Ruth Negga, who plays Tulip O’Hare on AMC’s Preacher, discusses whether Tulip and Jesse’s relationship is really “’til the end of the world,” how she really feels about Cassidy, and her love of bazookas.
Q: Were you thankful that Tulip’s intestine-aided gas siphoning in Episode 1 was done off camera?
A: I wouldn’t mind doing it on camera, to be honest, because it wouldn’t be real. [Laughs] It’s blood and gore, but as an actor, you know it’s not real so it’s much easier doing it than watching it.
Q: When did you find out that Tulip was secretly married? How, if at all, did that revelation impact the way you thought about your character?
A: It was when I got the script. Everything is under wraps. You get little tidbits about the arc, but I found that out when I read the script. It didn’t really surprise me because I think anything is possible with Tulip. She has so many secrets. I think a lot of what she does is for self-survival. She’s a woman who thinks on her feet and her decisions are really about self-preservation. I think that was one of those decisions. She’d just come through this trauma [of losing the baby] and she was looking for some sort of stability and balance in her life. She chose this particular person [Viktor] because he could offer that whilst she’s still a part of this world that she can’t seem to disconnect from.
Q: We know Tulip likes the dangerous side of Jesse, but she doesn’t like Jesse using Genesis, and she is incensed at the idea of him killing Viktor. Where does Tulip draw the line?
A: She does actually genuinely care for Viktor. He truly loved her and there’s a tenderness there. She’s not ruthless. There’s no psychopathy there. She’s a genuine human being, and I think she sees violence as a means to an end rather than something to do on a whim. She’s not a punisher. There has to be a reason and I don’t think she sees it as [Jesse’s] place. It kind of diminishes and belittles her a bit to have him think that he’s some sort of knight in shining armor who’s riding in on a white horse to save her because I think she’s got this. She’s seen evidence of his temper and he’s quick to use his fists. It doesn’t surprise her, but what surprises her is his arbitrary use of Genesis to solve dilemmas. I think she resents that. She’s keen on leveled playing grounds. There’s a fairness to her when it comes to certain situations. I think she also resents this idea of absolute power – that you can use power to control personal situations rather than his quest for God. He’s always justifying Genesis because he’s using it for the greater good, and I don’t think she sees it as a good enough reason in this instance.
Q: In the flashbacks, we see Jesse and Tulip after the loss of the baby. Why do you think Tulip was able to move on when Jesse wasn’t?
A: I don’t necessarily agree with that. I think people deal with grief in very different ways. For her, this idea that they can just make a replacement life isn’t good enough. I don’t think it feels truthful to her. I don’t think she’s moved on. I think she thinks it will deepen the grief and the fracture and you can’t just plaster over something like that. She doesn’t want to revisit the nature of that loss. It’s too painful for her. I think she wants to try to find a way to not revisit that. She doesn’t necessarily have a plan, but the only option is to find some sort of semblance of their life before Dallas. I don’t think it’s done with huge self-analysis in a distancing way. I think it has to do with coping mechanisms.
Q: Why do you think Tulip lied to Jesse about the birth control? How hard do you think it was for Tulip to go along with the ruse for so long?
A: It’s very hard for them to communicate. They’ve lost that communication and intimacy. Sometimes when something traumatic like that happens, this distancing happens and it feels like a very hard bridge to cross. They don’t seem to be on the same page anymore. They seem to be speaking different languages and that’s never happened to them before. They’ve always had an intimacy and a way of speaking to one another and she feels that’s lost. The only thing she can do is leave. That seems to be the only option.
Q: Given the awful things they say to each other in the flashbacks, how do you think they made it back to each other?
A: Obviously, Tulip returns to Annville, looking for him to do a job with her, but I think there’s this hope that they can reconcile and she hopes to lure him back to their pre-Dallas life. But she’s no fool. She realizes that there’s this fissure that’s opened up and I think that’s a cloud hanging over their road trip. She doesn’t have many other options. She’s on the run from – I assume – many people, which is her reluctance to go to New Orleans. Jesse’s now her only family. You see them try to restart that communication, but they’re both in very different places. Sometimes it’s hard to get the attention of someone who’s fully invested in something else, which is his God mission.
Q: Tulip admits that she and Jesse are bad for each other. Does she ever wonder if it’s futile for them to try to be together “’til the end of the world?”?
A: When your options throughout your life have been minimal, you take the best of a bad bunch. She does love this person. She spent her childhood with him and he looked out for her. I think she does see that that person is still there. The thing is that they’ve always needed each other in some kind of way. What worries Tulip more and more throughout the series is that he may not need her. Maybe she needs him more and he’s not always there. That’s a very hurtful and shocking realization for someone who’s very independent and autonomous. That need for someone becomes an Achilles’ heel.
Q: While the flashbacks demonstrate why Tulip would want to keep the secret of her and Cassidy from Jesse, it also shows how dangerous it is to lie to Jesse. How does she walk that tightrope?
A: She’s always had to be a quick thinker as you do when you’re an assassin. You really have to choose what the best option is. You can’t let your conscience get in the way of that because it’s about self-preservation, but she’s also trying to protect Cassidy because she’s seen what [Jesse] can do to people like with Reggie and what could potentially happen to Viktor. Tulip is very good at compartmentalizing things and if she sees that a revelation can make things worse, she’d rather lie about it. That’s an interesting concept – is it necessary to always tell the truth in certain situations if it protects people?
Q: Do you think Tulip is treating Cassidy as a sidekick, as he suggests? Does she not appreciate him as a friend?
A: I think she feels very fondly for him. In Season 1, we see that she hates people being treated unfairly and she thinks Jesse has treated Cassidy unfairly. [Cassidy’s] shown loyalty and she appreciates and admires that loyalty, but I don’t think she would ever acquiesce. I wouldn’t say she’d use the word sidekick, but he’s definitely not in charge. [Laughs] She’s very adamant about that, but they heavily rely on one another.
Q: What was the more interesting/fun weapon: an ear of corn or the wedding pager?
A: I really like the bazooka! The bazooka remains my all-time favorite. I really enjoyed that scene and the idea that it’s arts and crafts. She’s very crafty and that was so funny to me. It’s hard to beat a homemade bazooka that you make with two kids. [Laughs]
Read a Q&A with Dominic Cooper, who plays Jesse.
Preacher airs Mondays at 9/8c. To stay up-to-date on all the latest news, sign up for the Preacher Insiders Club.