Whether you're a fan of the comic books or not, Preacher is going to look a lot different this season. After discovering that the big man upstairs (as in God with a capital G) has officially gone missing, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) set out with his on-again girlfriend Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga) and vampire best friend Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) on the road trip of a lifetime to track him down and make him answer some questions. With Genesis, aka the Word of God, on Jesse's side, nothing can stop this trio from finding God. Right?
Not so much, actually. For those who have read Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's Vertigo comic book series, it's pretty well known that Jesse's road trip to find God is going to be one hell of a bumpy ride. But in watching the first season of AMC's adaptation, it seemed as if Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Sam Catlin's TV version was following its own path, one much different from the comic book source material. For starters, Season 1 took place mostly in the small, corrupt Texas town of Annville instead of on the road. It mostly followed Jesse's discovery that Genesis was inside of him and learning about his newfound "Word of God" power and that God was missing. It was basically a prequel to the popular comic book series, an origin story for Preacher.
But then the Season 1 finale literally blew up the town of Annville. Now Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy are finally hitting the road in a quest ripped straight from the pages of the comics, so Season 2 (premiering Sunday, June 25 at 10 p.m. followed by the second episode on Monday, June 26 at 9 p.m. in the series' regular time slot) will feel a lot more like the story fans expected from the beginning. But according to showrunners Rogen and Goldberg, that was a "conscious decision" to make Season 1 the origin story.
"We discussed how the comic just goes from zero to 60 and hurls you into it, tells you a lot of info very quickly," Goldberg says during a press conference for Preacher Season 2. "And it never shows the Preacher preaching."
While Rogen laughs about "hopefully" having more time to tell their interpretation of the Preacher story (depending on how many seasons AMC gives them), he's glad they were able to take their time in setting up the characters, the world and the story in Season 1.
"To explore his relationship with God a little bit more was something that we thought we could do," Rogen says. "If you read comics, it's not that crazy, a lot of the ideas. But if you're someone who just watches television and doesn’t read the comics, they're pretty out there ideas. We tried to be aware of that and to slowly build up to some of the things [in] these completely alternate universes with completely alternate rules, very large world building ideas. We thought, in order to ground the show, we would build up to some of that stuff."
Now that they've laid the groundwork, "everything does shift" in Season 2. "I think all the characters shift and change in ways that are unexpected," Rogen says. "We're kind of changing what the show is. And we will keep doing that."
And according to executive producer Catlin, now that they're on track with the comic books, they're going to stay pretty true to the story.
"In terms of the worlds and the tone and the characters that we're bringing in and the larger story of what are Herr Star's [Pip Torren] plans and where is Jesse going to go and what happened in his past, all those things are faithful to the comic," Catlin says. "What we're trying to do is find these little moments and these little pit stops along the way from the comics and then dig into them, like learn more about why is Herr Star who Herr Star is? There's a little bit of his origin story in the comic book but we have this opportunity on a long-form television show of let's really get into his childhood and this and that. That's really exciting."
Cooper was pleased that Rogen, Goldberg and Catlin took their time in Season 1 to "establish something about the world and the characters for people who didn't know anything about the comics originally."
"It was good to inhabit a real world and a real space and truly understand what motivated these people before we went on this epic, crazed adventure," Cooper says. "If people had no idea about this and they started at this point, like in the comics, then you wouldn't quite be able to grab hold of exactly what it was that was going on. Now they have very distinctive goals, especially Jesse who is just absolutely, 100 percent guided by this necessity to find this entity that he feels is missing. He has a very specific objective."
In terms of the overall story of Season 2, Catlin promises Jesse's road trip is the same as it is in the comics.
"At the end of the day, we want it to feel, and I think this season will because he's not looking for God in himself, he's looking for God around the corner, that part of it, that road show, kick down doors and find God one way or another, that is the show and the comic," Catlin says. "How we get there in terms of the plot-by-plot narrative, it's always going to diverge in certain places and sometimes we're going to have things that are exactly alike. There are going to be new characters and all the great iconic characters. I'm confident that people will recognize the comic book much more in this season."
But that's not all I learned about what's coming in Preacher Season 2. Read on for everything there is to know about the new season, with scoop from Cooper, Negga, Gilgun and more.
Meet the Saint of Killers (officially and finally)
All throughout the first season, casual viewers may have been confused by the seemingly random storyline of The Cowboy (Graham McTavish) from 1881. Diehard fans knew who he was, of course, but it takes Preacher all the way until Season 2 to officially label him as the Saint of Killers, the legendary, unstoppable, supernatural killing machine freed from Hell and sent to kill Jesse after the angels were unable to separate Genesis from the Preacher.
"We wanted the first season to be more mystery and for the second one to be where it takes off," Goldberg says of keeping "The Cowboy's" real name under wraps for so long. "Now that it's taking off, we don't want there to be any mystery anymore. If you're unfamiliar with the comic, it's a discovery, but if you're familiar with the comic, it's pretty clever."
Rogen adds with his trademark laugh, "We liked the idea that you literally did not have any idea of why you were watching this Cowboy's side story and how it would play into anything on the show at all until the very end, basically. But those kinds of mysteries, there is less of this season. There's no huge, 'why the f*ck am I seeing this?'"
