If ever you wondered just how hellish development hell can actually be, you need only look at the long and winding road Preacher has taken to get from page to screen. Fans of the Garth Ennis comic book series have been beside themselves for years, hoping for a faithful adaptation of the cult series. Since its debut on DC’s Vertigo imprint in 1995, various studios and producers have tried and failed to jumpstart the project, and just as things seemed to be going well it would all come crashing down.
Fortunately, AMC, the home of Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, came to the rescue with a little help from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The long-gestating project is set to premiere sometime this year and stars Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter) as the titular preacher Jesse Custer, Ruth Negga (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as his former lover Tulip, and Joseph Gilgun (The Last Witch Hunter) as the hard drinking Irish vagabond and vampire Cassidy. While we wait to see just how they manage to adapt Ennis’s epic tale of good vs. evil for the small screen, some lucky fans will get a chance to catch the premiere a bit earlier than the rest.
Deadline reported today that Preacher will make its premiere this March at the 2016 SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. The annual event tends to draw the best and brightest from the worlds of film and television, and with the excitement surrounding Preacher becoming more and more palpable as the premiere draws near, this is set to become one of the hottest tickets of the festival. In conjunction with this news, a new look at Cooper as the rough and tumble Texas preacher was also released.
The debut of the pilot episode could become a make-or-break moment for the series which, despite an incredibly rabid and vocal fanbase, doesn’t have much by the way of widespread mainstream name recognition. SXSW offers Preacher the perfect opportunity to showcase what it has in store and, if it’s well received, will only build the buzz that’s been percolating for months in comic book circles. Additionally, its inclusion in the film festival itself bodes well for the quality of program we can expect. SXSW has the tendency to premiere strong buzzworthy shows and movies (Mr. Robot premiered at SXSW in 2015, and even won the festival's Audience Award), and for Preacher to be a part of that group is an exciting sign for fans.
Whether or not Preacher can sustain itself after the premiere is another question. The series is notoriously complex and its overarching themes and the manner in which they unfolding might be a bit strange for casual audiences. The series follows Jesse Custer after he is imbued with “the voice of God” after becoming possessed by the outcast lovechild of an angel and a demon. His newfound powers give him the ability to command people to do what they’re told against their will, not unlike David Tennant’s Kilgrave in Jessica Jones -- except Jesse isn’t a complete psychopath. He is thrust into a world that’s much stranger and more dangerous than he could have ever imagined, as he faces off against powerful secret organizations, deadly villains both human and supernatural, and even God himself.
Even with AMC’s reputation for producing groundbreaking television that is unafraid to take risks, Preacher is a huge leap from The Walking Dead. Some subplots might be a bit extreme even for AMC, and others might be too bizarre for unfamiliar audiences. Just how faithful Preacher will be and whether or not they can overcome these obstacles remains to be seen.
Still, Rogen and Goldberg have made no secrets about their adoration for the comics, which should give fans of the series plenty to be hopeful over regarding the adaptation. And even with potential thematic and narrative complexities, the story still has the capacity to resonate with a wide variety of viewers across the demographic spectrum. Time will tell, of course, but for now, all signs point in a positive direction for the show.
Preacher’s SXSW premiere date has yet to be confirmed by the festival and AMC still hasn’t released a firm start date for the series, though it’s expected sometime this year.