AMC is adding another comic-book-based show to its roster this year with Preacher, a new series based on the cult ’90s comics. Joining The Walking Dead, Fear The Walking Dead and Comic Book Men, the series will be another offering for nerdier types who aren’t into masked superheroes – and it looks fantastic!The pilot was screened at SXSW, alongside a special signing event and a Q&A with cast and creators, and it was an unqualified success. Without giving too much away, it’s smart, funny, balances action and character, and is absolutely perfect for people who are just a little bit messed up. Welcome to the best, blackest humor in the west, with a shot of whiskey on the side.
One of the most impressive things about the pilot is how complete it feels. There’s no sense that the creative team are still working out the details or direction – it seems more like the start of a third season than a first. It’s in the attention to detail, in the perfect timing, but most of all it’s in the cast and the characters. Fans of the comics will not be disappointed, even with some fairly sizable changes being made. Whether you are a long-time fan of the books or completely new to Anneville, we’ve got you covered with our Preacher character guide. Warning: Mild spoilers ahead from the comic books and the pilot.Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper)
Jesse Custer is the central figure of the Preacher trio. A drunk and a man without a calling to his church, he spends his mornings trudging through uninspired sermons to a tiny congregation and his nights at the bar.
In the comics: He has a complicated family history that redefines “messed up” – one that he left in order to steal cars with a pretty girl. His return to preaching wasn’t willing, but it was short, as the word of God (aka Genesis) comes to him and simultaneously destroys his entire church. On the run and armed with this new power, he sets out to find the God that he never entirely believed in and ask him what the hell he’s been thinking all these centuries. In the show: We don’t know much about him just yet, but there is definitely a history with Tulip, and a dark, un-preacher-ly past behind him. Of course, it’s not completely behind him, as we find out in a stunning fight scene in the pilot. It does look like we’ll be spending a lot longer in Anneville this time around, exploring Jesse’s relationship with the church and the townsfolk. He also seems to have more of a connection to Anneville than he did in the books, as mention is made of him being there in the past. Genesis arrives in the pilot, and his eventual search for the Almighty is bound to appear in time, but it feels like Preacher will be a slower burn than the comics overall. Tulip O’Hare (Ruth Negga)
Tulip is the long suffering ex-lover of Jesse, (the pretty blonde I mentioned!) who ends up bumping into him again on the road and joining his quest.
In the comics: Tulip is a bit of a mystery. When she first shows up, it’s pure coincidence and she is less than thrilled to see Jesse. She still loves him, but hates him for abandoning her, and ended up trying her hand as an assassin to try and make ends meet. Now running from some very dangerous people, she’s decided to help Jesse out. In the show: Thankfully, it looks like the show will be skipping some of the early, overly-vulnerable Tulip from the books and heading straight into the world of Tulip-the-badass. She still has a history with Jesse, but isn’t the broken-hearted type. Instead, she’s got her own dark past and wants his help with one last job… We don’t know exactly what kind of job yet (car thievery? Assassination? A tricky jar lid?), but given her incredible (and violent) skill set, it’s sure to be something that no self-respecting preacher would be involved in. Which is why Jesse is clearly the man for the job! Proinsias Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun)
Cassidy is an Irish vampire with a predilection for drugs and alcohol, who ends up joining Tulip and Jesse – although he occasionally does them more harm than good. More Spike than Edward, but a little rougher than both, he’s a brand new kind of vamp for the small screen.
In the comics: Cassidy comes into Jesse’s life after Tulip car-jacks him, and ends up sticking around, partially because he doesn’t really have anything better to do. He is an asshole with a long history of doing nothing with his immortality, but he cares deeply for these two, and develops a life (or after-life) changing friendship with Jesse. In the show: Right from the start, Gilgun brings the Cassidy we know and love to the small screen, but beyond his personality, there are some changes. Cassidy is still a vampire (functionally immortal, tends to catch alight in the sun, and drinks blood to survive), but he seems to have some connections and some enemies that we don’t see in the comics. He also lands in Anneville in a totally new way – and one that starts with drugs, booze, and violence – exactly how Cassidy would want it. Sheriff Root (W Earl Brown)
The local law enforcement of Anneville, Sheriff Root is a mean, bitter man who has no patience for anyone he doesn’t like.
