Evan Goldberg on Preacher Season 3: “We go back to kicking ass hardcore again”

“This is where the show and the comic really collide” – Evan Goldberg talks Preacher Season Three

When we left Jesse, Tulip and Cassidy at the end of Preacher Season Two, our heroes weren’t in the best shape, their search for God was derailed, and they were heading straight to the last place on Earth the Preacher wants to go…Angelville. Season Three of the ultraviolent, blasphemous and wonderfully weird cult comic adaptation promises to deliver one of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s best-loved storylines with the arrival of Jesse’s monstrous Gran’ma, and co-creator Evan Goldberg tells us that the ante has gone up considerably.

“The thing I’m most excited for is for people to see how much crazier it gets,” he enthuses. “It goes to a significantly crazier place which is something I’m really excited about. The last season went to a way crazier place than the first one and it’s something that we’re going to have to keep doing, I don’t know how we’re going to do it after this year moving into next year but we will somehow. Make sure every season is a little crazier than the one before.”

After more than a decade of people trying and failing to adapt Preacher, Goldberg, Seth Rogen and Sam Catlin finally brought it to TV and the show has been going from strength to strength. We talked to Goldberg about adaptation, ass-kicking and what Preacher can do that no other show can.

How excited are you to arrive at Angelville and work with characters like Gran’ma, Jody and TC?

Oh, so excited. I mean, we’re super proud of the show and we love everything, but this is where the show and the comic really collide. This is where what happens in the comic and what happens in the show is lined up in a huge way. The first season is essentially a preamble that we invented, more or less, it had some characters from later in the comic that we thought wouldn’t fit in later like Odin Quincannon. But the first season is largely an extrapolated version of the first comic, just to give us more backstory and stuff like that.

And then the second season is 50% like the comic is and 50% not. This season we’re really getting into the comic. And I think we’re all fantastic writers, I think Garth Ennis is better, and getting into the nitty gritty of the actual comics is most exciting for the fans and most exciting for me and just really where I feel like we’re hitting our stride.

We can’t wait to see Gran’ma in particular, she’s such an unforgettable character from the comics…

Betty Buckley is Gran’ma and she is so fucking awesome. I just lost my mind when I saw her in Split, I thought it was like the craziest fucking movie ever, and the fact that we got her to be Gran’ma was just super exciting.

How have you found the experience of adapting the comics over the course of the three seasons, finding that balance between being faithful and making it work as a TV show?

Well, the weird thing is like everyone always has the same thought, ever since Sin City got made. When we pitched the show, we were like “We’re just going to do it exactly like the comic, panel for panel!” And they were like “Great!” and then the reality of how impossible that is sunk in pretty quickly. But yeah, there’s a balance.

We’re adapting The Boys right now for television and that is probably a lot closer to the comic but there’s still distinct changes that have to be made. And some of them are because of the actual structure of the comics, some of them are because of what happened in society, and it’s a fine balancing act that I think is impossible to satisfy everyone with. Someone’s going to be pissed off, no doubt some of the fans were like why are they showing me all this preamble? Just start where the comic started!

But we talked to Garth Ennis,  he was kind of shocked, he was like, “Obviously you don’t have enough stuff for seven years of television here! You’re going to have to do a ton more!” And I was like “No, no, we’re going to just do your comic, man, we’re going to stay true to your comic!” And he was like, “That’s a terrible idea! You can’t do that, it’s not enough, if you actually read it, it’s a pretty brief story.” But when you mess around with the world that he’s created, Cassidy is a very old vampire, there’s a lot to be done with that and a lot of cool stuff. And there’s been a million vampires but there’s never been one quite like this guy. So, it’s been a fun unique way into this age-old premise, the vampire, and it’s a fun thing to do.

So, Garth came up with a lot of really fun ways to do it and gave us a portal for a lot more. We’re trying to do the only thing he really put upon us, which is “Don’t massively change my characters. I know that you’ll have to fill in the gaps, create some things and change other things structurally, but the main three characters are very precious and they don’t need to be largely changed and I don’t think they should.” And so yeah, and we felt that we’d definitely, kind of go back and forth with Garth on Tulip because we changed her somewhat in a few ways, but a girl who kicks ass, not a damsel in distress, is still very much what she is. I think we’re awfully happy about that. It’s a never ending fine balance but I think we get better every season.

