Just when you thought AMC’s Preacher couldn’t get any bloodier, the latest episode set a new high bar with a gory, knock-down-drag-out fight between the vampire Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) and the mysterious Fiore and DeBlanc. The brutal battle, which revealed a little bit more about the enigmatic pair who’ve been spying on Jesse’s church, prominently featured a chainsaw among other improvised weapons. The fight also appeared to leave both Fiore and DeBlanc pretty dead. Like, really dead.
We spoke with Preacher stars Tom Brooke (Fiore) and Anatol Yusef (DeBlanc) about shooting that absolutely batshit fight scene, what viewers can expect from the unusual pair in future episodes, and what they’ve got on their respective Dork Shelves. Fans of Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones will be well acquainted with both Yusef and Brooke. The former played gangster Meyer Lansky for five seasons of Boardwalk, while Brooke played Lothar Frey, a key player at the infamous Red Wedding, on Thrones.
So let’s get right to it: The fight in the church in tonight’s episode was absolutely insane. Between Boardwalk and Game of Thrones you two have been part of some pretty bloody scenes, but I think this one might take the cake. So tell us, how does one go about preparing for a chainsaw fight with a vampire?
Anatol: [laughs] Well, you don’t prepare for a chainsaw fight with a vampire, you prepare for one day’s filming and doing a fight on screen. You get your choreography right and you work with a great stunt team. We’d rehearsed with a brilliant stunt team, but it was our first day of shooting. Between me, Tom, and [Joseph Gilgun] we did this really good job of doing this dance together. It was a lot to shoot in one day, a lot of blood! We were establishing characters and meeting people for the first time, but we dove in head first. The sense of achievement we got out of it was worth all the work.
Tom: You actually tend to get more rehearsal for fight stuff then you do with scenes with dialogue, but they are quite similar. You learn moves in the same way that you learn lines. When you take it out of the rehearsal room and get it on to set you might have to tweak little bits here and there, to not bump into this or fall into that. But basically you’re speaking in moves rather than text. It’s fun in a different way, but it’s basically the same approach.
As performers, what was the biggest challenge that scene posed?
Tom: Just getting the moves right really. We both wanted to do right by John Koyama and his stunt team who’d put so much time into it. Before we’d even turned up they’d filmed the fight with our stunt doubles playing us, and then edited that down to show [Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg] how they could film it. And then we turned up and learned the moves they’d already put together. So the amount of work they’d done on it before we even arrived, when it came to actually filming it I felt a sense of responsibility. I really wanted them to be proud of us because they were just so helpful and great. We each had our own stunt guy and at the end of each take my stunt guy, Brent, would say “You good? Want some water?” They’d totally be looking after you for the whole day. It was really brilliant.
Anatol: You had your own director in a way. Your stunt double became a director, motivating you and giving you notes where it was applicable. They were a great team and remained so throughout the shoot.
But I would say that the biggest challenge for me was the question of tone. That was a question that was sort of floating there in the first couple of episodes, but I think Seth and Evan really sold it by the end of this episode. How big were our reactions? How comical was it? How serious was it? How straight do we play it? I think that fight threw all that up in a big way and gave them some decisions to make about tone. They make those decisions well and it makes the series work. It’s not just a cartoon. We had a big question when we started the fight about these guys feeling pain for the first time. What would their reaction to it be? That required some figuring out, but I imagine lot of the figuring out is done in the edit anyways. It was an interesting scene to do as your first thing on a show, you know?
I’ll say! So as the coffee can and the music box hint at, there’s obviously a lot more to Fiore and DeBlanc than meets the eye. What can we expect from these two going forward?
Anatol: Lots of a fun and mystery!
Tom: Yeah, they’re pretty mysterious. They’re fairly relentless, but I don’t know how good they are at the job they’ve given themselves to do. That’s quite fun to watch. They’re going to try though! They’re going to have a solid stab at it.
Anatol: Have you ever seen two men bang their heads against a brick wall that is sometimes made of concrete and sometimes made of foam? That’s pretty much what you’re going to get in this series from DeBlanc and Fiore. [laughs]
How familiar with the Preacher comic series were you going into this project?
Tom: I read them for the pilot. I’d read a lot of comics in my time, but I’d never read anything like that before. I thought it was amazing.
Anatol: I’d never read them and I was not aware of them beforehand. I didn’t look at them until I got offered the role and took the job. Then I had a look – and even then only a little look.
