"Preacher's" Jesse Cutler, Tulip, and Cassidy have finally hit the road together in the horror-comedy's second season, just as they were when they were first introduced in the Vertigo comic book. But executive producer Sam Catlin reminds you: even when things feel familiar to die-hard fans, the series promises a fresh twist around every corner.
A veteran of the "Breaking Bad" writers room who teamed with actor Seth Rogen and his longtime screenwriting partner Evan Goldberg ("Superbad," "Pineapple Express," "This Is the End") to develop the comics series first launched by writer Garth Ennis and the late artist Steve Dillon, Catlin tells Moviefone that -- after a first season that played much like a prequel to established mythology -- while the show's leaning closer to its roots -- fan-favorite the Saint of Killers has arrived, and Herr Star is close behind -- there are plenty of unexpected surprises on the road ahead as the characters start to feel more and more like the TV incarnation's own.
Moviefone: What were the creative lessons from the first season that you wanted to carry over into Season 2?
Sam Catlin: I just felt like there were certain things that we kind of discovered that only our show could sort of pull of, and we wanted to just do more of that. There's so much great TV out there, interesting TV, but there are certain things that we realized that only our show could get away with. So we tried to do more of that, in terms of the violence, and the comedy, and the perversity, and stuff like that.
I think we're excited by the fact that Jesse's sort of drive is an external one, and not sort of an internal one, a philosophical one. He's looking for God, not in himself, and not in the stars, but he's down the road somewhere and I'm going to find him. And sort of giving him a real external drive was really exciting and liberating for us as writers.
From the start, Season 2 is going to skew a little closer to what the comic book is, but you guys are still going to color outside the lines. So tell me about knowing that you've got this road map that you can follow, but you're making the show your own, you're making different creative choices and doing what you're able do for TV.
I think -- and Garth [Ennis] will tell you this -- you couldn't shoot the comic books as a TV show. And it's not even just a question of how much money it would cost you to be in the south of France and ancient Ireland from episode to episode. It's not just that -- it's just that we would actually run out of story pretty quickly.
So what we want to do is we always want to make "Preacher" feel like "Preacher," and we delve a little deeper into some of these, what look like little pit stops on the road in the comic book become whole episodes, or several episodes, or stuff like that.
We meet Herr Starr. How did Herr Starr become Herr Starr? What is this place, the Grail? How did the Grail start? The Saint of Killers -- what's in it for him? Why is he going after Jesse? What's his reward if he gets him? Stuff like that. So, hopefully, it feels like the show, in the sense of, it's a road show about a guy looking for God, and anything can happen, and has all these different genres, and we know all these characters. There'll be new characters – there just have to be. We're not going to leave any of the great set pieces, or the great characters, on the shelf for very long.
Give me some characters that you were excited making a little bit bigger. The Saint of Killers is one, I expect ...
The Saint of Killers -- having him in our world with Jesse and Tulip and Cassidy is very exciting. I think we'll probably spend some time and learn a little bit, we'll introduce the Grail, and some of its components -- very excited about that!
We're going to tease a little bit more about what happened to Jesse after his father was killed, and where he ended up after that, and how that sort of informs his search for God. We're going to learn a little bit more about Tulip back in the day, and when she and Jesse were sort of outlaws together, and what sort of drove them apart, and where she ended up as a result of their breakup.
And we're going to learn more about Cassidy in terms of, we're going to start to understand some of the wreckage that he left behind, and bridges that he burnt, and how will he try to make amends to people that he betrayed in the past, and how will that end up making things much, much worse as a result.
So, yeah, we get to sort of expand the world in a lot of different ways. We're getting much more in terms of, we're starting to pull more and more of these characters into the world, which is exciting.
Tone is the trick on any television show. You guys are standing right on that barbed wire fence with your mix of violence and comedy, and how you're able to portray it. Working with the network to know how far you can go, deciding amongst yourselves creatively how far is too far, and going over the edge when it can be fun. How do you work through those things?