In the comics: Hugo Root is a short-lived character in the comics, who goes after Jesse… even though he believes that “Martian niggers” are actually the cause of the strange murders in Anneville. He’s not a complicated man, just a racist small-town law-enforcer who comes to a particularly unpleasant end involving the word of God and self-sodomy. In the show: We’ll be seeing a lot more of Sheriff Root in the series, as he now presides over Anneville (and the show is staying put there for the first season). Still a belligerent and unpleasant man, he’s also a lot lazier than his comic counterpart – this Root would rather just look the other way and avoid any trouble at all. We’re yet to see if he exhibits the kind of appalling racism from the books, but there’s little doubt he’ll be small-minded. Arseface/Eugene Root (Ian Colletti)
Sheriff Root’s son, Arseface is a horribly disfigured teen, desperate for his father’s love.
In the comics: Aresface has an interesting comic-book journey – motivated largely by his father’s death (at first), his life is full of ups and downs – from nothing to fame and fortune, and back again. His disfigurement is the result of a failed suicide attempt, and is so disgusting that it makes people vomit on sight. In the show: His injuries are toned down slightly – presumably because it wouldn’t make for ideal viewing fodder to make the audience constantly nauseated! However, the characteristic puckered face is still there, along with his father’s shame and his desperate desire to make it up to him. Because he and his father will now have an existing relationship with Jesse, it remains to be seen how Arseface will develop through the series, but it will definitely involve some differences to the comics. Fiore & DeBlanc (Tom Brooke and Anatol Yusef)
Two angels sent to Earth to find Genesis, Fiore and DeBlanc are the ones who first reveal the truth of Heaven to Jesse and set him on his quest.
In the comics: While these two start off as good servants of heaven, and relatively meek ones at that, the human world corrupts them completely by the end. They go from searching for Genesis to helping Jesse with information, having given up on their mission at the last. In the show: We see only glimpses of these two in the pilot – strangely dressed, clearly less-than-comfortable on Earth, and on the search for Genesis. The two will undoubtedly be instrumental in moving the plot forward and connecting Jesse and Anneville to the larger concepts and his eventual quest. Odin Quincannon (Jackie Earle Haley)
A ruthless and disturbed businessman, Odin Quincannon runs the town from behind the scenes with his money, and by bringing in jobs and money.
In the comics: Quincannon appears in a different town in the books, called Salvation. The character runs a meat plant, is a member of the KKK, and clashes with Jesse many times in his brief tenure as the Sheriff of Salvation. In the show: Quincannon has been transplanted to Anneville, but otherwise appears largely unchanged. He does his fair share of underhanded dealings, and doesn’t get along well with Jesse’s more principled (if slightly lackluster) approach to the town. It will be fascinating to see how the stories of Anneville and Salvation will be combined in this first season, and where Qunicannon will come into play. Emily (Lucy Griffiths)
The church organist and bookkeeper, Emily is a hardworking woman doing her best to keep the Anneville church on its feet – to say nothing of Jesse on his.
In the comics: Emily was created entirely for the show, so she has no comic history! In the show: Emily is the polar opposite of Jesse – devout, innocent, devoting her time to the church and the town for the sheer Christian duty. A mother and a waitress, she is hardworking and compassionate, although life seems to have beaten her down just a little. Who Else Could We See?
Preacher seems like it will unspool with a little less reckless speed than the comics, taking the time to really build the characters brick by brick, rather than tossing the viewer in at the deep end. This will also allow for the story to expand a little, and if the show is successful, it gives us space to see many more seasons to come.
With that, we are sure to see some more of the major characters from the comics who are integral to Jesse Custer’s search for God, but who might not need to appear right in the first few episodes. The Saint of Killers as well as Herr Starr, The Allfather, and the other members of the Grail are pretty much guaranteed in order to keep the Preacher name on the series. Jesse’s parents, John and Christine Custer are sure to appear to build up his backstory further, and unless his past is changed completely, we should see Marie L’Angelle, TC and Jody as well.
Beyond that, there is a huge cast of colorful characters who may or may not appear, but few who are truly vital, especially as we can already see that the writers are taking some liberties with the storyline in the combination of Salvation and Anneville. Some of the more detailed stories can be re-created into something new, without losing the heart and soul of Preacher.
As with any show, we’ll be waiting to see where these characters go and who else appears along the way, but for now, we hope that these breakdowns are useful going into Season One. Preacher premieres May 22nd, 2016