If you’re a fan of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s oeuvre then you already know how the comedic duo views religion. This Is The End, their directorial debut, proudly carried an atheistic banner but managed to be sensitive to, and understanding of, theists and the idea of faith all while a New Testament apocalypse lays waste to earth. Their new animated feature Sausage Party takes a slightly darker, more nihilistic approach as it explores the absurdity of finite existence and the illusion of a promised afterlife. And Preacher, the runaway cable hit they executive produce for AMC, which follows a Texas preacher who, once possessed by a supernatural entity whose power is capable of all-good and all-evil, wrestles with his already murky moral compass and a God who has abandoned mankind. Clearly, there’s a through-line in Rogen and Goldberg’s work where the very fabric of faith needs to be interrogated.
At Comic-Con this weekend, some of the cast of Preacher — Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, Joseph Gilgun — spoke to the show’s deft ability to strike a delicate balance between criticizing and commending faith.
“Raising the questions rather than having unwavering opinions on religion is the show’s key, and that’s why it’s been so incredibly well received from [the religious] world,” Cooper, who plays the titular preacher Jessie Custer, said. “No one’s seemed to have trouble with it, to our surprise. So raising these questions in this incredibly tough time we are currently living through in the world… it’s chaos that we are living through. So people are questioning their faith and just what on earth is going on in the world.”
Negga, who plays badass heroine and Jessie’s partner-in-crime Tulip, had a more profound outlook on her own faith after undertaking this role. “What I love about our show is that it encourages you to challenge the way you think about the nature of good and evil. You know, it’s made me think about my faith, God, and having private conversations with myself about the world.”
Negga believes that Preacher, despite its blaspheming, broken characters and bloody body count, contains a true undercurrent tolerance and acceptance. “For Tulip, the most interesting thing to me is that of which you don’t know about her. How much life we go through acquiring armor that shields our flaws and vulnerabilities. The show encourages the world to allow our vulnerabilities and flaws to be more accepted rather than holding everyone up to the impossible ideals and expectation. Jessie, Tulip and Cassidy — this trinity of misfits — it’s not that you forgive them for their mistakes, but you sympathize and empathize with them and you do generate a sort of love.
She continued: “I don’t think it was [author of the Preacher comics] Garth Ennis’ intention, and it certainly wasn’t Seth and Evan’s intention, to instruct people on how to think about faith and religion. You don’t want to bludgeon people over the head. I just think it’s about generating a conversation. And the show does it with the right ingredient: humor. People forget how important is to have these discussions with a bit of levity. It makes them easier and certainly more appetizing.”
Gilgun, who plays hard-drinking, cocaine-snorting vampire Cassidy was a bit more blunt about Preacher and if it challenged his previously held beliefs. “It hasn’t made me question faith, mate. I still think it is trouble.”
Preacher, nearing it’s season one finale, continues to be a success for AMC with an average 3.3 million viewers in the live plus 3 ratings. It holds the spot of the number two new cable series this year. A second season has already been green-lit, getting an extended series order of 13 episodes for a 2017 premiere.