Ruth Negga had no reservation signing up to play Tulip O’Hare on AMC’s Preacher. She did not even consider the part would be her third time in a comic book inspired project; following on from the British program Misfits and ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
“Never in a million years did I think I would [play these characters],” she said when Bleeding Cool caught up with the actress to talk about the series based on the Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon comic book. While never a particular fan of comics — though she did read them growing up — she drew a parallel between comic books and classical Greek drama. “It’s all about hubris,” she explained. “It’s about being challenged by your own ego and being brought down and [finding] redemption.”
Of course, Tulip is not concerned with redemption when she bursts onto the scene in the series premiere. Her introduction features a fight inside a car, a creative use for corn, teaching two youngsters about equality and building a bazooka from household objects. “I love the fact that she’s telling it like a bedtime story,” Negga said of her interaction with the kids. “Her idea of the world is so straight forward.”
When she first read the script, it was Tulip’s child-like sense of justice that immediate appealed to her. “She has super strong morals, but they may not be your morals,” she explained. “She will always be the person to stand up for the underdog. Tulip’s violence is born out of neglect and survival.”
But Negga admitted she was concerned about one aspect of becoming Tulip: the reaction to the change in Tulip’s race. “I think I was worried I would get vitriol because she’s white and blonde [in the comics].” Not taking part in social media, she had not seen much of the online reaction to her casting. But setting the worry aside, she mentioned one element of the series, should it continue, that will be informed by the change. “What could make it more interesting is Jesse’s grandmother knowing — or fearing — that she might have a mixed-race grandchild,” she said. “It amplifies the whole idea with what Garth was trying to say.”
And, ultimately, the character is, at her heart, the same. “The only difference is I have small boobs,” she joked.
The character resonates no matter the color of her skin, and Negga noted that the character’s spirit she first read in the pilot script continues in subsequent episodes. “There’s something about her that people respond to,” she said. “People love writing her. She’s many different things and doesn’t equal a round number. She’s Pi.”
Although there is one word Negga is reluctant to apply to Tulip: assassin. “I’m looking for another word because ‘assassin’ seems like an automaton or android,” she explained. “Maybe gun for hire?” And while TV’s Tulip is certainly more willing to kill than her comic book counter part when we first meet them, Negga was reluctant to suggest it is as simple as being a killer for money. Sadly, she could not elaborate further.
Changes or not, Negga hopes audiences will fall for the character as much as the Irish vampire Cassidy or lead character Jesse Custer. “I want them to fall in love and out of love with the characters,” she said. “I want people to respond to the fact no one is perfect. The great thing about Preacher is that it shows people in their truest, starkest light.” She also added that reading the comic book was an emotional merry-go-round and “I hope people watching it feel that way.”
Preacher debuts tomorrow on AMC.