Interview: ‘Preacher’ Showrunner Sam Catlin On ‘Lord Of The Rings,’ Dominic Cooper’s Hair & Working With Seth Rogen

It’s early Monday morning and the beautiful Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills still seems half asleep. I take the elevator to the 15th floor. Gratefully I follow the lead to the offered coffee. “Sam might be able to start the interview early,” an AMC press lady tells me. Fine with me.I walk over to his room. There he is, sitting on a couch. Bald, bearded, blue sweater. The first thing one notices about him are the laugh lines around his eyes. The next, his absolute enthusiasm for his work. Sam Catlin must have learnt a hell of a lot on Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad. And you can tell he is out to prove his own future as a showrunner with Preacher. Yep, this man is driven.Movie Pilot: Just a few days to go until “Preacher” premieres. How do you feel?Sam Catlin: I feel good. I just realized last week I don’t have anything left to write and just a couple days ago, I realized I don’t have anything left to direct. We have a great crew and a great cast and considering how ambitious the show is in terms of production, I think we [have] something great on the screen. We’ll see if the audiences agree with us, but we all — from Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and myself, all the way down — I think we’re all really pleased with what we’ve done so far.MP: Why should the audience tune in next Sunday to watch “Preacher”?SC: I think I can say confidently that it will be unlike anything that they’ve seen on television before.MP: The protagonist of the show, the preacher Jesse Custer, is played by Dominic Cooper. What do you love about him?SC: What I love and I hate about him is his hair [Laughs]!MP: You love and hate his hair?SC: What we’re looking for with Jesse was a very rare thing to find. We needed somebody that could play all of the different colors that Jesse Custer has, that sort of decency but also that violence and that crazy intensity, but also be able to hold a camera without dialogue, which usually only movie stars can do. You can be the greatest character actor in the he world, but sometimes, it’s only the Clint Eastwoods that will make you watch them. And somehow, we lucked out and got that with Dominic, in my opinion. He can play all these different notes, but when he’s just sitting there, surrounded by all these crazy characters, you still look at him.MP: The female lead, the role of Tulip O’Hare, is played by Ruth Negga.SC: She’s a firecracker. She’s a pistol. Ruth and Tulip are like that in a lot of ways. She’s both super strong and super vulnerable. She’s got a real, almost a childlike simplicity in terms of how she sees the world in right or wrong. She’s a badass.MP: As is Jospeh Gilgun who plays Cassidy, the Irish vampire who accompanies Jesse and Tulip.
SC: Cassidy is just a great, big, open vein. He’s just all in and he’s got a huge heart. Joe’s similar in a lot of ways. He’s lived an incredibly interesting, varied, complicated life and still has this wounded quality. But he also still has this incredibly endearing, sweet quality to him, too.MP: You produced the show together with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. In an earlier interview you called them “rich, stoned children.” How was it working with them?SC: It’s true. When I first met them, I was worried that I was going to be the grumpy old grandpa that was going to tell them that it was time to put away their bongs and get to work. But that’s actually not at all who they are. I mean, it is somewhat of who they are, but they’re actually incredibly capable, great producers. Sometimes Seth and Evan are the more responsible ones. They have a tremendous amount of experience and they have a tremendous, great energy.MP: Rogen and Goldberg directed the pilot of “Preacher.” Will we see them return to the series?
SC: They’re still very much involved in the show. They go off and they do their other things, but they’re huge Preacher fans and I’m sure they’ll come back and direct. There’s talks of what role we would ever put Seth in [from] the comic.MP: Will he appear in the show, you think?SC: He has to. Yeah, at some point, he will.MP: The graphic novel offers many different themes: violence, redemption, love, among many others. When you read the novel for the first time, which of these themes grasped your interest the most?SC: To me, it’s just a very simple quest movie. It’s a rogue movie. We talked about Lord of the Rings a lot. Just about everything that can happen to someone when going from A to Z, and all these little chapters and little neighborhoods the hobbits go to and all these amazing characters along the way. To me, it has that very simple, although epic framework to it. Which is enormously exciting for television these days because you have to take your time to tell it right. It could be a 40, 50, 60-hour movie. Preacher certainly is built for that. It’s built for a commitment over time and delving into lots of different storylines, lots of characters, different times and different places. In a way, the world of it is just built for cable television.MP: Were you nervous when you showed the pilot to “Preacher” creator Garth Ennis?SC: Well, he’s been involved, he’s seen all the scripts, he gives notes on all the outlines and he’s been on the set. So he’s been involved pretty much from the beginning. I feel like when he came on set for the pilot, that’s when he started to get more engaged in the sense like, “Oh wow, this is real and they understand my world and they’re going to try to honor it.” I feel like since then, he’s been more and more excited, more and more engaged with the show.MP: I guess it’s fair to assume that the websites like Movie Pilot and Reddit will be on fire once the pilot airs. Will you pay attention to these fan conversations on your show?SC: Yeah, of course. We have to. The more I’ve learned about Garth and the more I’ve learned about this whole world, the more I was like, “We don’t want those people unhappy.” My children won’t be safe.MP: So it’s the fans who decide over the success of your show?
SC: The show will succeed or not based on the people who have never heard of the comic. Those people will have to engage with Preacher. A big thrill for us as writers and creators, though, is making sure that the Preacher fans get the white-glove treatment. There’s little storylines and there’s little clues and there’s little things over here that are just for you. There’s probably two or three of these Easter Eggs in every episode. MP: I am sure the decoding will take place right away.SC: We know that there’s a group of people out there that are really scrutinizing, and it’s also just the nature of TV now anyway. It’s that fans are really, really watching for clues and stuff like that. It’s fun having that whispered dialogue with the Preacher fans.MP: Do you also anticipate that some people will flat-out hate “Preacher”?
SC: We’ve said all along and I’ve said repeatedly that we’re not interested in doing a show that’s anti-religion. Preacher is anti-everything. That’s Garth’s world. That’s very much shaking your fist at the sun and it’s sort of a takedown of religion. It’s a takedown of atheists. It’s a takedown of multiculturalism. It’s a takedown of bigotry. It’s a takedown on America. It’s all those things and that’s sort of an anarchic, Garth Ennis world. It’s an equal opportunity offender.MP: First “Breaking Bad,” now “Preacher” — both shows were produced in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Will you return down their for your next project as well?SC: I have no idea. I don’t even know if I’ll be working here. They may have had me killed by then.