The horror-fantasy-superhero comic book saga Preacher has no shortage of nasty people. But few are more unpleasant than Marie L’Angell, (AKA “Gran’ma”) the despicable matriarch of the L’Angell family who will be played in the new season of AMC’s Preacher by actress and singer Betty Buckley (Carrie, Split).
“Well, Madame Marie L’Angell, she’s Jesse Custer’s only living relative, she’s his grandmother,” says Buckley of her character. “And she’s a Cajun sorceress, with some skills. I mean she can, for a price, do all kinds of spells, healing spells — she calls herself a healer in one of the early episodes. But she can also bring back the dead for a price. But if you don’t pay your bill, then there’ll be hell to pay. She’s tough, and she’s also really cruel, and she’s wicked. I love her! [Laughs] She’s so crazy-bad. She’s certainly one of the most cruel, evil characters I’ve ever had the good fortune to play.”
In Preacher season 3, the quest to find God by Dominic Cooper’s Custer takes him back to the place he’s been avoiding his whole life: home. Jesse, Tulip (Ruth Negga), and Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) arrive at Angelville, the Louisiana plantation where Jesse was raised, and find old grudges, and deadly obligations await them. Viewers will discover quite what role Gran’ma plays in proceedings when the 10-episode season premieres June 24. But she is happy to tease what fans can expect from her character.
“It’s a great challenge, because she’s so complex,” says Buckley. “I mean, she really loves Jesse, played by Dominic, but at the same time, she’s a real mean person, a very mean person. It’s been really interesting, learning about her backstory from the graphic novel. It’s exciting! It’s the kind of complicated, raw, psychologically-aberrated character that I trained to learn how to play when I was in my ’20s. So, it’s been super fun.”
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you get involved with Preacher?
BETTY BUCKLEY: I am a big big fan of the show. I was just channel-surfing one night, and found it, and was like, ‘My god, what is this?’ It’s so iconoclastic, and so much fun, and has so much style, and wit, and humor. I love the acting, and the production values, and everything about it. So, I became this devoted audience member.
My agents called me in January and said there was this role of Gran’ma, Marie L’Angell, coming up and that they wanted to see me. So, I put a tape together and got the part. I was just thrilled beyond belief. I mean, it’s the sharpest group of people. They’re so smart, and so gifted, and the crew in New Orleans is just out of this world. I have to say, I’ve never had a better time in my life in a work situation. Sam Catlin, the showrunner, is just such a lovely man, and, of course, like every girl on the planet, I’m in love with Dominic Cooper, and I’m a huge fan of Ruth Negga, and Joseph Gilgun, and the whole rest of the team. It’s really been delightful. We’re just starting episode 10 now and I’m very sad that it’s going to be wrapping up so quickly.
You look very different in the photos we’re running of you on the show. I’m not sure I would have recognized you.
Our wonderful costume designer, Jill Ohanneson, is brilliant, and she’s created such a beautiful look, as has the incredible makeup and hair department, for my character. I just can’t wait for my friends and fans and family members to see it. [Laughs] I hope they’re all shocked. Hopefully people won’t recognize me.
In the comics, Gran’ma has these two sort-of helpers, T.C. and Jody, who also appear on the show. Could you talk about them?
Well, T.C. is played by this wonderful actor, Colin Cunningham, and Jody is played by Jeremy Childs, and they’re both wonderful actors, and very sweet men as well. Colin Cunningham just cracks me up. I saw the second episode two days ago and he is hilarious, he is so funny. He’s kind of Gran’ma L’Angell’s caretaker, but he’s also one of her henchmen, and Jody is the kind of muscle. He’s a mountain of a man, [a] really big guy. I’ve really enjoyed working with them.
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What’s next for you?
Well, I’ve got a new album coming out called Hope, that’s being released June 8 on Palmetto Records and I’m doing four concerts in New York City [in] June to celebrate the album release. I’m really proud of it. I think it’s a beautiful album, and it’s kind of music for our times, with all this stuff that we’re going through. And I’m guest-starring on two more episodes of Supergirl on the CW. I was flying back and forth to Vancouver to shoot those while I was working on Preacher. And then in mid-July I go to New York City to start prep on rehearsals for the Hello, Dolly! national tour of the new Broadway production of the show. I’ll be on the road for 44 weeks, the last part of 2018 and the first half of 2019, so that’s really exciting, too.
I feel like the laziest person on the planet compared to all that.
It’s been a very blessed year so far. I’m thrilled, because at the beginning of the year I’m sitting on my ranch, nursing bronchitis, and thinking, ‘Well, I wonder what’s going to happen next?’ Then, all of a sudden, my agent was calling and was like, “Oh my god, you got Preacher,” “Oh my god, Scott Rudin called and wants you to do Hello, Dolly!” “Oh my god, you have two more episodes of Supergirl.” I was like, ‘This is a good year!’
Exclusively see the first images of Buckley as Gran’ma in Preacher, below.