Preacher TV series’ recipe for success requires breaking away from the known script

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Producer Evan Goldberg has collaborated with his longtime friend Seth Rogen on a long list of projects, from 2007’s Knocked Up to the recent, raunchy fraternity comedy Neighbors. While doing the promotional rounds for Neighbors, Goldberg spoke to Digital Trends about a few of the other projects he’s partnered with Rogen to write and produce that are currently in various stages of development.

Among those projects is Preacher, the long-awaited adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s wildly popular, irreverent comic-book series about a former preacher named Jesse Custer who becomes the unwilling host of a powerful, supernatural entity. The series follows Jesse’s cross-country journey — accompanied by his girlfriend and a hard-drinking vampire — to find God and teach him a lesson about letting the affairs of heaven and hell mess with humanity.

Preacher was first optioned for development as a feature film back in the mid-’90s and the project has had countless starts and stops over the years, stalling out numerous times when studios took issue with its controversial religious themes. Last year, AMC announced plans to bring an adaptation of the series to television, with Goldberg and Rogen developing the series alongside Breaking Bad writer and producer Sam Catlin.

Despite the project’s long history of false starts, Goldberg is optimistic that this time around, Jesse Custer’s story will finally make it to the screen.

“I worked on it for four hours yesterday and I think it’s going to be f***ing incredible,” he told Digital Trends. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s so much crazier than anything else on television. If we just shot the exact comic book it would be the craziest show ever, but we’re not going to do that.”

Where previous attempts to adapt Preacher have employed a more faithful — almost slavish — devotion to the source material, Goldberg indicated that the key to bringing Jesse Custer’s adventure to television might be in veering off the page a bit, much in the style of AMC’s other hit series based on a comic book, The Walking Dead. Of course, given the rough language and imagery of the series, a page-to-screen translation probably isn’t viable even if it was the desired approach, he admitted.

“Honestly, AMC isn’t going to let us use the f-word much, but hey, they made Breaking Bad,” he reasoned. “They’re crazy. They go for it.”

“More than anything else, AMC is a company that likes to make shows in which the emotional journey of the character is the driving force of the series,” explained Goldberg. “When we met with [Preacher author] Garth Ennis and the AMC people to talk about it at the big greenlight meeting and we sat down with the other producer, Neal Moritz, we all agreed that the story is great and the events that occur in it are amazing, but it’s really a story about three people struggling with the moral reality of human existence in the funniest, most f***ed-up, crazy, insane way possible. So we’re just so excited that we’re going to get to do this story with these three characters, and we have this incredible base of insane shit from the comic.”

As for Catlin’s role in the process, Goldberg had nothing but praise for the former writer and producer of Breaking Bad, a show that rarely shied away from taking its characters to dark places.

“[Sam] is teaching us how to make it more than it was in comic form,” said Goldberg. “He’s taught us a lot about how, with something like this, you have to be willing to change as time goes on. If there’s something in the comic that people might have loved, the audiences might not love it as much, so we might need to alter it. He’s teaching us how to stay true to the comic but also make it new and exciting.”