Do you know what I learned yesterday? I learned that a live table reading of an episode script had never been done before in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con.
Leave it to the cast of Preacher to be the first to attempt it during their panel. What else would you expect from the people behind the weirdest, most fucked-up, wildest, hilarious show on television right now?
The panel opened with executive producer Seth Rogen announcing the live reading — with a few surprise guests. Because some of the supporting cast members couldn't attend, Rogen and co-producer Evan Goldberg called in a few favors and got some friends to help. Those friends included Kevin Smith, Danielle Panabaker from The Flash, and actor/comedian Jason Mantzoukas, with Goldberg himself playing a few small roles and Rogen narrating the script. A good portion of the cast was there to read their own parts, including the three main stars Dominic Cooper (Jesse Custer), Ruth Negga (Tulip O'Hare) and Joseph Gilgun (Cassidy), along with Ian Colletti (Arseface) and Graham McTavish (known only as "The Cowboy" — so far).
While the first four acts were a fun, improvisational table read (there was one hilarious and shocking twist that I won't spoil for you here), it was Act 5 that blew everyone away. Rather than read it, Rogen decided to roll the clip to let the audience see for themselves. And did we ever. Finally, we come to it: A confirmation of who The Cowboy really is — not that anyone familiar with the comic books didn't already know that he is, indeed, the Saint of Killers.
But that clip — oh my, that clip — was brutal. To quote Kevin Smith: "That's so metal." Rogen, Goldberg and other co-producer Sam Catlin are not screwing around when it comes to the visceral violence of the show. Some of it, like Cassidy's introduction scene in the pilot, and the chainsaw fight in the church, are darkly hilarious, a little bit of Evil Dead in them. But the Act 5 clip was raw in a way you don't often see on television outside of Game of Thrones — and that's a good thing. As The Cowboy mows his way through killing after calculated killing to fully embrace his role as the Saint of Killers, nothing is held back.
After that, the special guests departed, with the exception of Kevin Smith, who then took to the podium to moderate the rest of the panel and audience Q&A. Fans were especially excited to see Garth Ennis join the panel at that point — and how could they not have been, seeing as how he's the writer who created Preacher and the world of Jesse Custer in the first place?
The Q&A portion of the panel was engaging and entertaining, with Rogen and Goldberg talking about the process of getting the seemingly unadaptable Preacher adapted. As it turns out, AMC has been a staunch ally the entire time, only very rarely telling them they absolutely cannot show this scene or that. An impressive feat, considering the subject matter.
The cast, too, was candid and open. Every last one of them had lobbied hard to land their roles and had since come to embrace the complexities of their characters and their answers did that justice, in equal parts frank and thoughtful. Thanks to Gilgun's penchant for talking about drugs, sex and dropping the F-bomb at every turn, the conversation was absolutely, hilariously not PG-rated. Though he had a point when he said, laughing, "I just read that some members of the audience were under 18. Well, you shouldn't be watching Preacher in the first place, then — that's your own fucking fault."
There were so many amazing quotes that I will put them into a separate article. Suffice it to say, if you ever had doubts that a freshman TV series could ever fill Hall H to capacity and keep everyone in the enormous room in stitches, then you've clearly never been to a panel for Preacher.
Preacher airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.