AMC’s Preacher has developed a reputation for some aggressively fun fight sequences, and as series showrunner Sam Catlin and actors Dominic Cooper and Joseph Gilgun attest, much of the credit is owed to stunt coordinator John Koyama and his team. The series has gone out of its way to create memorable fight sequences with complex choreography since the first season, where Cassidy famously fought off two angels in a church, and later, a motel room became the sight of a supernatural slugfest that left one hell of a surprise for the cleaning staff.
Since then, every season has attempted to outdo the previous one, season 2 featured an unforgettable fight set to Billy Joel's 'Uptown Girl,' for instance. And as the season 3 premiere makes clear, with an extended brawl between Jesse and series newcomer Jody (Jeremy Childs) that also makes use of a big red pickup truck, the trend will continue. According to Catlin, that fight is just the tip of the iceberg this time around, as “there’s going to be more fights this year than in both seasons put together times four. There's so many stunts and so many big fights, it's really just the beginning.”
While speaking with the cast and crew of Preacher ahead of season 3, one thing became clear: the common denominator of all the extraordinary brawls and action sequences in the series really comes down to Koyama, an actor and stunt performer/coordinator known for his work on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Justice League, Future Man, Furious 7, and more. In discussing the process of bringing a fight from the page to the screen, Catlin offered up a simplified version of how it all comes together.
“John Koyama's our stunt coordinator; he's basically our in-house director for all of these sequences. In the script we basically say, 'Koyama, this is the story. Jody is the one guy Jesse hasn't been able to beat over the years; he’s the one who taught him how to fight. It's bloody hand-to-hand and Jesse's overmatched, and it takes place outside by this truck and maybe has a few story beats in it.’ And he builds a fight. The fights are a big part of the show, all kudos to John Koyama and his team and all the stunt doubles.”
Cooper and Gilgun are also quick to praise Koyama and his team for the work and choreography that they do, as well as the speed and efficiency with which they work, making it easy for the actors to learn the necessary moves very quickly. Cooper said:
“It’s a huge part of the story and a huge part of the show. The one thing that we have is one of the most wonderful stunt coordinators, John Koyama. For an actor, he makes it so you can learn it very quickly, which means you can change it up very quickly if the director decides it's not quite working for whatever reason. But we spend a lot of time on them. It's all really down to an incredible stunt team who all work so hard. They're great, and we get so much support from them.”
Gilgun seconds the speed with which Koyama and his team work, and adds how his stunt double, Solomon Brende, is always there to sacrifice his body when the moment calls for it.
“I'll tell you what makes a good fight sequence. I think from my perspective you're only as good as your stuntmen around you. These men, John Koyama and his team, they honestly are unbelievable. They're an incredible team with a remarkable reputation. Weeks of preparation will have gone into a fight sequence and by the time you've arrived, the way [John] breaks it down for you, you're initial thought is ‘How the f**k am I gonna learn all that? How am I possibly going to make this look as good as [they did]?’ It can be very intimidating, but the way he breaks it down... he's just so clever, that within moments you know this very complex and at times very dangerous fight choreography. You absolutely know when you're making something memorable. You know the reactions of the audience, you can feel it as you're doing it.
I'm incredibly lucky to have such a talented stunt double; he takes incredibly hard hits for me. Those moments you see on screen -- can you remember back to season 1 where Jesse makes Cassidy fly? He's showing all these new powers he has and he makes him fly into a f**king wall. Sol literally ran from the back of the room, jumped on a tiny trampoline and flung himself into a f**king wall. That's got to have hurt, man. I refuse to believe it didn't f**k Sol up. It's a job that I can't imagine doing. There's also those moments where they have very little time to prepare for a fight and they still achieve the results. I just think it's all about your team. If you've got a good team it'll be a good fight. John Koyama and that group, we're very, very lucky to have them.”
Preacher season 3 continues next Sunday with ‘Sonsabitches’ @10pm on AMC