For those unfamiliar with the Saint of Killers from the comic books, McTavish reveals there will be a scene in an upcoming Season 2 episode where the trio research the mythological figure and find all kinds of information in books about his legendary life and afterlife. And viewers will also get to learn about who the Saint is now that he's been called up from Hell and is hot on Jesse's trail.
"I get a little bit more to say in this season. He starts opening up," McTavish says with a small smirk. "The Cowboy, that's not my name. It's the Saint of Killers. I think the Saint, not uniquely but certainly among a few of the characters, is very true to the book. We don't stray really away from who he is and why he's doing what he's doing."
Physically, however, the Saint might look a bit different. "The whole look of him, we adjusted the look and color palette and makeup and physicality, mainly because he'd been in hell for 100 years," McTavish says. "It takes its toll. But we did very consciously want to stick to that because he is such a pure character in the story. Not in his actions but because of what he does and the motivations he has, it's important that we stick to that."
But the Saint of Killers isn't the only one Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy have to fear. This season also sees the introduction of Herr Star and the Grail, a super secret religious government military organization. Rogen reveals that Star and the Saint "are both very prominent this season" as villains.
A bigger family tree
While Jesse may be searching for God, his past comes back to bite him this season, as viewers will get to meet his maternal family. And there's a reason he doesn't talk about them at all: they are extremely disturbed and abusive, to say the least.
"You'll learn more about Jesse's other side of the family," Rogen teases.
"The family he grew up with, the grandmother. It's coming. It's coming," Cooper adds. "The damage that has been done to him by two major things that have happened: the implication that he believes he's the cause of his father's death and then he went to live [with his] grandmother … It's grim and we're slowly getting there. You'll see towards the end there is a very specific reason why he has to engage in that life again and it terrifies him more than anything in the world."
Tulip and Cassidy's roots
When Jesse's quest leads him, Tulip and Cassidy to New Orleans, the truth about both Tulip's past and Cassidy's history will come to light.
"I think we've veered so far away from a lot of how you're invited into Tulip's world [on the show vs. the comics]," Negga says. "She's quite broken and meek when you meet her [in the comics] and that's not how we started off with our Tulip. This season we have an opportunity to explore her more vulnerable side. We disarm her, both physically and mentally in this season. That's a very naked place for Tulip to be. She's been defanged in a way this season by certain events."
For those waiting for the AMC series to get into Cassidy's comic book arc, don't hold your breath.
"We haven't really broached much of Cassidy's stuff from the comics this year. The intention is to do that next year," Gilgun says. "I was looking forward to that this year, I'll be honest. But the story is taking a new turn. We've got this sort of domestic version of Cass. I don't want that to sound like I'm bored, because that's certainly not the case. He's just a little different."
Having responsibilities this season will have a big effect on Cassidy.
"Since meeting Jesse, who is on this path of redemption, I think he's having a crack at [redemption] himself this year," Gilgun says. "He had the option of not running into these problems but he chose to face them head on. In this trio, he doesn't want to just be this idiot Irish sidekick. It's important for him to prove to the group that he is of some use, so the first thing he does is try and set everyone up with some free digs."
He adds, "Unfortunately free digs means responsibility for Cassidy, something that he's not been able to put into practice for that last 120 years. He's been avoiding his problems, and this is a 73-year-old problem that's been under the rug for a long, long time and he's having to broach that. The idea of this year is that we're going on this adventure but normal life gets in the way."
According to Negga, both Tulip and Cassidy will struggle with their new reality on the road.
"There's a definite tension because there's an equilibrium that's been lost. This is Jesse's mission," Negga says. "Both Cassidy and Tulip are very dubious about that because they're used to having certain independence and autonomy. But they don't really have any other options. Annville is gone, it's been exploded away. Tulip is on the run from God knows how many people and so is Cassidy, he has no friends left. They keep dying because he's so bloody old. They've found this itinerant misfit-ty family. Hopefully they can keep all their demons at bay but you find that everyone is keeping secrets this season and how that creates huge cavernous fissures between one another. Secrets are exhausting and they can only be secrets before they explode in one's face and we'll see that happen."
The most uncomfortable love triangle
One of those secrets bound to blow up in all their faces is the fact that Cassidy and Tulip slept together before they realized what they both meant to Jesse. And now they're all stuck together in one car on a seemingly endless road trip ... awkward.
"It's a real dilemma for Cass, because he's got a very unusual moral compass," Gilgun says. "He prides himself on his loyalty to his friends. To have no integrity is like the worst thing you could f*cking have as a human being and Cassidy knows that to some degree. He's seeking redemption. I think Cassidy is having a stab of it but the whole relationship with Tulip and just being honest with Jess, I think he's really struggling with that."
He continues, "It's a really horrible position to be in. We all know unrequited love. You don't pick who you fall for. It's a f*cking nightmare when they don't like you back. Cassidy still really likes Tulip but loves his friend and ultimately knows he needs those people to keep him on the straight and narrow."
And just for the record, Gilgun hates talking about Cassidy and Tulip. Seriously, don't ever ask him about that. When I started to ask a question about their dynamic this season, he cut me off with, "That's so f*cking boring. I'm sick of answering this f*cking question."
But then he smiled, let me finish, and still answered my question with a pretty thoughtful answer, ending our interview by giving me a fist bump after ragging on me, so I guess there's no hard feelings there? (I still love you, Gilgun!)