Ahead of the release of Preacher on AMC, I had the chance to sit down with some of the cast, including Joseph Gilgun, who plays Irish vampire, Cassidy. Thought it was the third time I'd met the loquacious actor, I still looked forward to the interview as he tends to be, well...colorful. The last time I saw him, we were in a shuttle van on the Albuquerque set of the show and he chattered a mile a minute, a bundle of nerves that never quit. I wondered how the energetic English actor was handling the pressure of a jump to a U.S. audience.
"I’m not letting it bother me, I’m not letting it," he insisted. "Like…there are moments where it’s just totally overwhelming, of course, but I’m trying to manage myself so that I don’t have a complete fucking meltdown."
I should mention at this point that he was conducting the interview while fully reclined on the couch, vape pen in hand, long leg dangling over the side. After a moment of reflection, he continued.
"I’m handling it pretty well. I just don’t want to like, be serious. If I take it serious, it will freak me out. And I mean, we’re not saving lives. These actors who sit up like [sits up straight, adopts a pose], ‘I’m doing serious acting right now,’ I have no time for ‘em. I don’t ever fuckin’ want to be that guy. So as long as I stay grounded and true to who I am – I know that sounds really corny – but I was a builder, you know? I just don’t want to take it serious. And I think, somehow, not taking it seriously helps me sort of deal with how terrified I am."
Along with the terror of being in front of a much bigger audience than he's used to, there is an added challenge in the role he's playing. Cassidy is full of vices and addictions, often reprehensibly weak-willed, but with a charm and wit that redeem him. It's a delicate balance for any actor. Gilgun nodded.
"Right. He’s got this weird paradox going on where his morals are very unusual. I think more than anything, he sort of perceives the world as the people in it, yet he’s very perceptive of people and sees people very well. He’s 119 years and has experienced all types of pain that humans have to endure--"
At this moment, the sound of a construction buzz saw echoed through the open window, interrupting his train of thought. "It's a giant, man-eating bee," he said without missing a beat. "It’s my bee, it’s one of the things I bought with my acting money. I built a lab and made an enormous bee for no reason. And this is why we hear stories of actors going dead broke after a few years. They spent all the money on a snow leopard. Or a bee." Having completely lost control of the conversation, I reminded him we had been talking about that balance - once I stopped laughing.
He settled back down on the couch. "On the days where you’re meant to have fun, just have fun. On the scenes where you have to do a bit of concentrating, where you’re tapping into where the cracks are in your character’s personality, you have to fucking concentrate."
Concentrating is something Gilgun has been doing quite a bit of in the past few months, his desire to do the role justice belying his mercurial attention span. In this new, U.S.-based phase of his life, the actor has found that he's learned quite a bit about himself, whether he wanted to or not.
"I’ve found being out here and being alone – and this is going to sound ridiculous, because we’re well looked after – but surviving it all, it’s a big experience. It’s very daunting...You walk in after the end of an insane day and ultimately, you’re on your own. And I’ve found it to be really character building. I genuinely feel like I’ve maybe found myself a bit out here, and do you know what? I’m okay with it."
He grew uncharacteristically quiet for a moment, looking uncomfortable as he fidgeted on the couch. "For many years, I’ve been slightly apologetic for the guy I am, and I’ve felt guilty about, you know…" He trailed off, then seemed to change his mind about speaking further on it and shook his head. "But I just need to let go. I’m 32 years old and being out here…well, the strongest trees grow in the wind, don’t they?"
Even in the midst of a foul-mouthed ramble, there's an earnest sweetness to Gilgun, a sort of straightforward vulnerability that can't help but be endearing. "You know, someone said this to Cassidy - and I’ve got it tattooed right here," he said, pointing to his upper arm, "when he got given life, real life, and someone says, 'Make the most of it.' You know, it’s a fresh start. And my mother said the same thing to me when I set out here: 'Make the most of it, lad, don’t ruin it.'"
Of course, it's Joseph Gilgun, so the actor couldn't be serious for long, pointing out that, opportunity or not, he was contractually obligated to show up. "Also, it’s something I have to do because I’ve written it on paper, d’you know what I mean? I’m obligated. You get into some kind of trouble – I don’t really know what it is - no one really knows where you go if you don’t do the things that are on your contract. I think there’s some sort of parallel universe full of actors who were just, like, wankers who wouldn’t do promotion and shit like that. They all live together on an island."
Once again, the conversation had derailed and I was too busy laughing to care. "What were we on about?" Gilgun asked. "God, I waffle on. I ruin things."
After reassuring him that he was always a great interview because he was so candid, the talk turned to what he'd do if he had the power of the Word of God that character Jesse Custer possesses in the show.
After a moment of contemplation, the actor nodded. "I’d legalize marijuana, globally, immediately. There. [pretends to speak from a podium] ‘LEGALIZE WEED!’ And everyone’s like, ‘Aw, shit, we have to now, don’t we?’ The whole world."
Speaking of fellow herbal connoisseurs, I was curious to know what it was like for him to work with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. Preacher has been such a passion project for them for years and I wondered if that rubbed off on Gilgun, personally.
"Awesome. It’s awesome," he said enthusiastically. "Shit, you know, I’ve watched Seth in all these things. I look up to him; he was a hero. And they always say, don’t meet your heroes, but I did meet him and he was awesome. And then I got to work with him, and he told me I was awesome. HE said thanks to ME for being in his thing. It was just like, what are you doing, man? Are you fucking nuts? What is even this conversation right now? Like, no, thank YOU, you’ve given me everything. It’s my life; it means everything."
It still blows the actor's mind to know that he has the same effect on other people, such as Movie Pilot's young fans. I reminded him that the last time we saw him, he had drawn a penis on the poster for one of our Creators - a 17-year-old Creator. Completely unrepentant, he sat up in excitement.
"Oh, bless him!" Gilgun exclaimed. "I’m glad I pleased him with that. Normally, I get in some shit with that. There are dicks all over the set, man. There are dicks everywhere. I’ve drawn them everywhere. When I’m told not to put a dick somewhere, I’ve snuck a dick in. Just real tiny, like in my signature, I’ll make it really wiggly and then sneak one in there...So there’s dicks everywhere."
And that was when he decided he would show me exactly how he signs his posters, along with his signatures. "Look, I’ll do a sideways dick for you if you give me a pen. I can do them really quick now!"
At this, his resigned publicist handed him a pen, and he laughed at the look on her face. "Aw yeah, it’s pointless now, reining me in," he nodded, motioning to her and the other publicist in the room. "They’ve put up with some shit, these poor bastards right here."
As he rambled, his hand sketched a signature - complete with the aforementioned dick - on a piece of paper. He finished with a flourish and threw down the pen in triumph.
"Five dicks in one signature!"
I truly loved how weird the conversation had gotten and said so.
"I’m sorry," the actor said, looking abashed. Then he grinned.
"But not really."
For the full audio interview, have a listen below.