Before he played a preacher with unconventional powers in the Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg TV series Preacher, based on the comic, Dominic Cooper starred in the hit History Boys with the National Theater, turned to musicals in the film adaptation of Mamma Mia! and even played a Saddam Hussein lookalike’s sadistic son in The Devil’s Double. Yet the actor told TIME at San Diego Comic-Con on that Preacher is one of the hardest thing he’s ever done.
Is this your first Comic-Con?
I came some years ago for the first Captain America. You’re always amazed by the effort and devotion that fans put into events. When I first came I found it just hilarious seeing Superman vomiting on street corners and Wonder Woman helping him as he’s vomiting in a gutter. It really lets you see superheroes in a different light.
Was your theater training helpful in any surprising way on Preacher, a show where you have these superpowers and one of the other characters literally has a butthole for a face?
Yes, of course. You never know when that trainings going to help you. For something like Preacher, what you find is essential is that you’re thrown into situations, like a piece of fight choreography, and you’re able to adapt and change quite quickly. And Preacher mixes quite a few genres, so I think it’s helped in that way too.
You stole the pilot script to read the part. Once you’d gone to those great lengths to read it, was there a particular scene or line that made you want to do the show?
It was everything about it. I didn’t know the comic. The start of it was extraordinary. I love [David] Lynch, Twin Peaks, and it had that sense to it. I remember having this really vivid image of the landscape in it, and if a script can do that that’s great. Also the characters and the way they spoke to one another, I’d never really seen that before. Then you start thinking can I do justice to this?
Bringing the character to life from a comic is tough because you think you have this wealth of information and all these vivid images. But it was hard for me to find the inner life in him even though I could look at him and say I looked like him. And that was a fun journey during the series, to find what motivates him. It’s probably one of the hardest things I’ve done to date.
What’s the most enjoyable scene you’ve filmed so far?
It’s all just so new to me. Episodic TV you don’t know the scripts, you get the next ones until halfway through shooting an episode. And because of the constraints of television we have to do these big action sequences in like eight days, and it’s quite stressful. I like the scenes sitting around the table and discussing. Of course it’s fun doing the fight scenes, but they’re kind of exhausting. It’s nice kind of being calm and really sitting down and thinking through what your objective is in a scene.
Have you followed the response of the fans on social media or at Comic-Con?
I think it was best for us as actors to stay away from that. I think it’s a dangerous world to explore because people are always going to have opinions. You’re kind of setting yourself up for criticism. But I think people understand this particular show needed to be different than the comics. It started before the comics, and i think it was very clever of the writers to do that. Like, you see Hesse as a preacher, preaching, and doing a terrible job at it. You don’t get that in the comics. But it’s always frightening to adapt things.