from the start - yet who maintains her femininity, as well.
Ruth Negga: I take pleasure in playing Tulip because she's volatile in that she has an amazing temper, but you see with the children [in the pilot] that she does have a soft side, and maternal instincts. The thing about Tulip's character is that it doesn't follow expected qualities... There are rules for women on screen, and she doesn't follow that.
There are a few other changes we can expect - some new characters have been created to populate Annville, while others (like Odin Quincannon) have been migrated over from other storylines in the comics. New scenery can be spotted on set that will no doubt play into this version of Jesse's story, and there is some new backstory to go along with it.
Still, whichever changes have been made for the sake of television (or just to bring a fresh perspective to the series), fans can rest assured that the heart and soul of the comics will be sticking around in Annville.
Preacher premieres May 22nd on AMC