The source material of AMC's upcoming Preacher is filled with themes and general content many fans never thought they'd see in a television adaptation. When premium cable networks like HBO passed on the series, a number of fans assumed the version that would finally make it to TV would be a watered-down adaptation that's essentially Preacher in name only.
Series showrunner Sam Catlin insists this isn't the case, however. He affirms that what airs on AMC will be Preacher through and through, and that capturing the true spirit of the comics was a top priority for the crew.
Speaking to Collider before a screening of Preacher at WonderCon, Catlin addressed the concerns some fans may have about the show. He admits at first he didn't know where to begin with the adaptation, because it would be such a huge (and expensive) undertaking to adapt the comic directly. As the show started to take shape, however, making sure it was faithful to the spirit of the comics was a very important part of the process. According to Catlin:
"...when I first started reading the comic, Seth and Evan brought it to me, and I was like, 'I don’t know how you make that a TV show. That’s not a TV show, that’s an amazing comic book.'But once I started to figure out, 'Okay, if the characters are here…' How do we make –Because if we were to shoot the comic book of Preacher, it would be like $400 or 500 million, we would be unproducible. So how do we make a show that is a TV show but pushes all of those boundaries in a similar way that doesn’t feel like 'Preacher Lite'or 'Preacher TV.'"
Catlin went on to explain how a big part of moving forward was deciding on the appropriate way to handle the main character, Jesse Custer. Throughout the comics, Custer is largely a preacher in name only; the books focus on his journey and all of the crazy things that come along with it. Shifting this focus gave Catlin and the crew a starting point, as he explains:
"You never see [Custer] as a preacher — very little — but he’s immediately disillusioned and on his way out. And I think once we sort of figured out, well no, maybe we can still have this gonzo world and have all these crazy things happening and he’s still trying to be a preacher, still kind of trying to do preacher s***. And help people, but not in a boring navel-gazing way, but sort of a spiritual sheriff to this town and once we came up with this idea of this really sin-soaked town that needs redemption, that needs a good preacher, it felt like that was a good place to start with it."
Having previously worked on AMC's Breaking Bad, Catlin says he found the experience of working on Preacher to be fairly liberating. Aside from the differences between the main characters (when pressed, he described Walter White as "a good man trying to be bad" while Jesse Custer is "a bad man trying to be good"), the overall world around the two shows is just so very different:
"...to me, what they brought was it’s a world where anything can happen, it’s just crazy and upside down. There’s god, there’s angels, there’s vampires, there’s cowboys. There’s the south of France, there’s cults, in a lot of ways it was liberating to come from –it’s been challenging in other ways, but coming from Breaking Bad, things were very clear, it’s people, it’s present day Albuquerque. All the rules are still like –you’re painting within numbers that are normal human behavior. But with Preacher you sort of have to make up your own rules about what’s possible."
While some fans are worried the changes made during the adaptation will water down the spirit of the comic, there are also concerns that AMC would limit what was allowed in the show. According to Catlin, though, that hasn't been the case. Out of the entire production so far, there has apparently been only one scene where AMC requested they try to do things a different way (though Catlin says he couldn't say which scene it was). Overall, he says AMC has been very supportive of what they've been doing with the show:
"[AMC has] been really great. And the violence, there’s been very little [pushback]…From the beginning, I’m sure people were like, 'Well, I wish it were on HBO because you could do whatever you wanted and it would be so awesome,'but I’m telling you this is not Preacher TV, this is not Preacher for basic cable, it’s f*****’ Preacher."
Of course, Catlin knows that the show is going to be under a microscope, both from fans and from those who want to protest any content that they see as an affront to religion. He's ready for it, claiming:
"I tell my wife, that if we do this right, our lives won’t be worth a nickel. They’re going to come for us. Between the comic book people and the religious right, yeah, Tom Cruise, yeah."
Still, he seems fairly confident in what he's created, and the reception to the screening at WonderCon has been positive. You can read the rest of the interview with Catlin here, including his refusal to answer whether the Saint of Killers would show up in the first season (followed by a guarantee that all of the fan-favorite characters are planned for the show at some point).
Preacher premieres Sunday, May 22, 2016 on AMC.