Julie Ann Emery, who plays Featherstone on AMC’s Preacher, discusses her character’s obsession with Herr Star, the battle for dominance between Featherstone and Tulip and playing the entire season with a busted nose.
Q: At the end of last season, Featherstone killed Tulip! How does that impact where her head is at at the beginning of this season? Does she worry that she has endangered the Grail’s relationship with Jesse?
A: I got a lot of questions after I killed Tulip last season, which was shocking obviously, about whether Featherstone felt badly about that. People related Featherstone to the Jenny persona at that point. Jenny does care about Tulip, but that’s not how Featherstone’s brain works. There’s a straight line from A to B and Tulip was in the middle of it, so she had to die. I don’t think malice was involved. Featherstone knows that, in a different world, her and Tulip might even be friends. There’s a grudging respect there on both sides of it. She’s such a dedicated soldier that she doesn’t think in complex regret kinds of ways. The only thing that bothers Featherstone is that it displeased Herr Starr. She can’t live with herself when she disappoints Herr Starr in any way, shape, or form. I also think that’s why at the beginning of the season when Tulip’s running at her, she sees her running at her but she doesn’t shoot her. I think she’s under orders to not hurt Tulip, so she gets the sh-t beat out of her. [Laughs] Featherstone just lets herself get found. That’s all dedication to the mission at hand and to Herr Starr.
Q: How has her relationship with and feelings for Starr changed or evolved?
A: I think things changed in her mind with Starr when he revealed that he’s trying to overthrow the Grail and is looking to displace Humperdoo and Allfather and take over and put Jesse in power. It’s Herr Starr and Featherstone and Hoover. Anybody else in the Grail that’s involved at this point is bring tricked by them. The fact that he confided this to her – she feels chosen by him now. How she feels about him feels a little cult leader-ish. I think she feels special now because the three of them are in on this and she’s obviously more capable than Hoover, so she feels like Starr’s right-hand man. She’s still trying to prove to herself and to Starr that she’s on the inside track with him and she gets it and understands. It’s an interesting relationship. It’s completely evolving. He gives her nothing, and yet she finds little tidbits to take anyway. Anytime he gives her an assignment, it means more for her.
Q: How does Featherstone feel about overthrowing Humperdoo and Allfather? We know she is a true believer, but do her feelings for Starr outweigh that?
A: She’s not a Grail agent because she’s a true believer in the Grail. She’s a Grail agent because she’s a true believer. Her faith is very strong. She joined the Grail because she believes the world is in a dark, awful place that it can’t recover from, and if they have to blow it up and start all over again, then she’s willing to do that. … The Grail appeals to her because of her faith. She does think the Grail is corrupt and that a lot of people around her are weak. She’s worked so hard to have a high level of a skill set that she doesn’t think everybody around her is living up to. At this point, she believes Herr Starr is the way to save the Grail and, therefore, save the ultimate mission. The conversation about Humperdoo and the bloodline of Christ is a much more complex one, but that’s also an example of the Grail taking something good and being such hardcore zealots about it that they’ve royally messed it up. It’s the Grail’s fault that Humperdoo is the way he is. They inbred him. I think she still believes that Starr is this pillar of strength. I don’t think she realizes yet that he’s in it for power. She still thinks she’s a soldier trying to save the world.
Q: Featherstone comes up with the plan to force Jesse to be the messiah by kidnapping Cassidy. How does she feel when it doesn’t work?
A: This entire season is an exercise in humiliation and rage for Featherstone. She’s got a lot of rage where Tulip’s concerned and, at the same time, she’s humiliated. Tulip beat the crap out of her and humiliated her. There’s an interesting side of Featherstone we see this season that was unexpected to me. In Episode 9, we see her actually afraid. We’ve yet to see that. She is not afraid to die, she’s not afraid to throw herself in the line of fire. She wanted to stay in the apartment building just to see how B.R.A.D. worked, but she is afraid to go to Hell. She’s on this path because it’s righteous and she’s going to end up in Heaven and be rewarded. The idea of her going to Hell is absolutely terrifying and proves that her entire life has gone wrong. With the vampire thing going wrong, Starr was there for that so that doesn’t feel as horrible to me. Featherstone’s always been so sure of herself and this season challenges that in massive ways.
Q: What is going through Featherstone’s mind when she not only sees Tulip again at Angelville but has to go on assignment with her?