Why only a little look?
Anatol: I didn’t want to get too bogged down in playing the comic. It became clear to me early on that they were going for the flavour of the comic rather than a page by page adaptation. I knew that there was going to be more of us in the series than there was in the comics, and I also knew that this season was pretty much a prequel to the comics. So once I got the flavour of the comic and understood its heart, it felt like it could be counter productive to get too into it, as far as reading it from the perspective of DeBlanc and Fiore – the characters and the world weren’t established yet. Now I will read them.
There was something I learned on Boardwalk, whatever the source material is – whether its history and fact or a graphic novel – you have to be careful. Something that seems to be opening up ideas can actually be a constricting thing because you’re not doing the source material, you’re doing an adaptation of it.
What was your first reaction to learning about the true nature of these characters?
Anatol: I was primarily attracted to the writing. The writing of the scene that we both auditioned for was brilliant. My attraction to the project was doing something that existed in multiple worlds simultaneously. There’s also an anarchic but really good heart at the center of it. That was very attractive.
As far as the characters themselves, there wasn’t really much to go on. It felt like there was an allowance to explore their innocence, the idea that they might be babies sort of thrust onto the planet trying to figure everything out – much like a lot of humans feel. Tom and I talked about this before, but in a way they’re the least self-conscious characters and the most human because they’re set on the earth completely bewildered.
Tom: Yeah, definitely.
Anatol: I had grand ideas of playing DeBlanc a bit like George Carlin – having these profound, brilliant, lofty ideas about humanity and the futility of it all – but then having to be a human making it difficult to retain that superiority. I didn’t get to do it like that too much, but sometimes the material just gives you all these ideas and that can be enough.
There’s a bit of a difference in approach between the two characters as well. DeBlanc is a little more cautious and by the books, but Tom’s character Fiore is a little bit more of a go-getter.
Tom: Yeah, I think that’s true. He’s not very good at being a human but he has still managed to retain this feeling of superiority over humans. He wants to get this job done and get home as quickly as possible because he doesn’t want to be around humans. So I think he doesn’t feel like there’s much need for niceties and pleasantries – let’s just get the fella cut open and go home.
Anatol: He doesn’t fuck about does he? [laughs]
Tom: No, he tries not to as a rule.
Some viewers might not realize this, but the majority of the main cast is from the UK. Why do you think it worked out that way and what’s it like getting to work with a group of Londoners in New Mexico?
Anatol: It’s great! Especially on those hard days being able to make a gag about some English TV show and everyone gets it. Well, none of the crew do but most of the cast does. That was lovely.
But I also think that the humour of this piece, particularly the satirical elements of it, I think it’s attracted British and Canadian talents because it looks at America through a particular lens. Perhaps that’s why it’s attracted those kinds of actors.
Tom: I actually asked Seth about that and he just said “Angels are British.” OK! [laughs]
So the name of our site is DorkShelf.com – a Dork Shelf is the place in your home where you keep some sort of object or collectible that’s special to you. Ian Colletti, the actor who plays Arseface, told us about his Pez dispenser collection and his guitars. So do you guys have a Dork Shelf, and if so what’s on it?
Tom: Oh man… Great question!
Anatol: My Dork Shelf has a signed photograph of Dennis Bergkamp, who’s an Arsenal footballer, a pair of gloves that belonged to Muhammad Ali…
Anatol: Yeah, that’s another story. But yeah I think that’s it. I won’t mention the pornography.
[laughs] Tom, what about you?
Tom: I’m looking at my Dork Shelf right now. It’s got my first comic, the Beano Annual, which is a British comic from 1979, the year of my birth. It’s got as many Batman comics as I’ve ever read, they’re all here. It’s got all the Preachers as well. I’ve actually just started on 100 Bullets. Have you read that?
Yeah, great book!
Tom: Fucking amazing that. Sandman next! So, I guess a bunch of comics is my answer.
Fantastic. Anatol, how do you have a pair of Muhammad Ali’s gloves?
Tom: Yeah! I want to know that as well.
Anatol: They were gifted to me. They belonged to an old East End boxer and when I was younger I boxed for a little while. He gave them to me as kind of an encouragement. It was just a lovely gift. I’ve kept them ever since.
Preacher airs Sunday nights @ 9 pm ET/PT on AMC
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— PREACHER (@PreacherAMC) June 4, 2016