Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Odin Quincannon on AMC’s Preacher, talks about about Odin’s strange way of “serving God,” how Jesse’s power does (or doesn’t) affect his character and which role fans originally envisioned him playing.
Q: What was your knowledge of the Preacher comics before this role came along?
A: I’d never read the graphic novels, but prior to being offered the role of Odin, I’d been aware of Preacher for many years as fanboys have been suggesting me for different roles. It was pretty cool when they actually decided to make Preacher and the fact that it would be a series format was very exciting.
Q: What other roles had people pictured you playing?
A: I think when I was younger, people were thinking of me as Cassidy, and as I got older, people started thinking of me as Odin. Good thing they waited all this time for [Joseph Gilgun] to be perfect for the role!
Q: Quincannon is a pretty nasty customer in the books. How much of that did you want to bring into your performance on the screen?
A: Odin is a complex character and he’s definitely vile in certain ways. There are some parallels, but there’s also some little changes with him that I think are really effective for the adaptation. I think it’s faithful to the universe, but seems to be a cool translation. I pulled what I could from the book and embraced the TV show. He’s a little bit more complex in the series. It’s not quite on the nose as it was in the book. It’s more subtle.
Q: You’ve been a part of several comic book adaptations. How is this one different? Do you find yourself drawn to larger-than-life comic book characters?
A: I’ve read a lot of comic books – graphic novels especially. It’s neat to play in this arena when it’s done so well. It’s like a 10-hour movie in 1-hour installments. Every single script was TV at its best and totally broke all those old formulas we’ve been stuck with forever on TV. The writers write from a place of mystery instead of feeling like they have to explain everything. That scene in Episode 2 when Odin just leaves you going, “What the f—k was that?! Who is that?!” Fanboys will know that it’s Odin, but everybody else thinks, “Who is it?” The only takeaway is that Donnie works for Odin, but what’s he doing? Did he force those people out? Buy them out? You’re left with mostly mystery and sometimes an answer will raise two more questions.
Q: This show is about Jesse‘s “special power,” but Odin seems driven by good old-fashioned power and control. How would you describe his motivation?
A: I think Odin, for years or maybe decades, has really been disconnected and has just been going about his work without really caring. He’s listless. He doesn’t care much about the town, his company, himself or anyone around him. He’s got this company he’s inherited and he’s keeping it going, [but] I think he’s just doing what he needs to do to survive.
Q: We do get some reaction out of Odin when he pees on Miles’s briefcase in Episode 4…
A: I think that’s Odin just literally giving a nice display of how he feels about the Green Acre group. That scene is real indicative of him pissing all over the idea.
Q: Episode 4 reveals that Odin and Jesse have some history together. What is your take on their relationship? How does Odin’s past with Jesse’s father inform the way Odin deals with Jesse?
A: Jesse and Odin have a strange relationship. They’re not necessarily close friends, but they’re not strangers or merely acquaintances. There is a connection there and Odin is completely aware of what Jesse is capable of in terms of his brute force and ability to fly off the handle. Odin used to have a relationship with his dad because Odin used to care about what was going on in the town before his life changed. Jesse pops in every now and then and helps him build the model — and they have these long conversations about the Alamo — but I don’t think Odin wanted much to do with Jesse and the church.
Q: Donnie recognized he was being manipulated by Jesse’s power when he used it on him. How aware is Odin of what’s happening to him after Jesse commands him to serve God?
A: Something happens when he receives the Word of God. It literally reinvigorates his life and he suddenly cares a great deal about everything. In that way, he feels he’s serving God. … He’s not aware of the manipulation. He’s just aware of this newfound compulsion to change, to do better and to make a difference.
Q: In Episode 5, despite Odin’s cheerier outlook, he still massacres the folks from Green Acre. Has Odin somehow snapped Jesse’s hold on him or do you think it’s a sign that Jesse’s power isn’t completely good?
A: Quincannon Meat & Power really is the main industry in this town. It’s the driving force that keeps it alive. He realizes that he’s been letting it go. The Green Acre people really represent to Odin what that company out of Los Cruces represented to his grandfather. Odin is trying to do the right thing and to him, these people are trying to move in on his territory. He’s not going to have that, so he’s going to eliminate the competition. That’s what his dad would have done and what his grandfather did. I think when Jesse applies the Word of God, sometimes it works the way that he intends it to and sometimes it doesn’t. Whatever Jesse intended, Odin got the message and he’s serving God in his own twisted way. When he shoots those people, he’s protecting his people, his town and his company.
Q: You’re now working on the Dark Tower movie, which perhaps shares some Preacher DNA. What’s it been like going from one project to the other?
A: I’m really looking forward to that. I’m playing a cool character called Sayre. It’s interesting because there is a little similarity [to Preacher]. These are really different characters, but in terms of the adaptation, Odin shows up much later in the comic books than he does in the series. It’s the same for Sayre, so it’s an interesting parallel there.
Q: What were you most fond of while shooting this season of Preacher? You were one of the few Americans on the set…
A: [Laughs] I know! It was like we were being invaded all over again. I fell in love with New Mexico and I was delighted that the writing was so good. Without those great scripts, you’ve got nothing. It was a wonderful blueprint combined with an incredibly talented crew and an absolutely awesome cast.
Read an interview with Anatol Yusef, who plays DeBlanc.
Preacher airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC. Sign up for the Insiders Club to be the first to receive Preacher exclusives and updates.