A: It’s mostly swallowing rage because she’s not going to defy an order. Yet, she’s being sent on a mission without Hoover and without her regular team. She’s being sent on a mission with two people she can’t count on. She doesn’t trust them. They might turn on her. When you go on a mission for the Grail, the opp might go wrong, but you’re all either part of a SWAT team or there’s back up. There are a lot of operational concerns for her. She just hates Tulip so much at this point. To be made to work with her is the ultimate humiliation. It’s also an exercise in her patience. Tulip is trying to be patient and Featherstone is going through a lot of the same thing. Featherstone assumes the role of dominance on most teams. If Herr Starr is not around, she’s generally in charge. She’s trying to place herself in that leadership position, but it’s impossible with Tulip and Jody to become their alpha.
Q: Featherstone clearly looks down on Tulip this season. Was the bond “Jenny” and Tulip formed last year all an act or is there some part of Featherstone that could come to like Tulip?
A: I’m going to disagree. She doesn’t disrespect Tulip. I think Tulip takes it that way. On the plane, I think she’s trying to speak Tulip’s language and say, “Look. I’m smarter than you are. I’m more educated. You need to let me be in charge.” She’s trying to assert dominance. She has a grudging respect for who Tulip is. Featherstone talks to Hoover in similar ways. She’s a woman in a man’s world and this is part of how she assumes a leadership position – to quash the people under her, and their confidence, to convince them to follow her. And frankly, she does know more about breaking into a Grail stronghold more than anybody else, but they’re not going to listen to her. She’s trying to put Tulip into a No. 2 position.
Q: Even though Tulip sold Featherstone out to the Angel of Death, in Episode 9 she comes back to spare her. Does that change Featherstone’s feelings at all?
A: I don’t think she gives Tulip any credit. In Featherstone’s mind, Arseface saved her. Tulip was leaving. She threw her under the bus and was sending her to Hell and Arseface said, “Tulip! Tulip O’Hare!” In Featherstone’s mind, Tulip got found out. Even when we were shooting it, I didn’t see the moment when Tulip turns around to come back. That’s not part of Featherstone’s experience in that moment. I think she was on the losing side of the game right then and it becomes a game again when she’s back on top of it. I wish I could say that she felt bad for leaving Tulip on the bus to Hell, but I don’t think she does in the least. I even say it in the scene to Jody. She was going to wind up there sooner or later anyway. In Featherstone’s mind, Tulip deserves Hell and she doesn’t.
Q: In Episode 9, Featherstone and Starr seem to pay no mind to Hoover becoming a vampire. Do they not believe him?
A: I think Featherstone is always so focused on Starr whenever he’s in the room that it was an annoyance to her. It’s just something she wasn’t focused on in the moment and I’m not sure she actually believes it right now. Hoover’s always concerned with things like having yummy cereal while we’re on a stakeout. In Featherstone’s mind, Boo Berry is along the same lines as being a vampire now. Herr Starr takes up a lot of air in the room. She’s obsessively focused on him. Even in Season 2 when Hoover says, “I love you,” she doesn’t even look at him. [Laughs] Poor Hoover! Part of her idolization of Starr is she wants to be like him. She’s in love with him but she’s also trying to emulate him. There just ain’t room for Hoover being a vampire in that moment. When the entire cast read that Hoover’s a vampire, Malcolm [Barrett] and I kept saying, “Are they really doing this?!” There were several times this season that we were truly shocked by the script.
Q: What was it like playing the season with various iterations of a busted nose?
A: [Laughs] The writers had a really good time. It continued to play out throughout the season. There’s no prosthetic involved. Our key makeup artist, Aimee Stuit, painted my face like art work every single episode. In order to not use a prosthetic, she came in with all of these baby bottle nipples and cut them off. She’s like, “We might be able to shove one of these up your nose and make it look swollen” and that’s what we did! I had that thing shoved up my nose the entire season. I told Sam Catlin, “I killed Tulip. The audience really wants to see me punished.” [Laughs] I’m always game for that stuff. The credit really does go to Aimee. She tracked the injury itself and how it might be playing itself out. It shifts episode by episode. She was always bringing in Google images of injured noses. Our hair, makeup and wardrobe team and the design team are very valuable to me on Preacher because Featherstone does have these personas and prides herself on transformation. All of those ladies – Jill Ohanneson, Amy Wood, Donita Miller and Aimee Stuit – all took a massive deep dive with me on very single character. They worked tirelessly on them and I like to see them get credit.
Q: What was your favorite Herr Starr hat or wig?
A: [Laughs] The Wolverine wig is so brilliant. I don’t know how closely people were able to look at the variety of wigs on the table – which were all styled and created by our hair department – but there’s a Trump wig, a Hillary Clinton wig… an amazing array happening there. But the Wolverine wig on Pip [Torrens] for some reason made us laugh so hard in rehearsal. That was a really fun scene.
Read a Q&A with Betty Buckley, who plays Gran’ma.
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