Speaking of the characters, Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga and Joseph Gilgun have just got better and better…

Yeah, it’s outrageously lucky we got these three actors to be our leads. It’s just crazy. There’s a lot of attention on them always as the leads, but Graham McTavish, Pip Torrens, Jackie Earle Haley in the first season, there’s just so many people who are just so good on the show.

But at our core it’s always our main three kicking ass. The first season I felt like they were kicking ass, the second season was a bit of despair, things were falling apart a bit, and this season we go back to kicking ass hardcore again. That’s kind of our go-to rule for ourselves, things got a little dreary in season two, which they needed to, but now they’ve slogged through that, there’s more cool gunfights and badass moments.

As a writer, it must be amazing to have such a wealth of weirdness to work with!

It’s fun, we have one really simple thing we repeat to ourselves constantly, which is what can we do that no one else can? Game Of Thrones can’t bring Hitler in, we can! There’s all these things that this show can do that no other show can do, and I don’t want to give away too much, but a lot of the stuff that fans of the comics know and love will be happening in this season, and they are certainly things that you could not do on another show. Because we’ve been given access to Heaven, Hell and everything that there is on Earth…and not on Earth.

There have also been some amazing fight sequences on the show. How important was it to make sure the violence was so inventive?

Yeah, that’s twofold. Firstly, the action is largely thanks to John Koyama who is just one of the best in the entire business and has been crushing his work on a daily basis. Seth and I met him on the set of The Green Hornet way back in the day which was done by Jeff Amata who was his mentor, and now John Koyama is on his own and he’s been doing Preacher since Season One and we use him on almost everything we do. He just takes the fights to a different level to other people, it’s just astounding.

And then Seth and I are very, very obsessed in ensuring that we have the best action that we can on television. We can’t have a 1000 people riding horses clashing with each other like Game Of Thrones, so we’ve got to make sure that two people trying to strangle each other is the most exciting thing you’ve seen and is as comparable to Battle of the Bastards as we can make it. Maybe I’ve used a bad example with the Battle of the Bastards because that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever seen on television but you know what I mean.

That angel motel room fight in the first season was amazing!

Yeah, that’s one of the best and that one we spent a lot of time on. It’s not what people think it is with the fights these days, people think “Oh, the choreography must have been nuts,” and the choreography is the most key part, but a lot of it is just gruelling hours in editorial ensuring that every punch is as awesome as possible and that every angle is used and every angle that sucks is not used. That angel fight was one of the biggest time consuming things we did ever in editorial in our entire career, it just took so long because it was really unique and fun.

As you mentioned, you’re working on a TV show of The Boys as well. What is it about Garth Ennis’ writing that really speaks to you?

It’s really quite simple. He doesn’t write for children. Everyone else writes for children. They write for a young audience, they’re writing for teenagers. And Garth Ennis is writing for adults, but he’s writing the kind of material that adults want to experience…he has the rebellious joyful elements of childhood that everyone is drawn to but he writes for adults with adult content and adult endings. And he’s one of the first guys to really just do that but also appeal to the mainstream.

Some people say “Oh, why do you put so much violence into your comic,  why does it need to be so violent?” and one of the reasons is because life is. Life is incredibly violent and there’s a censored version and an uncensored version, and there’s an appropriate time for each. Some shows should very much be censored and some shows should be a little more buck wild and this is one of those shows, because the gravity in real life can’t be portrayed without some of these moments of violence, I think. And that’s something that Garth took and did.

And Garth also has this weird ability to make you laugh at something that is very violent, this masterful way to manipulate the absurdity of life in his storytelling. He’s just really good at it. And also, I must say Steve Dillon, the way he delivers those images is profoundly hilarious.

Do you remember the first time you read Preacher?

Yes, I was in grade 10, there had been a few issues out, maybe a year of it, and my brother read a lot of comics, so he loaned it to me. He would feed me what I would read and he came in one day and said “This is the best comic there’s ever been, read that.” I was like “OK,” and then I read it and I showed it to Seth and it was one of the first things me and Seth really bonded over. We fell upon Preacher and Pulp Fiction in the same year which explains a lot, I think.

Preacher Season Three has started on Amazon Prime with new episodes arriving weekly.