TCA 19: Good Omens is a unique take on the apocalypse

Good Omens TCA2

Good Omens is a story about the end of the world and how one angel and one demon try their best to stop it. All six episodes of the long-awaited adaptation of the beloved novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman will finally be hitting our screens on May 31st on Amazon Prime.

The team behind the show expressed their excitement during the TCA’s about finally sharing it with the world. The panel included showrunner executive producer Neil Gaiman, and stars Michael Sheen, David Tennant, and director Douglas Mackinnon.

Good Omens Sheen TennantGaiman playfully remarked on the irony that the two stars, Welsh Sheen and Scottish Tennant, had to adopt English accents for their roles as Aziraphale and Crowley, respectively. He said:

“I was overjoyed to take probably the premier Scottish actor of his generation and the premier Welsh actor of his generation, and make them act English. But that is because the book is quintessentially English, as our Scottish director takes enormous joy in pointing out. It’s not a British book, it’s an English book, it is a very English sense of humor, it’s a peculiarly English sensibility. So letting our angel and our demon be, in many ways, I think almost more English than they could be if they were English. They both sort of generate a kind of P. G. Wodehousian Englishness that almost doesn’t exist in reality.”

On the themes explored by Good Omens, such as good versus evil, Gaiman says things are not always so black and white:

“On the good versus evil side of things, I think part of the joy of Good Omens is the idea that there is good and there is evil, but the weird thing is that you can find—you don’t find them in heaven and you don’t find them in hell, you find them inside human beings. And the frustrating thing is that you can find both good and evil inside the same people, because we’re all contradictory and frustrating.”

The crux of the story is really in the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley, one that spans thousands of years. The team mentioned that this history would be explored in some detail in episode three. Tennant described it as “the longest cold open in the history of television.”

Good Omens TCAMackinnon talked about the different visual influences of the show and how it still manages to have a unique feel to it:

“The visual influences are many. The more obvious ones are Monty Python and the whole history of British comedy, really. But I think Good Omens has got its own style. The tone is that it has no tone because there was no way to manhandle it into being anything else. And I think we wanted to make it look epic and glorious and wonderful and warm. And I think we’ve managed to do that.”

Good Omens posterGaiman also described the opening sequence:

“Our opening title sequence manages to somehow evoke both Terry Gilliam, Edward Gorey, and Heironymus Bosch, “The Garden of Earthly Delights”. And, somehow through that while being an animated 90-second opening sequence. I think part of the weirdest thing about Good Omens is its style is no style. It’s whatever we needed to do to make that scene work or that sequence work, we do. So, because the book includes so many things and does so many different kinds of things, we felt like we were allowed to do that.”

As previously reported, Good Omens boasts of an all-star cast also including Jon Hamm, Anna Maxwell Martin, Josie Lawrence, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Jack Whitehall, Miranda Richardson, Mireille Enos, Nina Sosanya, Ned Dennehy, Frances McDormand, Derek Jacobi, Reece Shearsmith, Steve Pemberton, and Mark Gatiss (The League of Gentlemen themselves!) and many more. Some of them play characters who were not in the book but who were conceptualized by the authors as possible parts of sequels or extended editions of sorts.

Another casting tidbit shared during the panel was getting Benedict Cumberbatch to  voice Satan himself.

Gaiman and Mackinnon have a hilarious clip about this casting decision:

Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Gaiman also talked about how important it was to get this adaptation right because of the promise he made to the late, great Terry Pratchett:

“The movies didn’t happen for one reason and another.  Finally, Terry had Alzheimer’s and he had a very rare form of early Alzheimer’s.  And we’d agreed that we would never do anything that wasn’t together on Good Omens.  And he asked if—he basically wrote to me and he said, “You have to do this because I wanna see it.”  And the he died, which turned it into a kind of last request, which meant that—I’d written the script, so I then wrote the scripts, but I couldn’t then just be the kind of executive producer or writer who hands the scripts over to somebody and goes away.  I promised Terry that I would get it made, that it would be something that he would love.  And so what I was determined to make was something that Terry would have loved.  And so I was there.  I was working.  I was helping cast it.  I was working with Douglas.  I was sitting behind Douglas in the little video village.  We’ve spent the last 11 months sitting on adjacent sofas watching the screens, editing it, approving VFX, just doing the entire thing.”

Mackinnon added that the entire project was really dedicated to Pratchett and his presence is felt throughout the show (Gaiman: his hat is hanging in the bookshop!)

Don’t miss Good Omens on May 31 on Amazon Prime.

Check out the trailer below: