Sam Catlin, executive producer and showrunner of AMC’s Preacher, discusses introducing Herr Starr, why Hell had to feature Hitler, and why Jesse and Cassidy are headed for a real confrontation later this season.
Q: What’s been your favorite aspect of seeing Jesse & Co. on the road this season?
A: Jesse has a clear external drive. He has someone he’s looking for that can be found. It’s not just God in the abstract. It’s not just the intellectual or theological idea. There’s a guy he’s looking for. We love leaning into that. We love being in New Orleans. It feels like the perfect Preacher location. It’s sort of corrupt and haunted and it’s a deeply religious and sinful town. That’s been amazing. They’re out in the wild world where so much more is possible.
Q: When you knew you were going to Hell, was Hitler your first choice to put on that cellblock? How do you think that story upends expectations of who that guy is?
A: I mean, who would be my second choice? [Laughs] What’s Hell without Hitler? For us, the intention is: Is Hitler the Hitler of old or has he turned over a new leaf? That’s the conundrum that Eugene is faced with – if Hitler is to be trusted or not. It’s not a question we really answer until perhaps the end of the season.
Q: The Jesse-Tulip–Cassidy triangle wasted no time rearing its head, particularly during Jesse and Cassidy’s heated stand-off in Episode 5. Do you think they can remain close friends or will this volatile streak between them grow?
A: I think it’s more the latter than the former. Those two are headed for a real confrontation. By the end of the season, I think things will be a lot worse for them before they get better.
Q: Speaking of Episode 5, that episode revealed a lot about Jesse and Tulip’s past. Do moments like that stand in the way of their “till the end of the world” love story?
A: It’s like any couple, really. There are little betrayals and mistrusts and slights – except theirs are obviously on a much bigger scale. That feeds a lot of the volatility between the two of them. On a certain level, they don’t think they deserve each other. It creates a lot of mistrust and doubt – and great sex.
Q: When did you decide Cassidy was going to have a son? How does Denis help you show off a new side of Cassidy?
A: I always liked the idea that Cassidy could have dozens of children scattered throughout North America and Europe. For all of Cassidy’s charm, he’s the quintessential, well-meaning dead-beat dad who misses 10 birthdays and shows up with two ponies. It felt like another window into showing Cassidy’s historic unreliability and something of a foreshadowing. People who know Cassidy over time don’t like him. He gives Jesse a warning. He tells Jesse of how he tells people he’s not a good guy and they don’t seem to listen. He’s a fan-favorite and we all love Joe and Cassidy, but I think as the season progresses, we’ll see a side of him that won’t be surprising in hindsight but hopefully will be disturbing.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for the “soul ID,” and Jesse’s clever con to neutralize the Saint of Killers, at least for now?
A: We didn’t want the Word to work on the Saint in the same way it did in the comics because it felt like Jesse would be able to neutralize him so easily. So, we asked ourselves the question of why it doesn’t work on the Saint and came up with the idea that it doesn’t because he’s absolutely without soul. He’s had his entire soul removed and Genesis needs some element of a soul to work and affect people. It allowed us to write Jesse’s backstory and maybe he knew a little bit about people selling their souls as a family business and saw it as an opportunity to pull a fast one on the Saint. But what he doesn’t anticipate, obviously, is that the only soul that’s going to work is his own.
A: We’ve been waiting to introduce Herr Starr, Hoover, and Featherstone ever since we started. We couldn’t wait to get to them, so it was a thrill to finally introduce him in a big way. He perhaps doesn’t know what he wants to do with Jesse besides kill him, but I think his plans will change. His and Jesse’s destiny will be intertwined throughout the rest of the series, hopefully.
Q: This season has been even crazier than Season 1. What’s the hardest part of amping up the action and supernatural elements, while also trying to ground the story?
A: It’s keeping the human element of these three characters. What do they want? What do they need from each other? What are they missing? What drives them? And then also, having the world be crazy and over the top and all of that without one stealing from the other. That’s the trick of the show and what we as writers, actors, directors and designers have to try to always figure out. That’s what they pay us for! I feel like by the end of this season, we understand much more about what this world is and what it can do.
Read a Q&A with Pip Torrens, who plays Herr Starr.
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