Ruth Negga, who plays Tulip O’Hare on AMC’s Preacher, discusses why Tulip’s death was fitting, how her run in with God changes her, and why she knows they need to get out of Angelville ASAP.
Q: What was your first reaction when you found out that Tulip was going to die at the end of Season 2? Were you worried, or excited about what it could mean for the story?
A: I thought, “fair enough.” With Preacher, anything can happen. I thought it was fitting. I’d be worried if it were something sane or more humdrum or mundane. I think that would have got me a bit more worried.
Q: Episode 1 features Tulip in Purgatory. How difficult is it for her to relive those moments from her childhood?
A: I think it’s exceptionally painful and difficult because she’s a very good compartmentalizer. She’s very good at blocking things out. You don’t need to be the world’s biggest brain to figure out that when painful things happen to people in childhood, they either neutralize them and make them seem smaller than they are or they just don’t think about them. But there’s also something you internalize about them, and I think we see she’s internalized a certain amount of guilt from her childhood. I think she feels like she was complicit in her brokenness. Being a voyeur in this early childhood scene is quite shocking to her because she’s deadened those feelings and they come bubbling up to the surface and they’re rising. In the moment, it’s completely lacerating for her, but I think what you see over the course of the season is a burst of something kinder in her attitude towards herself. I think it made her kinder towards herself. It made her more self-forgiving and empathetic towards herself. I think it creates a more rounded, stronger Tulip in the end.
Q: How does reliving that experience and her brief meeting with God impact her decision-making once she’s brought back to life?
A: I think these things go hand-in-hand. Purgatory is a religious construct and then meeting God is her sort of showdown time where she could basically go, “What the f—ck were you thinking?” I think what disarms her about meeting God is that he chooses her in his strange, all-encompassing, omnipotent way. He puts his God finger on her and shines it on her and says, “You are my bigger picture,” which in a way she’s flattered by but in another way, she’s very suspicious of – rightfully so. That’s kind of the genesis throughout the season with God. Bbad pun! I didn’t even think about that when I was saying it. [Laughs]
Q: How does Tulip feel about Jesse once she’s back? Is she grateful he was able to find a way to save her or does she hold him responsible for her death in some way?
A: I genuinely don’t think she holds him responsible in the bigger picture because I think she realizes he did save her. She actually verbalizes to Cassidy, “He saved me from the Saint.” I think something has shifted and something has changed in her relationship to Jesse this season. In many ways, there’s no blame game. It’s become a sort of infantile response to living that she’s trying to reject. She’s ready to own up and mature into herself, have a reckoning with herself, and seek out the crevices of her hurt and her anger and her guilt rather than stuffing them up with missions and things that take her mind off of herself and her self-evolution. I feel very proud of her this season that she’s met those things head-on and has gained confidence in her self-esteem in doing that. I don’t think even she thought she had that in her. The lovely thing is she’s surprised her own self and from that, she’s gained independence and confidence, which I think is lovely to see.
A: I really don’t think she’s the center of any fight. I’m frightened to make it into this love triangle because it’s not. It’s about people finding their own way and trying to be part of this group and gang and family while also finding your independent streak and walking on your own line rather than follow someone else’s.
A: I think she’s deeply troubled by his family, but he’s always made allusions to who they are. It’s this plantation in the South and they’re almost – and I say “almost” because they’re not actually stereotypical – this Southern hick family. I think that’s just what the first impressions are for her, but she’s not stupid. There’s enough narrative in the world where she can guess their history. For his sake, and because Tulip doesn’t really want to get into it, she thinks they’re going to get out of there ASAP. She doesn’t need to engage in it. I don’t think they’re the kind of couple who really sit down over tea and discuss his psychology. I think it perks up her sensitivity to him…She’s just been through Purgatory and she’s seen her little self. I think he’s treading the same sense of history with himself. He’s walking through his childhood, which was traumatic, and she knows that. I think it makes her more sensitive to him. I just think she knows she wants to get out of there, but I do think at this stage, nothing surprises any of them. If you grow up in Texas, you know these places. These are living clichés. Clichés are clichés for a reason and there’s a huge element of truth in them. I think she just wants to dig him out of it as soon as possible.
Q: Does she have any hesitations about following Jesse’s plans, in light of the doubts Cassidy has shared about Jesse’s motives?
A: She’s a clever woman. He brought her back to the house that traumatized him that he never thought he would go back to [in order] to bring her back to life. She knows he made some kind of deal. I think when that happens, you know you can trust someone. They spent time with Genesis in their lives and I think if he was going to be entirely corruptive, it would have happened by now. Also, her interactions with God have made her more complicit in this search. She’s not just following someone’s lead. She’s a part of this now and I think that gives her vigor and a new energy pursuing this cause.
Q: Tulip accidentally ruins Jesse’s plan to get his Soul back from Herr Starr and the Grail. Why is she so upset by that and determined to “fix it”?
A: If you’ve been labeled a f—kup your whole life and you’ve just had these revelations and the first thing you do after these revelations is f—k up again, you just think, “Jesus! I’m being herded along this path of self-awareness and education about myself and I still manage to make the wrong choice. Maybe that means it’s true. There is a curse of the O’Hares. I’m deemed to always f—k up. No matter what my intentions are, I’m cursed.” That’s a traumatic thing to feel. No one wants to feel that they’re on a headlong journey towards f—kups and, therefore, involving everyone else. You want to think there’s some sort of redemption. That moment is a very unnerving path that she follows for a while. The thing is, we always think that when we have epiphanies, our lives are going to change immediately, but it involves amalgamating them into our lives and it takes a while. It takes work. It takes time. She has to be patient with herself and she’s not. She never has been. That’s why missions make her feel like she’s doing something.
Q: After battling her Saint of Killers PTSD last year, Tulip seems to have her fighting spirit back. Are you excited to see her kick more ass than ever this year?
A: [Laughs] I think she’ll always be that person. She’s not just going to hang up her guns and peculiar instruments of death and destruction that she always uses. Having these moments when you feel like you’re maturing as a person doesn’t mean it’s going to turn you into some kind of Mother Theresa. It’s just means your intentions are different. Your goals are different. She’s not going to change. Maybe she becomes sturdier in who she knows she is and her choices, but the choices aren’t going to be made out of this weird kinetic energy that she feels in the moment but about what will serve her best.
Read a Q&A with Dominic Cooper who plays Jesse Custer.
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