Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg had never produced a TV series before Preacher, which premieres Sunday on AMC, and at first glance a comics adaptation may seem like an odd choice for the duo behind original movies like Pineapple Express and This Is the End. But Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon's comic is actually perfect source material for the duo, since it has a similar sensibility that blends gruesome violence with cartoonish fun. The duo teamed up with Breaking Bad writer Sam Catlin to develop the show, with Catlin serving as writer and showrunner and Rogen and Goldberg directing the pilot.
And what a pilot it is.
It introduces the titular preacher, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper), who found God after living a life of crime and is making a half-hearted attempt to carry the message to his small congregation in his hometown of Annville, Texas. But his past keeps coming back to haunt him, both in the form of his ex-girlfriend/partner-in-crime, Tulip O'Hare (Ruth Negga), who keeps trying to recruit him for one last big job, and his own internal inclination to violence. Meanwhile, a mysterious spiritual force is causing religious leaders all over the world to combust in its search to find a suitable host body. For some reason, it settles upon Jesse, imbuing him with an Inception-level power of suggestion. And so Jesse decides to use his power to shepherd his flock.
That simple plot description doesn't fully convey how Looney Tunes the show is, however. And by Looney Tunes, I mean it both feels like a cartoon and is over-the-top, pedal-to-the-metal insane. Here are a few of the crazy things that happen in just Preacher's pilot alone.
1. A vampire kills a guy with a broken champagne bottle, then pours out the blood/booze mixture and drinks it.
Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) is an Irish vampire (just go with it) who arrives in Annville and quickly becomes Jesse's best friend. He's there hiding out from something. We're not sure who (or what) is after him, but it could have something to do with the private jet full of guys he murders in his first scene. In a bravura fight sequence, he slaughters a bunch of guys with whatever there is lying around (golf clubs, battle axes [like I said, crazy]), and caps it off by smashing a champagne bottle and hurling it through the pilot's chest. He then goes over to the pilot as he slumps against the wall bleeding to death and tips him forward so the mixture of champagne and blood pours into a champagne glass and he swigs it. He had just bit a dude's throat out, too, so he's covered in blood as he does it. Then he jumps out of the plane.
2. A crater full of entrails
When Cassidy lands, his body is destroyed, but he's a vampire, so it doesn't kill him. Instead, he's just a big pile of intestines in a big hole in the middle of a cow field. A cow comes over to investigate, and Cassidy pulls it down and devours it. The whole thing is very gross."Me and blood now, it's like peas and carrots," Gilgun tells TVGuide.com. "I'll be sticky for days. No one will hug me. You look at all the other actors' chairs they're nice and clean, and there's mine all smothered in s---."
3. A woman teaches kids how to make a homemade bazooka, and it's kinda nice
Tulip is introduced fistfighting a man in the backseat of a speeding, driverless car. The car barrels through a cornfield and comes to a rest in the front yard of a house. Tulip dispatches her attacker by shoving a ear of corn down his throat. She notices a little boy and a little girl watching her when the boy yells "awesome!" She then realizes that there's useful stuff lying around, and she enlists the kids to help her with an "arts & crafts" project: building a bazooka out of empty tin cans, lead army men and moonshine ("you can go on YouTube to find out how to make one," Negga advises). She gives them some feminist life advice, then locks them in the basement for safety while she uses the bazooka to shoot down a helicopter sent to kill her. The kids come out, and she drives away, leaving the little girl with a smile of mischievous inspiration. "That's essentially what we wanted the audience to feel," says Negga. "I think she's resonated with so many people, especially women, because she's feminine on her own terms, and unapologetic for owning the space she inhabits." She'll get you in trouble, but you'll have fun while you're doing it.
4. There's a character called "Arseface" whose face looks like an anus
One of Jesse's most devoted parishioners is a young man named Eugene (Ian Colletti) who is nicknamed "Arseface" by Cassidy because the scars on his face from a suicide attempt make his mouth look like...you get it. The prosthetic mask Colletti wears takes at least two hours to apply. It's hot and smelly and difficult to breathe in, and Colletti at one point during shooting had a sinus infection that made it even more punishing. Eugene can only eat liquids and has to take all his meals in liquid form, which was genuine — Colletti could only drink shakes while in Arseface makeup, which sometimes he'd be in for 20 hours at a time. "It's the saddest example of 'method acting' imaginable," Colletti says with a laugh. The prosthetic was built by KNB EFx, the studio run by Greg Nicotero, who also does makeup for The Walking Dead. It's grotesque.
5. Tom Cruise dies
Remember how there's a mysterious spiritual force attempting to inhabit the bodies of religious leaders that kills them? Well, Tom Cruise is a religious leader. "Tom Cruise has died," a news report in the background of a scene says, reporting that he "spontaneously exploded" while presiding over a Scientology event. Scientologists are notoriously sensitive (and litigious), but Rogen's not worried about pissing off Cruise & co. In fact, Rogen's not worried about pissing off anyone. "My barometer for controversy has been so drastically readjusted over the last few years that a few angry tweets doesn't even register on my Richter scale anymore," he says. "Unless a world leader is condemning me, I don't consider it a controversy."
6. Jesse compound fractures a guy's arm with a smile on his face
Jesse spends most of the pilot deflecting people's attempts to get him to commit acts of violence, but local bully Donny (Derek Wilson) finally provokes him to act by implying violence to his own son. Jesse says Donny's going hear a "high-pitched, kinda bunny-in-a-bear trap sound" come out of his own mouth. Then he proceeds to whup Donny and his friends, who are all dressed in Confederate uniforms (they've just come from a Civil War reenactment). During the brawl, Jesse has peaceful little smile on his face, like he's perfectly at home in the moment. "It's like somebody who was off the booze, or whatever drug it was, and suddenly had their hit," says Dominic Cooper. "For that moment they were in heaven, and then the regret seeps in." The regret comes right after he snaps Donny's arm so his bone pops out of his skin, which causes him to make that noise.
7. The sheer number of genres Preacher blows through
Preacher is a gumbo of different genres and tones: it's a Western, a supernatural horror story, a pitch-black comedy, an actioner, a heady theological exploration, a character drama, a live-action cartoon and a bloody slasher all at once. And it does them all well.
8. The guy from the Sonic commercials cuts his own heart out of his body
"Open your heart," Jesse advises his parishioner Brian Huskey, but his power of suggestion is unfortunately very literal.
Preacher premieres Sunday, May 22nd at 10/9c on AMC.