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A drama about a wayward small-town preacher with a checkered past and his half-hearted attempts at tending his flock. An action-comedy that includes as many pop culture references as car chases and fight scenes. A supernatural thriller about a mysterious...

Violence, religion and pop culture combine in Preacher | Toronto Star

A drama about a wayward small-town preacher with a checkered past and his half-hearted attempts at tending his flock. An action-comedy that includes as many pop culture references as car chases and fight scenes. A supernatural thriller about a mysterious...

Violence, religion and pop culture combine in Preacher | Toronto Star

A drama about a wayward small-town preacher with a checkered past and his half-hearted attempts at tending his flock. An action-comedy that includes as many pop culture references as car chases and fight scenes. A supernatural thriller about a mysterious substance afflicting God’s shepherds that also happens to have a vampire character.

There are many ways to describe Preacher, the new series from AMC that stars Dominic Cooper (Agent Carter) and premieres at 10 p.m. Sunday.

Executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg offered their interpretation to journalists in Los Angeles.

“At its core, Preacher is a Western,” said Rogen, who, with Goldberg, also directed the first two episodes. “Before we started making the pilot, we didn’t watch a lot of Westerns, honestly. If you had asked us if we are fans of Westerns, I would not have said yes. But then we started watching all these old Westerns and I realized what we are fans of is a lot of directors who rip off all these Westerns. We very much understood the cinematic language of these Westerns and the look of these old Westerns.”

The show is an adaptation of the hugely popular comic book series by author Garth Ennis and illustrator Steve Dillon, which was first published in 1995 and is set in a small Texas town.

Along with Brit Cooper, who plays the titular man of the cloth Jesse Custer, the largely international cast includes Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga as fast-talking, reckless-driving femme fatale Tulip and English actor Joe Gilgun as a century-old Irish vampire called Cassidy who takes up residence in Jesse’s church.

Just about every character engages in some sort of fisticuffs during the season, including a scene in the first episode that Rogen said is an homage to a battle in Kill Bill: Volume 2.

“We really liked this idea, especially in the pilot, of each character getting a fight that kind of defines them in some capacity,” he said. “As fans of action movies, it was always disappointing that when we’d watch our fight scenes (in our movies), we were not completely thrilled with them. We just put a huge amount of thought and energy in how to differentiate them (on the show), and choreograph them and shoot them, and hold them up to a standard that we were proud of. “

Goldberg and Rogen, both ardent fans of the show’s source material, stressed that there are differences between the AMC program and the books. Examples include making Tulip African-American and, as Goldberg says, “a little sassier,” and adjusting the backstory for a gunshot victim known in the town as Arseface.

Played by American actor Ian Colletti, the teen character in the comics is obsessed with Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, a reference they worried would now be outdated.

There’s another change that seems obvious.

“You don’t see him ever being a preacher during the comics,” said Rogen. “We thought it’s called Preacher; he’s dressed as a preacher the whole time. Maybe you should see him being a preacher?”

So is the show making a statement about religion?

“Religion is one of the themes of the show, for sure,” said Rogen. “But we don’t view it as the first and foremost overriding umbrella for which the whole show exists. Obviously he’s a preacher, so there’s some theological element. But I think it’s more to do with the characters’ morality and who they are as people rather than if they believe in God or don’t believe in God. I think it speaks to the characters than us trying to make some statement about religion.”

Goldberg and Rogen are childhood friends who grew up in and around Vancouver. Their perception of America was based on movies like Clerks and Pulp Fiction, not really views of a destitute town in the Lone Star state.

Rogen said the Northern Ireland-born Ennis’s Preacher comic offers a “cinematic perspective of America.”

“I think Garth captured it in the comic and I think most people will agree,” agreed Goldberg. “America is the craziest place because there’s extremes of everything. Texas and New York are both in America. It’s a crazy country with a lot of stories to tell.”

Meaning there’s lots of material if the show returns for a second season.

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