Season 2 of Amazon series Preacher delves deeper into questions of faith

Preacher (starring Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper, both above) is produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
Preacher (starring Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper, both above) is produced by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.PHOTO: YOUTUBE
Preacher (starring Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper) is produced by Seth Rogen (above) and Evan Goldberg.
Preacher (starring Ruth Negga and Dominic Cooper) is produced by Seth Rogen (above) and Evan Goldberg.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Never ones to shy from potentially offending people with their comedies, Canadian film-making duo Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg are putting an irreverent spin on yet another delicate subject: religion.

The pair's track record of ruffling feathers dates to 2014, when they directed the year's most infamous film, The Interview - a political satire poking fun at North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, whom Rogen's and James Franco's journalist characters are tasked with assassinating.

This so upset the country's leaders that Pyongyang threatened to view it as an "act of war" if the United States government did not ban the movie.

Their latest project, the television series Preacher, risks annoying a much larger demographic.

An adaptation of the 1990s cult comics of the same name, it imagines a global crisis of faith when the bodies of religious leaders all over the world start exploding suddenly and graphically. In one cheeky scene, a newscaster announces that actor Tom Cruise has blown up as well and shows footage of what appears to be a blood-soaked Scientology centre.

At the same time, a disillusioned small-town preacher named Jesse (Dominic Cooper) acquires strange powers.

Accompanied by his gunslinging ex-girlfriend Tulip (Ruth Negga) and an Irish vampire named Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun), Jesse embarks on a road trip to find God, who has apparently abandoned his responsibilities in heaven.

Yet, despite this profane premise, the show's creators tell The Straits Times and other press that they are not too worried about a negative reaction.

This is because they successfully tackled such religious ideas before with This Is The End, their 2013 apocalyptic horror comedy.

"It was the first thing we made that had overtly religious themes and we honestly were shocked at how receptive people were to it. And people of all faiths really liked it," says Rogen at a recent press day in Los Angeles.

The story of a celebrity house party held the night of the Biblical apocalypse, This Is The End raises questions about who deserves to go to heaven or hell and earned a solid US$126 million worldwide.

With Preacher, Rogen and Goldberg, both 35, delve even deeper into questions of faith. An action-packed supernatural comedy, it debuted to mostly positive reviews in the US last year and returned for a second season last month. Both seasons are now available on Amazon Prime Video in Singapore.

"None of these things is incredibly disrespectful," argues Rogen, star of the Neighbors comedies (2014 and 2015).

"If anything, they just explore what it might be like if this was real. That's what we talked about a lot in This Is The End and that's a big part of this show."

He points out that This Is The End and Preacher take certain core religious beliefs to their logical conclusion.

"What if this was real? What would the ramifications be? How would that affect our lives?" says the actor, who has been friends with Goldberg since they attended the same secondary school in Vancouver.

Making This Is The End "was very educational", he adds. "One of the reasons that made us think we could do Preacher was that we found we were able to explore religion and have as intensely religious a conversation as possible and still not alienate nearly as many people as you think you would.

"And be funny and scary and have action and horror and all these things that tonally, we enjoy doing," says Rogen, who is married to actress and writer Lauren Miller, 34.

But he and Goldberg - who together penned "stoner" comedies such as Superbad (2007) and Pineapple Express (2008), where marijuana is often the punchline - do not want to merely pay lip service to Preacher's weightier ideas.

This is why they staffed the show's writers' room with people of various faiths, including a Catholic priest, he reveals.

"We had a Jesuit priest as one of the writers for part of the first season. There are people on the show's writing staff who were raised very religious."

Goldberg, who is married to producer Lisa Goldberg, says: "In the writers' room - and you can see it play out among the three main characters - we have people who believe completely different things."

Ultimately, the show is "not dismissing" any religious beliefs, Rogen says.

"Dismissal is the most disrespectful thing, I think. But saying, 'What if this was real, let's talk about that', I think people can see that's what we're trying to do and that's what prevents them from being as p***ed off as we would've thought."

•New episodes of Preacher Season 2 are available on Amazon Prime Video in Singapore on Wednesdays - one day after first airing in the United States.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'Taking a leap of faith and ruffling feathers again'. Print Edition | Subscribe