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Production Designer David Blass Reflects On “Preacher”

Production Designer David Blass and his New Mexico based crew built the majority of locations seen in “Preacher.” Photo courtesy AMC

By: Marjorie Galas

Now that the first season of “Preacher” has wrapped, production designer David Blass took a few moments to reflect on the experience.  The three time Emmy nominee (“Constantine” in 2015, “Justified” in 2014 and 2012) wasn’t involved from the project’s inception.  In fact, Blass was completing the last season of “Justified” when he learned about the pilot’s production by chance.  Despite knowing fellow production designer Julie Berghoff, who worked with producer Seth Rogan on “Neighbors”, was overseeing the pilot, he couldn’t help feeling bummed at missing out on project perfectly suited for him.

“I had just done ‘Constantine’ which was also written by Garth Ennis (the “Preacher” comic writer), and it was kind of a modern western like ‘Justified’ and ‘Longmire’ so it was right up my alley,” said Blass.

Six months later Blass had cause to rejoice.  Ready to move into a series, the “Preacher” producers called him, stating they wanted to head into a different aesthetic direction.  After sharing some images of modern western design, he landed the gig.   Straying from the designs in the comic, Bass found he had a great amount of latitude to be creative with his designs.  With a storyline based in Texas, Blass focused on infusing western elements within a mixture of periods and styles.  This created a sense of a setting that was slightly off kilter and hard to pinpoint, an element that aided the series’ supernatural elements. Set dressing further enhanced this quality.

“We put a phone on a desk that wasn’t modern but from the 60s with a Commodore 64 (computer),” said Blass. “We did a lot of stuff that was timeless and placeless, creating a fictitious world within a real world.”

Although a dedicated decision was made not to adhere strictly to the visuals depicted in the comics, certain images were determined necessary to replicate by the producers and show’s department heads.  After reviewing the pilot Blass and his team completely re-designing a church crucial to the plot, noting the architecture and structure of the building was iconic to the original “Preacher” comic.  Working in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Blass and his crew fully built out the church, then applied layers of aging to give it an old, weathered quality.  In addition to the church, Blass and his crew also built the residences seen on the show, a massive build out that they accomplished in a tight, 21 day schedule.

While most of the structures were build outs, there were some existing spaces needed for a variety of old west sequences that Blass’ Albuquerque based crew – a group he’d primarily not worked with before but found extremely talented and great to work with – helped lock within four days.  A few sites with a real “old west” feeling have been used in other productions.  One bar has been seen in upward to nine major productions, including “Cowboys and Aliens.”  There were some other suggestions that got nixed.  Noting many team members had served on “Breaking Bad” and were found of certain iconic locations from the show, he became cognizant of their location choices.

“They had their favorite things.  We didn’t want to be the ‘Breaking Bad’ step child, we wanted our own iconography,” said Blass.

Regardless of the location being a complete build out or partially modified interior, Blass worked closely with the show’s cinematographer, John Grillo, to determine the structure’s color palettes and hues.  They turned to the comic as a benchmark to start the discussion, then refined their choices due to the emotions played out in the scenes.  Once they had hues and saturations locked down, their choices provided a template used throughout each episode of the season.

Now that the first season has concluded, Blass is particularly excited to discover what comes next in the world of “Preacher.”

“The last shot of the season is the three characters in a car heading off on the road.  It’s almost like season one was the first couple of pages of the comic and now the road trip begins,” said Blass.  “What comes up in season two, I have no idea.”

To learn more about “Preacher” and binge the first season, visit: http://www.amc.com/shows/preacher