Preacher Q&A — Sam Catlin (Executive Producer/Showrunner)
Sam Catlin, the executive producer and showrunner of Preacher, talks about the challenge of ending the series, why Featherstone didn't kill Herr Starr and the scene that elicited some concern from the powers that be.
Q: What a season. What was it like in the writer’s room, bringing it all to an end?
A: It was fun. We had the benefit of knowing how we wanted it to end and knowing this was the end from the very beginning, so that was a great luxury to us. The big challenge was just making sure each one of these characters that we've grown attached to over the years had sort of gotten their due, so hopefully our audience will agree that they have.
Q: How would you say our three main characters have changed from the start of this series to the end?
A: I'd always looked at their arc as sort of a coming of age story. I think they're overgrown kids. From when we first meet them and for much of the time we spend with them, they're kind of like latchkey kids and they're still looking for some sort of forgiveness or some sort of parental authority to guide them. And I think that's the theme of the show, which is just that, at least as far as they're concerned, it's about them growing up and being the adults in the universe.
Q: There were a lot of characters and storylines from past seasons brought together in Season 4. What was it like pulling it all together?
A: I feel like we've sort of tried to do that every year. The show's expanded since Season 2, in terms of characters and storylines. It's always a challenge with so many characters that we want to service in just 10 episodes. That challenge is something we always had. It was really just about how do we end each of these characters, how do we say goodbye to each of them in a way that's satisfying, surprising but also makes sense.
Q: Was it satisfying finally getting to play out the scenes of the apocalypse?
A: It was nice for our characters to stop talking about it and actually be in the process of enacting one, so, yeah, that was always fun. The challenge of the scenes in the Masada theater — you've got 150 extras that are standing there and they're bored and they're not getting paid a lot of money, but, for every take, you need them to be engaged and listening. I mean, the people that they're playing want to be there; they're rabid zealots. It's always a challenge when you're dealing with a mass amount of background actors — just to have energy and enthusiasm— [it] was really important that we get that. There's also a lot of visual effects that we had too because I think we had at most 150 actors, but we wanted it to feel like there were a hundred times that. And so there's a lot of angles and things that we had to always be keeping in mind, knowing that we were going to expand the theater with visual effects. That was the type of stuff, that sort of math that always made my head hurt, but it was always good that there were people around that knew what they were doing on the set.
Q: Who is your favorite unlikely duo of this series and why?
A: Jesus and Hitler, that they were the kind of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern characters for much of the last season was fun. I think both Tyson [Ritter] and Noah [Taylor] had a lot of fun with that. I like the relationship that God had with Starr. I thought they were very funny together. And Featherstone and where she goes with her sort of ill-fated love for Starr — that was also pretty satisfying.
It's funny. For the longest time we just assumed that Featherstone, [that] the scales would fall from her eyes and she would kill Starr. But it was something that, halfway through the last season, we just thought this world shouldn't be quite so morally consistent. It felt more Preacher, more chaotic that, just because you're a bad guy, [it] doesn't mean you get punished in the end and we felt there was something subversive about that that fit the tone of the show overall.
A: It may be two years in the future, but we liked showing that they are who they were when we first met them — which are outlaws, and this is what they do and this is what they love to do and this is what makes them feel alive. But it wasn't like they were reformed. I think at some point we had Jesse teaching Sunday school, but it just didn't quite seem that growing up, to Jesse and Tulip, meant abandoning every facet of their previous lives. But we showed that they were actually, for all their fears and apprehensions, especially Tulip, about being good parents. We thought it was important that a big element of how we ended their story was that they're actually, even though they're still living a life of crime, caring, attentive parents.
Q: What did you not expect coming into this project that you now know?
A: I mean, everything. It was the first time I ran a show. I'd seen people run shows before, but I'd never obviously done it myself. There were literally a thousand things that you just can't plan for. It's like having a kid. You can hear other people talk about it, who say, "You won't believe how tired you are," but, until you do it yourself, you've got to be okay with making a bunch of mistakes, you've got to be okay with personnel decisions, you have to be okay with making a decision even though you're not a hundred percent sure. You're asked your opinion on 50 things a day and sometimes you're just sick of the sound of your own voice. Now no one's asking my opinion. It's really kind of lonely. My kids don't ask me what I think about anything, so I'm already a little nostalgic. I literally got up this morning and I had like two personal emails, two spam and a Google alert that said I have no scheduled activities for today — which, I can't tell you, it's great because when you're running a show you get, I don't know, 200, 250 emails a day for long stretches of it. Running a show's the best job you could ever ask for, as a writer, and I look forward to doing it again, but it's nice to wake up sometimes and not have to answer email.
Q: What is the wildest scene from this series, in your opinion?
A: AMC signed on for Garth Ennis's Preacher so it wasn't like they were like, "Okay, we're going to do Preacher, but we're going to make it palatable for viewers and water it down." They really, really did not get in our way, in terms of the dozens and dozens of inappropriate things that we put on America's television screen. But I'll say that the one thing I remember from Season 1 that made them the most nervous — and there were probably subsequent scenes after that that they wished they had been more nervous about — but I think the thing that made them most nervous was the children's heads that the Saint of Killers dumps out of a bag in a bar. That was maybe the darkest thing we did. And I remember having long conversations with Charlie [Collier] and Joel Stillerman about just how many frames of severed children's heads we could show and still be considered responsible purveyors of American entertainment.
Read an interview with Graham McTavish, who plays the Saint of Killers.
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