Tyson Ritter, who plays both Humperdoo and Jesus Christ on Preacher, talks about why he has a soft spot for Humperdoo, what Jesus thinks of Hitler and how it felt to end the series.
Q: When you first signed on to play Humperdoo, did you know the role might expand the way it has?
A: I had no idea. I was never prepared for this to be anything more than just a ridiculous fun way to express myself with this crazy show. It felt like a total departure for me, but I was up for it. It was a challenge. I had no idea that Jesus was going to be involved and…I had no idea that I’d be able to extend this for another two years.
Q: Jesus Christ and Humperdoo couldn’t be more different. What’s it like playing these two different characters? Do you have a preference?
A: To me, playing these characters is oil and water. Jesus is kind of hip and kind of Yogic…Jesus is a lot more innocent in Preacher than the wisdom that the Bible would show or lead us to believe. Going from [a] sort of like Messiah to Jesus, there’s such a surreal polarity on set. Even doing the last two weeks of the season, you have to do these pick up shots and everyday I’d be transforming to Humperdoo to Jesus like three times. I’d have to go get the prosthetic. I’d have to take it all off. I’d have to go get the prosthetic, take it all off. I think I really understood Jesus and Humperdoo the most at the end of the show because I was having to go back and forth from them so much in a single day.
The more I did that, the more [I] actually respected and loved Humperdoo, in a weird way. I protected him, especially on set, because people would talk to me like I was him and they would talk to me [like] oh poor baby. They would address [me] like hey honey are you okay, and I’d be like don’t talk to f***ing Humperdoo like that, he’s not an idiot. I mean, he doesn’t have a vernacular, but he’s a pure spirit so don’t talk to him like he’s an idiot. It was so funny, I found myself defending Humperdoo a lot. Even in [my] performance, whenever it would be something just simple as walking across a room, I’d want to find purpose with it because I really grew to like and love Humperdoo a lot. Although it seems like the most ridiculous role to put this value on, I really began to love Humperdoo. Jesus, he’s a little spineless in this season because he catches the ear of Hitler and Hitler sort of starts to influence him. That he would be so weak to let Hitler guide his hand to try to get his father’s love — I thought Jesus had a little less spine than Humperdoo, believe it or not.
A: I don’t think Jesus has had an opportunity in a couple thousand years to be with the people and to help one of his lambs. This is the perfect moment where he’s getting called by his father to help start the apocalypse, which is the first thing he’s been summoned for in 2,000 years. He’s been living this pampered life in Heaven, we’re assuming or led to believe, and he’s brought down to earth to help take care of dad’s business. I think he’s really happy to be back because he is man. He is God in man’s form, so I think this season we find Jesus wants to get back to his roots as a red-blooded man and to help the people and to connect with the people, like Sai Baba. He loves the people.
Q: Why do you think Jesus ultimately decides to go on the road with Tulip?
A: I think he actually is into Tulip. In my mind, I played it like, well this girl’s fascinating, I’m very amused by her. I think, in his mind, he was like maybe she’s into me. Also, I think he really wanted to burn some rubber and go to Vegas, then have a night drinking and be debaucherous and to live in his mortal flesh a bit like he never has — because it’s not like he’s going to run anything because he wasn’t the Messiah anymore and he wasn’t ever going to be. And, at the heart of it, I think he genuinely wanted to help her and Cassidy get back together because that’s helping people. He’s like here’s this beautiful lamb and she’s looking for her friend and Jesus has every intention to help her because why not?
Q: Featherstone isn’t shy about pushing Jesus around. Why does he let her?
A: I think he’s always had his way. He’s a little spoilt. When I was talking to Sam [Catlin], he said I want you to play him like Donald Trump, Jr. [He’s] this rich kid who’s always gotten his way, and now he’s come down to earth and he goes up to the people who are literally there to serve him, and this one woman with a heart of stone denies him and he’s like, for the first time in probably thousands of years, he’s getting told no and it immediately shrinks him because ultimately Jesus has no magical power.
There’s a line where Jesus is talking to Tulip and she’s like shouldn’t you be walking on water and all that s***? And he’s like most of that’s just pretty much metaphor. So he doesn’t have the power that we think that he has in this world, which just makes it great fun to see that Jesus is only human.
Q: Jesus and Hitler are an unlikely duo. What can you tell us about their relationship?
A: Hitler has a silver tongue and it turns into a little earworm for Jesus that ultimately persuades him to betray Humperdoo. Hitler wants to control everything. Hitler wants to be God and so he’s going to try to screw up [God’s] design any way he can and what better way than to get his own son to turn against him? It’s very Shakespearean.
Jesus thinks Hitler means well because [Hitler] wants to support him because [Jesus] was the original Messiah and the most deserving. When Jesus meets Humperdoo’s clone for the first time, he’s like I thought he could dance, I thought he was charismatic. He’s not me, I can make a sentence, I’m a man of the people, I’m the guy that turned water into wine, for Christ’s sake. Why am I not the Messiah still? Hitler’s right!
I think Hitler’s just in the right place at the right time for Jesus to convince God that he’s just as good as Humperdoo. I think ultimately he’s a kid who wants his father’s love, and God is so dismissive every time he sees him. It breaks your heart every time you see Jesus getting denied. But he goes to absurd lengths to get his father’s love.
Q: Hitler plants the seed of Jesus being the Messiah… is he considering it?
A: I think it’s always been in the back of Jesus’s mind. Hitler brings it to light in the moment after he showed him what the whole rest of the world is fawning over and [Jesus is] like really, this is the guy? Even though it’s the clone. There’s really five degrees of difference between Humperdoo and his clone, but I will say that the five degrees really matters because there’s only one Humperdoo. Jesus is like wow this is it? Maybe [Hitler]’s right. Maybe it’s time for Jesus’s second coming.
Q: What was it like bringing this series to an end?
A: For me, it was exhausting. My last two weeks were just literally ripping my hair out between a man bun and a Humperdoo prosthetic. It was like a marathon towards the end. Everybody was doing like 17-hour days. I remember seeing Joe [Gilgun] and Ruth [Negga]. Every night we’d all finish around the same time in the twilight of the morning and we’d be like oh my God, nine days, nine days left! It felt like those last nine days we created a whole new world. It was like building the pyramids.
Q: What’s the wildest scene from this series, in your opinion?
A: I think the wildest scene personally for me was when Jesus had a daydream about robbing the bank [in Season 4, Episode 5, “Bleak City“]. It was such a fun and funny day doing this mock bank robbery.
I think the most ridiculous scene was that Jesus de Sade and Jesse fight sequence [in Season 4, Episode 3, “Deviant“], all those Furries in that hallway, that huge corridor, in New Orleans, that flashback episode. Ridiculous. Just ridiculous.
But, of all the things that have made people upset, and I guess of all the things that have been reduced to being just blasphemy, I think very few people will get over the introduction scene of Humperdoo [in Season 2, Episode 10, “Dirty Little Secret“], when they say this is our Messiah and Humperdoo relieves himself on Jesse. It seemed online the whole Preacher fanbase did a spit take.
Read an interview with Mark Harelik, who plays God.
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