Malcolm Barrett, who plays Hoover on AMC’s Preacher, discusses what his character really thinks of the Grail, how Hoover bounces back after screw-ups, and facing down the Saint of Killers.
Q: How much did you know about Preacher before being cast in this role?
A: It was a show I had seen the promos for. I was a big fan of Seth [Rogen] and Evan [Goldberg]’s work over time, but the show seemed like exactly the tone of show I like, which is dark comedy and violence and tongue-in-cheek. I got the audition, and it was a great opportunity to binge the show and check it out to get the style of it. I binged through the entire season and whatever comics I could get to get the idea of Hoover. Then I auditioned and wound up getting it. After that, Julie Ann Emery and I talked, and she took me to this place where I got to see all these comics, so I’ve read through pretty much the entire thing except for the very last issue.
Q: How do you think your version of Hoover compares to the Hoover in the comics?
A: First of all, this is the best live-action version of Hoover to date. It’s also the only one, but still! [Laughs] I think I’m relatively close to the characterization that’s on the page. He’s got a good heart, but doesn’t exactly have a noticeable killer instinct, although he does have that in the comics in some instances. It’s very similar. He’s a guy with a lot of heart who’s probably a little misdirected in working for this organization and trying to make the best of it – and also carries a gun.
Q: How does Hoover feel about the Grail and its mission? How do you think he got into this line of work?
A: I think this is definitely something he believes in, but you first start to see the doubt of what they’re doing once Herr Starr comes into the picture. … That’s where we first see that Hoover is not necessarily 100 percent behind this. Featherstone talks about it being a great honor to be killed, but you see a seed of doubt within Hoover. The same happens when Hoover discovers that the descendent of Jesus is mentally challenged or that his bloodline has been made crazy from inbreeding. Herr Starr calls him some kind of imbecilic or idiot, and you can see that Hoover is clearly offended. Hoover is religious and is driven by what he believes to be pure, but he’s not necessarily a zealot. His eyes are open enough to have doubt.
Q: How would you describe Hoover’s relationship with Featherstone? Does it upset him how little she seems to think of him?
A: I love that they lay it out on the line almost immediately when Hoover is about to be killed and tells her he loves her and she says, “Shut up.” He’s willing to do almost anything for her, and it will be interesting to see how far he goes for the organization, for her and for what he wants as well. I think he’s bothered when Featherstone cuts down his advances, but only a little bit. He’s blinded by how he feels about her. I think he’s probably bothered by the zealot nature of her, but I think overall, he’s completely infatuated with her and that gives him a little more leeway to go along with these plans.
Q: What about Starr? He’s obviously an intimidating figure. How does Hoover choose to handle his interactions with him?
A: Hoover is interesting in terms of how he deals with Herr Starr because he’s just outside of the organization enough to where he doesn’t always get social cues. Sometimes, he’s intimidated by Herr Starr – like when he’s getting a gun drawn on him – but before he met him, he wasn’t intimidated by him. Before he goes to talk to the Saint of Killers, he lets Herr Starr know, “I’m not really good at this.” He’s unfortunately honest in some respects. [Starr] scares him but he’s also like, “We’re dudes. We’re guys, man. We can figure this out.”
Q: Hoover has made some pretty major screw-ups this season, most notably with Starr’s rape fantasy. How does he feel about his job performance? Does he worry he’s on thin ice?
A: I don’t think he ever blames himself for these mishaps. With the rape fantasy, he knows he messed up, but he just assumed something about Herr Starr. I think he feels, at the end of the day, that other people should relate to his mistakes. [Laughs] Hoover is surprisingly good at his job, but is always the first to take the brunt of any negativity that happens as a result. He’s humble enough. Self-preservation isn’t necessarily his first thought, for some reason.
Q: In Episode 12, Hoover gets a very important mission involving the Saint. Is he shocked to get such a big task? Does he look at that as a chance to redeem himself?
A: Hoover is aware of his limits and he embraces it. That’s the difference between him and everybody else. Hoover is not cocky. I think he wants to do a good job and definitely doesn’t want to die. He’s willing to sacrifice when it comes to Featherstone and wants to keep his life. When it came to handling the Saint, it was a real big moment for him to step up and know that everything was relying on him and he had to accomplish that. He couldn’t win by being the one to take a hit. He actually had to do the job and get it done. He does want to impress Herr Starr and be the best agent – he just happens to not be.
Q: How afraid is Hoover of the Saint? Is he surprised when he’s finally able to talk him into the plan?
A: Now that I think about it, Hoover gets his life threatened a lot! [Laughs] He’s almost used to it, but is still very afraid all the time. He doesn’t have the killer instincts, so he’s definitely afraid of the Saint of Killers. Hoover recognizes he’s not above that. He doesn’t have the preacher’s powers, he’s not excited to die for the cause like Featherstone and he knows he’s not the most accomplished agent. So, for him to try to convince the Saint of Killers is almost an impossible task that he knows he’s not ready for. The fact that he’s able to do it is a huge moment for him. He was counting his blessings that any part of his conversation was able to work and he was happy to get out of there as soon as he could.
A: I don’t think he’s interested in killing them. His goal is to accomplish what Herr Starr wants, which is for the preacher to be defeated and not killed. That’s what he’s hoping for in that moment. He’s less concerned, emotionally, about them being killed. He’s concerned about getting their plan accomplished.
Q: Did you enjoy playing a character inside a character when you assumed the role of “Rodney”?
A: It was great. Hoover’s been fun because he’s slowly developed in a more low-key way than Herr Starr and Featherstone, who got really grand entrances. We’ve taken the reverse route with Hoover. We see him as a bartender and swinging a sign. To actually have him play a real character inside a character was a fun opportunity to explore. It allowed for people to see another side of Hoover and that he can step up when he’s called upon. People don’t realize how strong he is. He’s perfectly willing to go in there. He’s very aware that when he slaps Featherstone, he’s going to get his ass kicked and there’s some bravery in doing that which he should get some credit for.
Q: What was your favorite memory from being on set?
A: That Rodney scene is one of my favorites. But the allegiance that Julie and I have created was fun. Whenever you get a role where you’re playing partners with someone, it’s always great if you can have some good chemistry – and we do. We’re very Heckle and Jeckle and almost reminiscent of the angels from last year. Once we slip into that vibe, it’s very comfortable and it’s been very rewarding as an actor.
Q: So, you enjoy getting smashed with a guitar?
A: I loved it! [Laughs] If anyone is going to break my ribs, I hope it’s Julie.
Read a Q&A with Julie Ann Emery, who plays Featherstone.
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