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For Neil Gaiman, bringing his novel Good Omens (which he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett) to life as a television series was a deeply personal mission.
During the New York Comic Con panel for the upcoming Prime Video series, Gaiman recalled the nearly three-decade journey to adapt the book, with multiple failed movie attempts. “And then a few years ago, Terry and I thought it might be a really good idea to try looking for television,” he said. “We went looking for writers, and everyone went, ‘No, it’s too weird.’”
Pratchett then realized Gaiman would be the right person to adapt their book, and he penned a letter to his longtime friend; it was the first favor he had ever asked, Gaiman admitted. “He said, ‘You have to do this, because I don’t have long to live and I want to see it before the lights go out.’”
Pratchett passed away soon after, but Gaiman remained committed: “So now it was a last request, and I’ve seen it through.”
Good Omens is a modern-day story about a sensible angel, Aziraphale (played by Michael Sheen) and a smooth demon, Crowley (David Tennant), who need to work together to prevent the Apocalypse. Watch a teaser below.
During the panel — moderated by Whoopi Goldberg — director Douglas Mackinnon and stars Tennant, Sheen, Miranda Richardson and Jon Hamm praised the world the book set up.
“It became one of my favorite books of all time,” said Sheen, who read the book when it was released. “It really is like a dream come true.”
Though Tennant’s first introduction to the world was the script, “This is exactly the sort of book I would have loved,” he said. “[I thought] ‘What a fantastic character, this is delicious. … [And with the partnership] this is a double-act. They just make sense. They’re eternal. I knew that Michael was playing the other one. … It was fully formed brilliance.”
Hamm, who struck up a friendship with Gaiman a few years ago, was also a longtime fan of the book, but the author had a different request for him: He wanted to know whether Hamm would be interested in being in Good Omens as a new character. “I just wrote back, ‘Yes. I don’t care what the part is, I know it’ll be super awesome,’” said Hamm, who now plays archangel Gabriel. “I’m still very excited.”
When it came to actually crafting the six-episode season, Gaiman noted its length was one of the first things he landed on. The ambitious storytelling, however, led to unexpected challenges. “Normally if you’re shooting a TV series, you get to be in the same place for a long time,” he said. “We were barely in the same place for two days in a row in the 120 days of shooting.”
“It was [us] relentlessly keeping the quality up,” Mackinnon said, pointing out Good Omens has 240 speaking parts, as well as important special effects.
Admitted Tennant, “I was worried about the tone of it [translating]. But we trusted the script … and this world emerges.”
Sheen and Tennant also leaned on each other, onscreen and off, throughout the process.
“We clung to each other,” Sheen said. “In a universe that has so much crazy stuff going on, but in the middle of it is two beings who are being very very human. … No one else knows what it was like to be on Earth since the Garden of Eden.”
Richardson, whose Madame Tracy is a medium, realized how far she could go with the series while filming a seance. “I have many manifestations [of other personalities],” she said. “I have to say, it was fun. I hope it doesn’t look like hard work, but it was a great day. I have Douglas to thank for that … in this case, I don’t think there was ever too much.”
Good Omens has also evolved, a bit. While the series shows many time frames, a section is set 11 years earlier; the present-day setting is a “slightly nostalgic present,” Gaiman said, including Crowley having an iPhone. Gaiman was sure to work the book’s footnotes into the show (“Some of them are dramatized. Some you have to search for a little bit”), and Frances McDormand’s voice of God “comes to be the voice of the book.”
Good Omens comes to Prime Video in 2019.
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