Ruth Negga, who plays Tulip O’Hare on AMC’s Preacher, discusses making her comic book character explode on screen, how terrifyingly easy it is to make a bazooka and why Tulip really returned to Annville.
Q: How much did you know about the comics before you got the part? What did you like about Tulip?
A: I was familiar with Garth’s comics but I hadn’t read them. Once I got the audition material, I read all of them and made myself as familiar as possible with that crazy world just so I could plug in and prepare. I was impressed by her unapologetic nature. She really owns who she is as a human being and isn’t going to censor or mute herself for anybody else. Her pursuit of owning the space that she takes up and not being – in any way shape or form – diminished by anybody or anything. She’s just straight up bold.
Q: Garth Ennis praised your take on Tulip in comparison to the Tulip in the comics. How did you develop her?
A: Evan [Goldberg], Seth [Rogen] and Sam [Catlin] wanted her to explode onto the screen. I think they wanted to hook people on her straight away and I think it works. The way they’ve constructed it is that you’re introduced to her in the middle of her assassinating a few people and at the end [of that scene] of carnage and chaos, you’re moving forward with her as the little kids are. That’s quite a clever construction. Even though she had this anarchistic, nihilistic nature, for some reason, we want to look after her. I think it’s because she’s an underdog and you can tell that she roots for the underdogs. From that speech she has with the kids, you end up really rooting for her character.
Q: What is Tulip’s driving force at the beginning of the story?
A: Something happened in her relationship [with Jesse]. An event happened that ruptured their relationship and saw them go their separate ways. I think she’s come back because she’s lived four years without Jesse. It’s quite simple. I don’t think she wants to live without him. Their relationship is kind of Bonnie and Clyde-esque. Essentially, they’re soulmates and it’s that truth that has propelled her back to Annville under the guise of getting him back into that criminal lifestyle. But I think it goes deeper than that. I think she needs him not as a defender or minder – she’s able to do that for herself — but I think in many ways, he does mind her and he’s sort of a balm in this crazy world for her. I think that’s the truth in why she returns to Annville, which she obviously hates.
Q: In Episode 1, we see Tulip clearly knows how to fight. Where’d she learn how?
A: I think she was a playground scrapper. If anyone attacked her or spoke badly about her or her family, I think she would just [throw] her fists up. [Laughs]
Watch: Tulip Fights Off a Gangster
Q: Ok, so where’d she learn to make a bazooka?
A: Type in “How to make a bazooka” on YouTube and there’s literally about 15 videos. It’s terrifying! And they work, but I think we took some creative license with the idea that she could take down a helicopter. I think that’s what the creative punch is. It’s so funny that she goes out with the bazooka, this tiny woman, and you as the viewer are like the children who are told to stay in the basement and to not come out until the noise is over. You’re anticipating what could have possibly gone down and I think that’s where the humor comes – when you see that helicopter. It’s partly tongue-in-cheek because that’s not actually possible, but it’s indicative of how we’re meant to feel about Tulip. She is a powerhouse and she is equally as able to take on the big boys as Jesse or Cassidy is. That’s what that scene is saying.
Q: We see Tulip’s softer side with those children. Where does that come from?
A: I’ve always said that Tulip is not amoral. She has a moral code of conduct. Somewhere within that is her identification with the underdog, or people who might not be able to stick up for themselves or who are weaker. I think that’s why she’s so easygoing with the kids and tender with them. That’s part of the reason, but it’s also because she’s an open person. She’s not emotionally stunted or anything, but I just think something happened in her childhood that made her fragile and vulnerable. So, I think she connects with children and that childlike wonder. Children are not a threat to her and I think she enjoys being open with people, but usually she’s wary. I get the feeling that with kids, she doesn’t have to worry about being judged.
Q: Jesse clearly tries to keep his distance from Tulip. How does that make her feel?
A: I think she is rather taken aback at his resistance because I don’t’ think she’s experienced that resistance from him ever before. I think she comes back [to Annville] expecting it to be much easier than it is, and then she has to pull herself up and be clever about it. I think that for both of them, a lot of feelings come right to the surface when they see each other again that were unexpected and are perhaps challenging. Jesse, for one, has suppressed a lot of memories and wounds. With the return of Tulip, she kind of takes the cork off the bottle. I think that’s difficult for him. I think we’re going to find that it’s quite cathartic for both of them.
Q: Jesse is trying his best to change into a “better person.” Will Tulip ever allow him to or does she think he needs their criminal life to be happy?
A: I think she believes in their connection so much that she can’t imagine that he would be happier without her. It’s not arrogance. It’s just what she really, truly believes. But there’s something that he says to her [later in the season] that causes her to rethink a lot of what she’s doing back in this town. That’s all I can say.
Read an interview with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, executive producers and directors of the show.
Preacher returns Sunday, June 5 at 9/8c on AMC. Sign up for the Insiders Club to be the first to receive Preacher exclusives and updates.Read More