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Preacher: Why producers trashed original plans for the show

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Matthias Clamer/AMC

On May 22, AMC will premiere its new comic book adaptation Preacher, about a superpower-possessing man-of the cloth named Jesse Custer, his criminally-inclined ex-girlfriend Tulip O’Hare, and an alcoholic Irish vampire, Cassidy. But the pilot viewers will see is very different from the one originally pitched by executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.

The pair are longtime fans of writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon’s late ’90s comic and initially planned the show —which stars Dominic Cooper, Ruth Negga, and Joseph Gilgun — to be an entirely faithful adaptation. 

“We came in with a bunch of boards with the characters and we pretty much said, ‘We’re going to do the comic,'” says Goldberg, who wrote and directed both This Is the End and The Interview with Rogen. “We actually pitched, ‘It’s going to be like Sin City, frame-for-frame, almost. We’re going to be really true to the comic.'”

“And we totally just threw that out the window,” says Rogen. 

“Totally f–king hurled it,” adds Goldberg.

The problem? Ennis and Goldberg’s comic opens at both a frenetic pace and deep into the saga’s plot.

“Narratively, it starts at 110 miles an hour,” says Sam Catlin, another of the show’s EPs and a Breaking Bad behind-the-scenes veteran. “I don’t know how you tell that story in the narrative television form. So, came up with the idea that we would see Jesse as a preacher — because he’s only very briefly a preacher in the comic, and then he’s just kind of a bad-ass guy in a preacher collar. We thought there would be an opportunity to see someone try to do their job, be sort of the spiritual sheriff for the town. There’s so many big set pieces and crazy, over-the-wall violence, comedy, stuff like that. We wanted to ground it in something familiar, so that it didn’t feel like a bad acid trip.”

How did AMC react to this dramatic change of plan? Funny story…

“What’s funny is that we never really told AMC,” says Rogen. “When we were filming the pilot, one of the heads of AMC came up to me and was like, ‘I know no one’s mentioned it, but we know. Don’t think it got past us that you pitched us one thing and now we are here filming something which is 100 percent different than the thing you pitched us.’ We were like, ‘Oh, good. We thought they just didn’t notice.’ They’ve been outrageously supportive, honestly.” 

You can see a trailer for Preacher, below. The show premieres on May 22 at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.

To continue reading more on Preacher, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on newsstands Friday, or buy it here – and subscribe now for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.