Custer and Tulip are back and on a road trip to find God, writes Dominic Corry.
Heavily informed by the violent, dusty, darkly comic cinema of Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, Lightbox's acclaimed supernatural drama, Preacher, is about as American as it gets. But sometimes the most American of things require non-American vessels.
Such is the case here, with the show being ably anchored by England's Dominic Cooper (Mamma Mia!) and Ethiopian-born, Irish actor Ruth Negga (Loving). They play doomed soulmates on a literal mission to find God. Cooper and Negga also just happen to be a couple in real life, and have been for many years. But more on that later.
Based on the award-winning comic book created by writer Garth Ennis and artist Steve Dillon, the title refers to Cooper's Jesse Custer, a criminal-turned-man-of-the-cloth imbued with the power of ultimate persuasion by an unseen force named Genesis. Negga plays Tulip, Custer's ex-girlfriend and former partner-in-crime who re-entered his life in the first season of Preacher, which primarily took place in Custer's tiny home town of Annville, Texas.
Annville was destroyed at the end of season one when it exploded in a ball of flatulent flames. In season two Jesse and Tulip are on the road hunting down an absentee God alongside the third member of their motley trio; Cassidy, an Irish vampire played with wiry delight by English actor Joseph Gilgun (Misfits).
Season two brings Preacher much closer to what readers of the comic book will recognise. "They were very clever in establishing something for a new audience," Cooper tells Weekend on the New Orleans set of Preacher. "But now I think if you look at the imagery of the comic and you see the journey and what unfolds, it feels much more that we're a part of that now."
Preacher was brought to the small screen by Seth Rogan and Evan Goldberg, best known for writing broad comedies like Superbad and This is the End, in which Rogan also appeared.
"Seth and Evan are big fans of the comic book," says Negga. "And as much as possible they want to integrate their favourite pieces, and I think this season the fans will get a real kick out of seeing some characters." Although she's been doing great work for a while now, Negga's profile shot through the roof earlier this year after her Oscar-nominated lead performance in the civil rights drama Loving, which proved to be something of a lightning rod during awards season.
The increased spotlight came between shooting the first and second seasons of Preacher.
"It is lovely to come back into a job that you're familiar with, with people you love and admire, from something like that," she tells Weekend. "Because all the heightened emotion and excitement [of awards season] - to sort of close the door on that and stare into the abyss would've probably been quite a shock, so it's lovely to have something to come back to."
It was Negga's interest in Preacher that led to Cooper being cast in the lead role.
"It was during pilot season and she was going up for Tulip," says Cooper. "And she showed me it and I thought it was the best thing I'd read by a long margin that year. And then we looked at the images from the comic. And I looked as demented and insane as the person on the front of the comic and I thought maybe I should give that a go."
Although it's not the first time Negga and Cooper have acted together - they were also both in last year's Warcraft movie - Weekend asks Cooper if it's easier playing that kind of relationship with someone you know so well in real life.
"It is and it isn't," he replies, "because we're brutally honest with one another, so if I come in with an idea that might not necessarily fit, then I will be told. It means you need to rid yourself of any ego more than ever, because it's a sensitive job anyway. We've worked together so many times that it can be to the point of 'I wouldn't do that if I were you. That's not a good job.'
"And although that honesty is wonderful, it will make you reconsider it with such honesty and such speed, that actually you have to protect yourself."
"On the other hand, it's very comforting and very wonderful to be with someone who's so close that you're in this chaotic environment with, one that can often be very lonely and, I suppose, quite daunting."
Season two of Preacher is available on Lightbox from Tuesday, June 27.