Dominic Cooper will finally give a voice and new face to Jesse Custer when Preacher debuts on AMC, but when Bleeding Cool spoke with the actor, he admitted giving Jesse form was a worry even as he was excited to join the series.
In thinking about Jesse, Cooper said he is “unlike any other character I’ve played in his stillness.” Though the character is itching for a fight, Jesse is trying to make good as a preacher in Annville, Texas and that attempt to contain himself proved to be a new experience for Cooper. “Learning the speed of Jesse’s words was a difficult prospect. I have to maintain this idea of a man from a tiny, rural town,” he explained. “He has traveled more than the people in that town, but he’s a Texan through and through.”
“I come from a place that’s so far removed from that landscape and heritage,” the London-born actor explained. Having read the entire comic book series by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, Cooper thought it was “essential an audience believed I came from that area” and began to research Texas.
“I have no understanding of the size of Texas. It’s bigger than the country I grew up in,” he said. Sadly, time constraints meant he never had the chance to visit until the Preacher pilot screened at South By Southwest back in March. At the time, he was nervous about presenting it to group of actual Texans, but said the response was warm.
Though the production may not be based in Texas — it shoots in New Mexico — Cooper was happy with the vastness the locations near Albuquerque provided. “Had we been shooting in Los Angeles, it would’ve been different,” he said. “We get the idea of something rural. Everything is so huge there.”
The actor also noted he had to get into a “different mindset” to play Jesse and praised executive producers Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg — and showrunner Sam Catlin — for giving him the change to figure Jesse out. “I was unsure I could show them [when first talking to them] what I could do as Jesse,” he said. Cooper added that he worked hard during rehearsals to get the character down. “He’s the pillar at the center of this madness and its difficult to not want to be sucked into it,” he explained.
Part of that madness is Jesse’s ex-girlfriend Tulip, played by Ruth Negga in an explosive introduction, and Joseph Gilgun‘s vampire Cassidy. “What can I do to be more interesting?” he joked when talking about his co-stars. “No one’s going to be watching me.”
Jesse does get his moment to unleash his inner self during a brawl in the pilot. Besides the technical aspects, Cooper enjoyed the decision made on set to let the character smile during a take that made it to the final cut. “That lust and enjoyment of getting that drug again — which is beating the crap out of people,” he said. “I think it reveals who he truly is.” The scene is particularly violent, but Cooper though it had “a reason, an energy and a purpose” when he watched it at the SXSW screening.
Looking to the future, Cooper said he is excited by all the places the show can go. “It’s such an expansive idea,” he said. “The ideas are so elaborate and vast. One moment, you’re in New Orleans and the next moment you’re in Heaven.” Besides the scope, he added he was anticipating some of the “vile and damaged” characters waiting in the wings, including Jesse’s grandmother. “Seeing it come to life is really exciting,” he added.