Funny, messed-up, and outrageous: Julie Ann Emery explains what sets AMC's 'Preacher' apart
In the world of 'Preacher', where God is decked in a latex dog costume and Satan operates a legit office, of course, there is no demarcation between black and white.
At this point, the entire season 3 of 'Preacher' feels like a build-up to this week's penultimate episode, which has not only packed on some (literally) mindblowing action but also a narrative that continues to get wilder. Just when it felt like Jesse Custer (Dominic Cooper) might actually have lost his soul along with the voice of Genesis, the wildly dark AMC comedy treated fans to a one-off dual between the preacher and the grotesque Allfather.
Funny, messed-up, and twisted, the face-off ends with Jesse having an upper hand over the abominable head of Grail, with the latter getting disembodied into a pile of guts. In one of the most graphic moments from the series, in fact, it transpired that the vial of Jesse's soul was hidden, out of all the places, in the Allfather's buttocks. There are ample hints to the bottled tension in this episode - ironically titled 'Schwanzkopf'. Both figuratively and literally, in the sense that Jesse and gang are fighting adversaries in constricted spaces, whether it's at the Grail HQ, aboard the bus to Hell, or in the vampire quarters.
Interestingly, it is this brand of angst coupled with an outrageous and in-your-face kind of humor that has become the trademark of the AMC comedy, based on the comic series created by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon. In the world of 'Preacher', where God is decked in a latex dog costume and Satan operates a legit office, of course, there is no demarcation between black and white.
"Most comic book series boil things down to good guys and bad guys with a very little blurring of the line between. 'Preacher' is nothing but the blurring of that line," Julie Ann Emery, the actress who has been breathing life into the villainous Lara Featherstone tells Meaww. "Our heroes are deeply flawed and often battling their own inner demons, and we have an entire team of villains (The Grail) who literally wear white and think they are saving the world."
And what can possibly highlight the white-decked Grail operatives' flaws better than this week's penultimate episode? On one hand, the loyal Herr Starr reignites his rivalry with Jess and on the other hand, Featherstone, without a hint of remorse, allows the angel of death to take Tulip with her.
"Preacher, at its core, is not about a superhero," continues Emery. "It is about the battle between good and evil and everything in between over a man's soul. A battle for the soul of humanity, you could say. It is dark and twisty and often offensive and wrong, but it is also a layered, nuanced, and honest look at the state of the human race."
Now, there is no dearth of realistic shows or portrayals on the television. If anything, 'Preacher' is hardly a novel concept for comic book readers, who are already acquainted with the books, which in Emery's opinion, is far more controversial than the series. "In terms of tone, the tone of Preacher (the series) is very much from the comics," explains Emery.
"But the comics has this funny, messed up, twisty, outrageous, in-your-face style paired with incredibly well-drawn characters that line up with exactly what the series has done. Some of the events change," she adds, explaining that "the tone and heart of the series are very dedicated to the source material."
A great part of this credit goes to Sam Catlin, Evan Goldberg, and Seth Rogen, who developed 'Preacher' for the small screen consumption. In the process of creating a series that stands apart from the hordes of comic-based adaptations, though, the creatives took the narrative to dark and complicated places.
"Preacher is for grown ups," Emery explains, "It is complicated and dark, and you don't often know where it's going. Sometimes you aren't sure you know what is going on… until you do. It is a very mature and adept way of storytelling that challenges its audience." So much so that in comparison, some other adaptations in the comic genre almost appears as "equivalent to popcorn movies", according to the actress.
"Good guys, bad guys, good always wins."
Indeed, with a world as complicated as that of Preacher's and characters as multifaceted as Emery's Featherstone, it only makes sense that the showrunners aim for a narrowed and niche viewership. As the actress suggests, "the fact that Preacher is going for a dedicated niche audience, rather than the broad appeal of say a sitcom on network TV, has a lot to do with its appeal."
"But I also believe that while outrageous things happen on Preacher, the success of the show lies in its ability to ground its characters. It grounds the impact of those outrageous, in-your-face events, on those characters," the AMC star quips. "Nothing is blown off on Preacher (okay Starr almost got his head blown off), but we see the impact of events on the characters. That was really surprising to me when I saw season 1. Taking these outrageous characters and turning them into real human beings, is something really special."
What began as a roller-coaster of events for the leading trio - Jesse, his outlaw girlfriend Tulip, and his vampire bud Cassidy - in the beginning is full-blown in season 3 that "follows the comics more closely than any season yet."
"We see a ton of characters straight from the comics on TV screens this season," says Emery, whose very own character, Featherstone has "blossomed and grown from her comic book portrayal." "The beating heart of her is the same," the actress quickly adds, "If I have interpreted anything beyond the writing, it is that Featherstone does not understand half measures. She is in 1000% or not at all, with her undercover personas, with her ability with weapons, her dedication to the mission at hand, and with her obsession over Herr Starr."
Do you think 'Preacher' will continue to shock and awe audience in the future? Stay tuned as the show returns Sundays with season 3 finale on AMC.