AMC’s ‘Preacher’ puts spotlight on New Mexico

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Left, Jesse Custer in the comic book series “Preacher.” Dominic Cooper, right, as Jesse Custer. (Courtesy of Vertigo and Matthias Clamer/AMC)

One of the most buzzed-about new TV series is making the leap from page to screen on Sunday – and it took more than 20 years.

Once again, AMC is building on its relationship with New Mexico-based projects, this time with its TV series “Preacher” – a supernatural, twisted and darkly comedic drama that follows a West Texas minister named Jesse Custer, played by Dominic Cooper. A mysterious entity named Genesis inhabits him and he develops a highly unusual power. Genesis is an unnatural coupling of an angel and a demon.

You can’t go to a movie theater or watch a TV show without seeing a trailer or promo for the series. At WonderCon in California in March, a sneak preview was shown and the Internet went crazy. Various online outlets have called it the next huge comic book series.

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The comic book series, created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, premiered in 1995. Over the course of two decades, writers, directors and producers have tried to bring it to the big screen.

In 1996, there was an idea to make an independent film.

Then, a few years went by and talk of an HBO adaptation began to surface.

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Left, Tulip O’Hare in the comic book series “Preacher.” Ruth Negga, right, as Tulip O’Hare. (Courtesy of Vertigo and Matthias Clamer/AMC)

Next, director Sam Mendes was attached to a project. Then a screenplay from screenwriter John August surfaced.

“Steve and I had gotten quite cynical with the whole thing,” Ennis said. “If everyone wants to buy the option every two or so years and give us money only to realize it won’t work, then it was good for us.”

About two years ago, Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg entered from stage left.

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Left, Cassidy in the comic book “Preacher.” Joseph Gilgun, right, as Cassidy. (Courtesy of Vertigo and Matthias Clamer/AMC)

The duo had worked together on successful projects such as “Superbad,” “Knocked Up,” “Pineapple Express” and “The Interview.” They hooked up with “Breaking Bad” showrunner Sam Catlin.

Now, finally, their version of this serially failed project will make it to the screen.

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The 10-episode series will premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday, then repeat on May 29. The second episode will air on June 5.

“I read the treatment, and everything just seemed right,” Ennis said. “The entire proposal was brilliant, and the characters were coming to life.”

“Preacher” Custer; his ex-girlfriend, Tulip, played by Ruth Negga; and an Irish vagabond vampire named Cassidy, played by Joseph Gilgun, come together, and when they do, they are thrust into a crazy world populated by a cast of characters from heaven, hell and everywhere in between.

Production took place at Albuquerque Studios, where the majority of the sets were built.

The producers used a similar formula in casting as they did with AMC’s megahit “Beaking Bad” – an ensemble of good actors without a big star.

“I’m delighted with the spirit of the comic being kept,” Ennis said. “When I saw a still of Dominic as Jesse, it was amazing.”

Ennis created “Preacher” largely on instinct and says the supernatural element came to the forefront quickly as he was writing.

“I wanted it to be an American story,” he says. “The story of Cassidy being an immigrant is partly my own story as an immigrant. And the Western needed to be the heart of the story.”

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Left, Eugene Root and Sheriff Hugo Root in the comic book “Preacher.” Right, Ian Colletti as Eugene Root and W. Earl Brown as Sheriff Hugo Root in “Preacher.” (Courtesy of Vertigo and Matthias Clamer/AMC)

Ennis serves as co-executive producer on the show and was kept in the loop with the scripts.

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“They’ve been very good about giving me access since the very beginning,” he said. “I’ve seen nine of the 10 episodes. The more I see of the show, the more inclined I’ve been to back off and leave them to it. Their vision is clear, and I’m delighted with it.”

Ennis is also pleased with how production has used various areas around New Mexico.

“Annville is a town that I created in my head,” he said. “To see many of these areas brought to life has been an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see the journey continue. The locations on all of these shoots are stellar – something that definitely helps push the story forward.”


An interesting cast

  • Jesse Custer, played by Dominic Cooper

Trying to fulfill a promise to his dead father, former criminal Jesse Custer has returned to his hometown of Annville, Texas, to lead his father’s church as the town preacher. But when he’s inhabited by a mysterious entity, he’s forced to wrestle with a new kind of mission.

  • Tulip O’Hare, played by Ruth Negga

A volatile, hell-raising force of nature, Tulip O’Hare is Jesse Custer’s ex-girlfriend and one true love. She’s also a gifted criminal.

  • Cassidy, played by Joseph Gilgun

Cassidy is an Irish vagabond, a glutton for every possible vice, and quickly becomes Jesse’s wildest, best friend.

  • Eugene Root, played by Ian Coletti

Teenager Eugene Root has the heart of a saint and the face of a monster.

  • Sheriff Hugo Root, played by W. Earl Brown

Sheriff Root is Annville’s local lawman, a tough, conservative redneck who loves his deformed son.


On TV

“Preacher,” filmed in New Mexico, will premiere at 8 p.m. Sunday on AMC.


UpFront is a daily front-page news and opinion column. Comment directly to Arts Editor Adrian Gomez at agomez@abqjournal.com. Go to ABQjournal.com/letters/new to submit a letter to the editor.

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