Dominic Cooper, who plays Jesse Custer on AMC’s Preacher, discusses why Jesse has become more reckless with his power, what he thinks of the Saint of Killers, and having “Come on Eileen” stuck in his head.
Q: What has it been like for you filming the show “on the road” this season? Do you think Jesse is different now that he’s freed from his responsibilities in Annville?
A: He’s freed from them, and I think he’d like to escape and keep moving. He’s relaxed and happy to be with his friends, and with a sole and specific purpose in his life that he has not had for a long time – one that he thinks deserves the fight and the search. He’s constantly tormented by the demons of his past, but I think it’s relieving to get away from a town where he failed. He’s running away from the realization that he is extraordinarily useless and not great at preaching.
Q: Jesse encourages Tulip to get into the car chase with the cops. Do you enjoy seeing him let out his dark side more?
A: It’s great, but it’s a constant battle for him. That’s the real him – the smile as he fights, the enjoyment he gets from the danger. He’s a criminal, and he tried very hard to suppress the criminal aspects of himself. Now, he’s completely protected by this power, and I think the ugly side of that will emerge. He doesn’t quite know what this is, and he thinks he’s on a mission that is wholeheartedly good. But actually he chooses to do all these dangerous things he shouldn’t be doing because he’s completely protected by this power that he doesn’t understand.
Q: After everything that happened with Eugene, are you surprised that Jesse is using Genesis for “fun”? Is he being reckless?
A: He is reckless. He starts just throwing this new power around and every so often, you see he’s a kid who hasn’t learned. You see people change when they have power in their work or in regards to money. People do change more often than not. That’s what he’s dealing with. … I’ve been thinking about this, and it’s outrageous that he’s not on a mission to get Eugene out of Hell. I know that deep down, there’s guilt [but] Eugene is not at the forefront of his mind. He doesn’t know how to achieve that, but he should really be determined to help him and get him out of that place.
Q: Even in the midst of that huge fire fight with the Saint of Killers, Jesse remains pretty calm at first. Is that arrogance or just not knowing what’s after him?
A: It’s all of those things. He’s comforted by the knowledge that he’s all-powerful, and he thinks he can stop him. But there’s a tiny moment when he first sees the Saint of Killers, and I wanted a different reaction. I thought, “He should be in awe of this man and of this entity and this person.” But now nothing can compete with him because he’s protected. He doesn’t realize the true damage that the Saint can cause. It’s arrogance. Jesse is quite arrogant. I’m discovering that more and more.
Q: What is going through Jesse’s mind when he finally gets a look at the Saint of Killers and realizes Genesis doesn’t work on him?
A: The moment Jesse says, “stop” and he doesn’t stop, he’s in deep trouble. [Laughs] But this is a transformation in his life. This is all good, however dangerous, because remember, he loves the danger and the violence. Jesse knows this is an accomplished fighter, but he doesn’t yet know the full power. He’s just seen a gun battle, which was pretty horrific, but in that moment, the realization kicks in that he’s in a tricky situation.
Q: Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy get “cozy” in bed together on Jesse and Tulip’s first night together. Although Jesse doesn’t know everything about that triangle that the audience does, how awkward is that for him?
A: I doubt Jesse’s ever been in bed with another man – certainly not with Tulip – and Tulip and him have shared a bed for many years, growing up together. He hasn’t known Cassidy a great deal of time, so it makes him very uncomfortable, but that’s the instinctive reaction. Is it better than being alone in that church for all those months when he left her?
Q: When Jesse and Tulip are finally able to be together, she makes it into a bit of a challenge, asking Jesse to knock the bathroom door down. Why do you think their relationship is so charged by danger?
A: That’s what they grew up knowing. That was their life and how they ran around together. That’s the trouble they used to get into together. They were immersed in a life of no beauty and care. It was hard-edged and scathing and volatile and when you get used to that, I suppose the other things are mundane. It goes against everything for them. They can’t function like that. They don’t get it.
Q: We learn that Mike had a past with Jesse’s dad. Do you think Jesse values those people in his life who can remind him of his father?
A: I think it gives him some comfort in just knowing a man that knew his father, but he’s not proud of who he became or who he was or what he’s done. It’s quite painful.
Q: How does Jesse interpret the information Tammy gives him about God being a fan of Jazz?
A: In the actual moment, he thinks she’s lost her mind and that the whole thing is ridiculous and a waste of time. But because it all stems from Mike, there’s a certain level of trust in the information and he believes him. He’s forced her, with his power, to speak these words and if God were to like music – and why wouldn’t he? – it would be the complexity of Jazz. So, it makes no sense but it makes perfect sense. He continues to follow it through and chase the idea. He’s seen lots of weird stuff. [Laughs] I don’t know that there’s anything that can shock him or prohibit him from believing that it’s a path worth walking down.
Q: Do you ever wish Jesse’s wardrobe changed? Or do you like the simplicity?
A: Sometimes a new outfit, if it’s right, can be another element that can be quite effective. The costume does help, and the moment I put it on, it comes to life. It’s so distinctive, and it’s perfect, but I’m in 90 degree heat in tight jeans, boots and a black jacket. [Laughs]
Q: How many times did you have to sing “Come On Eileen” during that car chase shoot?
A: More times than anyone should ever sing that song in their life! And I’ve already sung that song a lot in my life for the last 30 years at New Year’s Eve and Christmas. We were trying to think of other options, but it was the perfect song for that scene, and it just plays so strangely. It gets stuck in your head.
Read a Q&A with executive producer Sam Catlin about what’s ahead in Season 2.
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