Jeremy Childs, who plays Jody on AMC’s Preacher, discusses bringing a major comic book character to life, Jody’s warped sense of love for Jesse and what it’s like to play someone who gets such a thrill from violence.
Q: How much did you know about Preacher — the show or the comic book — before you were cast?
A: Frankly, I was an embarrassing fan boy. I had every single issue of the original graphic novel, and followed Garth Ennis religiously for many years after that onto Punisher or anything he did. So, I was very very aware. Of course, when AMC picked it up, I was there for the pilot episode and every episode along the way, so I was incredibly familiar with it — embarrassingly so.
Q: What are the challenges of taking on a well-known character like Jody?
A: What I had to do was try to be honest with every moment. It’s hard to erase “What are people gonna think?” It’s hard to erase that completely because he’s such a well-known character by the people who love this story, but that really was my challenge because all I could focus on was “How do I make this right in this moment?” and that became the challenge of it. And that also became the pleasure of it.
Q: How would you describe Jody? How do you think your version is similar/different from the comic?
A: In the graphic novel, he was an unapologetic psychopath, really. He really worked well for what they were trying to do with the graphic novel. It was really a nice surprise — and of course, the obvious right choice [for TV] — that Jody was given so many different flavors. He is still the psychopath, but there are a lot of facets of him that were not explored in the graphic novel that were explored in the TV show. Which really was important to me. As an audience member, I’m like “Why I am going to care about this character at all?” other than him being this unapologetic force, this antithesis of Jesse. So, it was a wonderful surprise from the first episode on. I got to play so many different flavors, a lot of darkly comic stuff, which was a pleasant surprise and a joy.
Q: When Jody first sees Jesse again, what’s going through his mind? What’s Jody’s view of the past between the two men?
A: It’s a crazy duality. On one hand, here is this figure that is going to threaten to knock Jody from the catbird seat, threaten to deflect the affection from Miss Marie onto Jesse. And so, there very much is a blatant and potent jealousy there. And on the other hand, he’s really happy to see this sort of kid brother again, this charismatic figure that made things a lot of fun, and to jump back into the old times and re-ride some of those old roads together. So, on one hand, he’s happy, and the next second he’s trying to kill him. Or is he? That becomes the question. Is he trying to kill him?
Q: What is it like playing someone who gets such a thrill out of violence?
A: I played football for many years, for 12 years of my life, and I think I keyed into that more than anything. Practices suck, but there is something about getting out there on a field with nothing but your wits and your pads, and seeing what you get. [Jody] takes it to the nth degree, and pain makes him feel alive. So, I think that was kind of easy to key into in terms of why this makes him happy. There’s an endorphin rush with a good hit and getting hit. It makes him feel alive, it gives him purpose. We all know those things in life that makes us feel that way.
Q: Why do you think he’s so obsessed with the idea of Jesse beating him?
A: It’s a true love-hate relationship, and Jody switches on a dime. One second it’s like, “Here’s my long lost brother” and the next second it’s like, “It’s time for him to prove himself.” The challenge itself goes back to Jody’s concept of love, for lack of a better word. The challenges are as much about Jesse having to prove himself worthy of being a man and Jody feeling that he is that father figure. I think he legitimately loves having [Jesse] back, but he’s legitimately in the throws of jealousy as well. And then this idea of Jesse having to prove himself worthy makes Jody feel fulfilled, like he’s done his duty.
Q: How would you describe Jody’s relationship to Gran’ma? What has kept him by her side all these years?
A: Having a family unit is important to Jody and the only true family unit he’s ever had has been with T.C. and Miss Marie. So, love it or hate it, this is my family and I’ve got to stand by my family. It gives him a weird integrity in that regard. It’s like he has no choice in the matter because these are his people. This is his lot in life. It’s the idea of, “You stand by your family regardless if they say or do things that you disagree with, you still defend them in public and you still stand beside them in public, even though you may disagree with them because that’s your family.” It’s the only family he’s known. Miss Marie has taken care of him. She’s accepted him when most people wouldn’t or haven’t.
Q: In the big fight with Jesse in Episode 1, Jody says “This is for Christina.” Does he blame Jesse for her fate?
A: In the graphic novel, I’m pretty sure that Jody actually kills Christina. The way we played it in the series is that he actually has feelings for her, which I felt like gave the character a really important note. He does obey Miss Marie’s orders, but it’s really difficult for him to. It’s the only time in his relationship with Miss Marie that he hesitates, that he’s not just on top of it because he actually has feelings for this woman. He does not want to see her killed — he loves her. … He certainly blames Jesse for the death of Christina in his own screwed up way. She kept trying to run away instead of just being a part of the family. Of course, her impetus to go was because she did not want Jesse raised in this kind of environment. She wanted her own life. And [Jody] totally blames Jesse for it.
A: I played it like a bloodlust. I think there’s certainly a test element in it, but I think the bigger part of it is, we’ve got this corrupt thing and it’s always a lot of fun to have a party and destroy corrupt things. I think he’s testing Jesse’s power. He is constantly trying to usurp whatever power he feels like Jesse is garnering. And anytime Jesse starts getting to that point, that’s when they get into a fight.
Q: When Jesse suggests re-opening the Tombs, does that temporarily quiet Jody’s suspicions or does he still believe Jesse is plotting something?
A: He grows more suspicious of the relationship with Cassidy and Jesse in future episodes. In that moment, it’s mainly dollar signs that he’s seeing. They have this person that they can kill every night and he will come back to life again, so they can make that money again the next day. So, the greed speaks to him foremost.
Q: What is your favorite moment or memory from shooting this season?
A: This has been the best experience of my professional life. Honest to God, if somebody would have come to me and been like, “Here’s all the productions going on this year, here are all of the characters. You can choose one, what would you choose?” it would’ve been Jody in Preacher, because I feel so strongly about the source material, and I feel so strongly about the show. Every moment was a joy. The attitude on the set was truly amazing. I’d never been around so many people with such great attitudes, who work such long hours, for such an extended period of time. Everyone was always so happy to be there.
In terms of isolated scenes, the first scene that I did is a scene between [Ruth Negga] and me, where I basically say, “What was it like? You were dead and you came back to life, what was it like?” You can imagine, knowing my history with Preacher, going into that, I was incredibly nervous. That first scene with Ruth was a huge weight off my shoulders because she is such a joy to work with. Everybody is. All the fight stuff that I did… was spectacular fun. I probably got to work with [Dominic Cooper] more than anybody. That guy is as cool as they come. I feel like I’m sort of just being effusive, but the truth is every moment was a joy. To isolate one moment is so difficult for me.
Read a Q&A with Ruth Negga, who plays Tulip.
Preacher airs Sundays at 10/9c. To stay up-to-date on all the latest news, sign up for the Preacher Insiders Club.Read More