The explosion of TV shows based on comic books are falling into two distinct categories.
Some, including “The Flash,” “Arrow” and “Gotham,” embrace the worlds of costumed characters and larger-than-life villains. These are shows about secret identities, fancy gadgets and traditional comic book mythology.
The latest in that second category is AMC’s “Preacher,” based on the comic book created by Garth Ennis. It is a dark and twisted story of a West Texas preacher, Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper). He’s living in a world populated by a cast of characters from heaven, hell and places in between.
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Almost every TV series adapted from a comic book deviates from the source material, as fans of “The Walking Dead” can confirm. “Preacher” is no different – but the changes were made after talks with Ennis.
Ennis told the executive producers to make all the small changes they wanted. Keeping the general story will appease fans, and small changes will make it less predictable.
Seth Rogen, one of the producers of the series, says the element of surprise was important to make the best show possible.
“We are fans of the comic. We love the comic, and we are going to make a show we like,” Rogen says. “So we hope that that translates to people who love the comic as well. But, again, our first and foremost goal is to make a great, entertaining, fun television show that, if you’ve never heard of the comic book, you love.”
Whether it be Rick Grimes in “The Walking Dead” or Barry Allen in “The Flash,” the key to making the transition is how the core character is handled. In the case of Jesse Custer, Cooper needed to play him as a man who looks like nothing can shake him.
At the same time, Custer deals with a lot of inner turmoil. The contrasting elements made the character one of the most difficult Cooper has played, and his credits range from Howard Stark in “Agent Carter” to Ian Fleming in the miniseries “Fleming.”
“I was kind of terrified by the prospect of it,” Cooper says. “It was wonderful having the comics but still quite difficult to decipher from them who this person really is. And it’s not like a novel where there’s very long, descriptive passages of who this person is. It’s an absolute honor to play him but such a responsibility for the fan base to decide who this guy is and his background.”
Part of Cooper’s nervousness came from his not being sure if Custer is a good man or not. He understood immediately that Custer is complex and complicated, but that didn’t give him a clear picture of what exists at the heart of the character.
Cooper finally decided Custer is a man who’s trying very hard to be good and change his life through helping the people who live in the crumbling society. Things are bad, but like the comic, there will be room for lighter moments.
Executive producer Sam Catlin says the touches of levity come from the comic books.
“That’s really Garth’s creation,” Catlin says. “There’s lots of violence and drama and all of that, but there’s always comedy throughout it. That’s the real challenge and opportunity that he’s given us, which is that there’s violence, and there’s almost melodrama. We have characters who are going to do horrific things in one episode and then come back and just do really silly things. So that’s, sort of, the challenge that Garth’s comic has given us.”
Joining Cooper on the show are Joseph Gilgun as Cassidy, Ruth Negga as Tulip, Lucy Griffiths as Emily, W. Earl Brown as Sheriff Root, Anatol Yusef as DeBlanc, Tom Brooke as Fiore, Derek Wilson as Donnie Schenck and Ian Colletti as Eugene/Arseface.
- 10 p.m. Sunday, May 22, AMC