The tone of the show -- it's a tricky tone. We're just borrowing and stealing from all these movies, and things that we like, that all work independently, but we're trying to put them all in the Monty Python, and Sam Peckinpah and Quentin Tarantino, and trying to put them all into one world where they don't sort of capsize each other. That's definitely part of the trick.
But I feel like the show can sustain more than I thought it could, in terms of its absurdity and all of that, in Season 1 for sure. In terms of the network, we definitely had more fretful calls from the network this year, but really, fewer. Whatever people are picturing in terms of handwringing, and you can't do that, I think everyone signed up for Garth's "Preacher," and that's what they're getting. American culture is so bereft and decayed at this point, that I think network executives have rightly just thrown up their hands and given up!
I love the show's use of music, often to a great comedic effect but still always with an awesome song. That's got to be a very tricky thing, too, to find those great pieces of music that are also commenting on the scene or enhancing a scene. So tell me a little bit about that aspect of it.
Yeah, that's the work of us and our music supervisors. Yeah, a lot of the fun is finding that right song. For "Come on Eileen," that was going to be something else. It didn't wear well over time. Then we were sort of running out of time because the actors had to learn the song.
It's a sort of nostalgic song. It's a sort of peppy song. It's a song that you shouldn't really enjoy, but you do, but you secretly do. So yeah, finding that right song is a lot of fun.
As you said, I'm sure at the beginning you thought, "How long can we sustain this with the material that we have to draw from?"I get the sense that you feel like you're pretty confident there's a lot of stories for you to tell, digging into the different corners of this world. Tell me about getting from there to here and realizing, "Oh, this is richer than I initially might have thought."
Oh, for sure. For this season, I won't say, but we were going to have like this season be two halves, and we were going to end up with one arc, and then move on to a whole other world for the second half. Then we kept pushing it off. It's like, "Well, maybe we can get to that world for the last four episodes." Then maybe just the last two.
Then we realized, there's so much story with this world that we're just with these characters that we're just bringing in, and we don't want to shortchange this other world that we're really excited about getting to. So yeah, it's exactly what you say: sometimes it's just a couple of issues in a comic book of places that Jesse winds up, but they're whole worlds for us on a TV show that we can really delve into.
Seth and Evan have known each other forever, worked together forever, and now you guys are a trinity.
Wait, no one's asked this! Is the question, who's who? Evan is Tulip. No, Evan is Cassidy! Evan is Cassidy. I'm probably Jesse because I'm the sort of the grim, distraught one. I guess that means Seth is Tulip. He's Tulip.
To have found your creative vibe together -- and you guys have your fingerprints on this in a lot of different ways, like getting behind the camera to direct -- how is that creative partnership experience now this deep into it all?
Oh God, it could have been a disaster. It really could have been a disaster. But they're great. It has all the elements of a failure to it, in a sense that you're bringing Seth and Evan, movie stars with a passion project of this thing that they've been loving for so long, and then bring it to me. They don't know me. I'm just some TV hack that they brought in. So it could have been fraught, and it just hasn't been.
I feel like, really from the beginning, we've wanted to make the same show. We talked about the same show. I think we see the show in the same way. There'll be times like, "Oh, that doesn't make sense." But in terms of the overall vision of the show, there's never been any arguments, really.
How often do you check in with Garth, either with a question or just to talk through ideas?
When was the last time I talked to him? Maybe a month or so ago. He'll just send an email saying, "The Saint wouldn't have that type of ammo." It's weird, because I know he really likes the show and is behind the show, but the details that he insists on when he insists on them, it's like, "Absolutely! Whatever you say, we're going to do that."
But I love Garth. He's also been a great collaborator. There's another thing that could have gone horrendously wrong, which is, my character, that's not the story. And he's been so gracious and generous with his magnum opus with us. He's just trusted us. I don't know why. Maybe it's just the cash, the simple money. It's a money grab for him, that greedy Irish immigrant! So yeah, keep watching it so we can enrich Garth Ennis.