Anatol Yusef, who plays DeBlanc on AMC’s Preacher, talks about how DeBlanc and Fiore are like babies, how the other world views humans and what that ringing phone could mean.
Q: Coming off of your time on Boardwalk Empire, what drew you to the role of DeBlanc?
A: There was a lot about this character and this role that was awkward, but ultimately, there seemed to be a danger to the writing, and that was very appealing. There’s a shock to it. The show exists in all of these different worlds at any one time and these characters — both DeBlanc and Fiore – are kind of like babies. They’re thrown into the world. It was appealing to play these people who were discovering what it means to be human. In a way, they’re probably the most human characters on the show. They’re set down on the Earth bewildered, which is how a lot of people feel a lot of the time. They don’t really know what they’re doing. And it’s nice to be doing some crazy comedy.
Q: Had you read the comics?
A: I had a sense of what it was without really getting into them. I didn’t want to get into them because this isn’t a comic, and Sam [Catlin], Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg] were clear about that. Also, DeBlanc and Fiore aren’t hugely featured in the comic. They pop in and out. So, it probably wasn’t the best guide for me. The world of the comic is slightly different to the one that’s being created on the show. It’s a bit like Meyer Lansky on Boardwalk Empire where the Meyer Lansky that Terence [Winter] and the writers created was their Meyer Lansky rather than the Meyer Lansky. That kind of stuff can be counter-productive because at the end of the day, we were creating DeBlanc.
Q: How would you describe DeBlanc? What’s driving him at this point in the story?
A: He’s an angel on a mission to retrieve this thing from Jesse. That’s really all he is at the beginning. He wants to get in, get out and get back because under his watch, this thing has gotten loose. Both he and Fiore are on a mission they have no idea how to complete. The way I think about them is: Their dad has sent them on a fishing trip with all the best equipment, the best rods, all the gear and everything you could ever want and need, but no one has told them what a fish is.
Q: You mentioned Fiore and DeBlanc not knowing what it is to be human. Do you think that’s what complicates their journey? Do they start to learn as they go along?
A: We had filtered ideas about it, and one idea that floated around was maybe they learned stuff from movies, but what they did or didn’t know was never crystallized. That was awkward at times because all you could play was their motivation, which is this mission. The writing, the situations and their meeting of other characters on the show illustrate how ill-equipped they really are. What we do know is that DeBlanc was willing to take the risk. They’re winging it, and I think DeBlanc is more aware that they’re winging it than Fiore is for most of the season. Deep down, DeBlanc probably thinks that [Jesse’s power] ultimately belongs to them.
Q: Although they’re partners, DeBlanc and Fiore are different. How would you describe their relationship? Do they approach the mission differently?
A: I guess they’re kind of like surrogate parents thrust together with an orphan child. They begin to become attached to each other and begin to have a recognizably human relationship. I think DeBlanc realizes that he needs Fiore and at times, they’re not on the same page, but they’re united by this one thing. Ultimately, I think it’s more interesting that there’s a coming together rather than a conflict.
Q: In Episode 4, DeBlanc and Fiore want Cassidy to bring Jesse to them. Do they really trust him?
A: They’re kind of using each other, I think. They believe he’s a direct link to Jesse, so they have no choice but to trust him. DeBlanc still trusts that if they can get to their “child,” then that’s all they need. Remember, DeBlanc and Fiore can be killed and hurt and come back, so things like money and pain don’t mean anything to them.
Watch: The Making of That Deadly Van Crash
Q: Episode 4 introduces a mysterious phone, which seems to cause some fear in them when it starts ringing. What are they afraid of?
A: They tried to bring this thing back… without anyone noticing that it ever left. When that phone rings, it’s the last thing they ever wanted.
Q: How does DeBlanc feel that this entity seems to have chosen Jesse?
A: DeBlanc doesn’t believe it’s a true connection because he’s seen this thing be inside people – whether it chooses them or they choose it – and it’s temporary. Whoever has it isn’t necessarily special… DeBlanc thinks that, ultimately, it doesn’t belong to humans and it belongs to these angel janitors of the other world. I always felt that DeBlanc and the angels looked at humans as silly and wasteful. I always thought of him like George Carlin – who I adore – because of DeBlanc’s acquired superiority over humans and their persistent mistakes — like Carlin’s brilliant skits on war and the environment. But like Carlin, now Deblanc has the problem of marrying those opinions with actually being human, making them essentially outsiders. I guess I wanted Deblanc to be a cross between Carlin himself and his character Rufus in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, with his stance on humanity and as an other-worldly presence. DeBlanc’s viewpoint is conflicted and while we’re experiencing DeBlanc, he is human.
Q: DeBlanc and Fiore are a bit like Kenny from South Park — they keep dying and coming back. Does that make you more confident about job security?
A: [Laughs] Clearly anything is possible!
Read an interview with Tom Brooke, who plays Fiore.
Preacher airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Sign up for the Insiders Club to be the first to receive Preacher exclusives and updates.