10 Things We Learnt About Good Omens TV Show

10 Things We Learnt About Good Omens TV Show

Very Good Omens

Good Omens is coming to TV this year and Drama Quarterly spoke to its showrunner and co-author of the original book with Sir Terry Pratchett Neil Gaiman and its director Douglas Mackinnon. Here’s 10 things we took away from that interview…

  1. It seemed like an unfilmable adaptation but this didn’t worry Gaiman: “I feel a little bit like one of those people who manages to do something completely impossible because nobody mentions to me that it’s impossible. I should have had a clue in retrospect, because we went to half-a-dozen of the best writers in the world over a period of a few years and asked them to do the adaptation of Good Omens and they all explained that it was probably impossible to do. But then Terry asked me if I would do the adaptation. Up until that point, the deal Terry and I had was that we would do something together on Good Omens or not do it at all. Here we were with Terry actually saying, ‘I can’t do it so you have to because I want to see it before I die.’ Then he died – which left me with Good Omens as a thing to see through, and I couldn’t let myself believe at that point that it would be impossible or unfilmmable because I had to give this to Terry. 
  2. Its director and executive producer Mackinnon saw its challenges but wasn’t fazed by them:”When people are making films, there’s a lot of time spent worrying about things like tone and consistency and telling one story clearly, whereas what Good Omens does is tell multiple stories with multiple characters, albeit with Aziraphale and Crowley at the heart of it all. It wanders off into many different paths and thoroughfares, and yet the main theme – good against evil – glues it together. When I read the script, I felt it wasn’t impossible, just quite a big challenge.”
  3. Gaiman took quite a forensic approach to adapting the book he had co-written with the late Pratchett, adding new scenes into the TV adaptation:”The angels were characters Terry and I had talked about, planned out and thought about a lot after we wrote the book – and had we ever done a sequel, they would have been in that more. So I got to go and steal from the work we did back then and create four angels who aren’t anywhere in the book: Gabriel, played by Jon; Michael, played by Doon Mackichan; Paul Chahidi plays Sandalphon and Gloria Obianyo plays Uriel, and they’re wonderful – these incredible angels in very sharp suits.”
  4. Mackinnon is a very experienced TV director but he felt that Good Omens needed a different approach to other work he had done before: “I did one or two episodes of Line of Duty and it’s a very different show, and the style presented itself for that. This has a much more epic, cinematic feel that the storytelling in the script deserves.”
  5. The scale of the show was reflected in the places the shoot went to, Mackinnon revealed: “We’d seldom stay in one location for one or two days” [ filming taking place in London, Oxford and South Africa over 93 days] “We had to come away with all the material each time. With 200 speaking parts, just casting that and organising it has been a massive task, and that’s been the challenge. But it’s been a wonderful challenge, really exciting and a brilliant one as well.”
  6. Gaiman was showrunner on this but he is in no hurry to return to this role anytime soon, he admitted: “I’m very much looking forward to becoming a retired showrunner. By the time this goes out, I will have given four years of my life to it and there are lots of other things out there that I want to do. I’ve learned so much from Douglas and from working with everybody about the minutiae of making a show like this. I think I will be much more useful in the future, as I will be able to create things and communicate to showrunners much more successfully.”
  7. He seems very proud of what they have created, which remains faithful to the source material: “Normally, if you’re trying to describe something, you do it by comparing it to other things. You’re like, ‘Well, it’s Casablanca in space,’ or whatever. With this, it’s not like anything else. It’s Good Omens – and when people see it, that’s what they compare it to. It is the only thing like it, for good or for evil, for success or failure. I don’t care. What I do care about is we’ve made something that feels unique, feels special and, at least to me and Douglas, feels absolutely magical.”
  8. David Tennant, one of the main stars of the show, mentioned that there was chemistry between him and Michael Sheen, even though they didn’t really know each other before this: “We spent a lot of time sitting on park benches discussing the end of the world, what restaurant we were going to go to next or what else we’ve done that’s just fucked things up even more,” [speaking at Amazon’s Prime Video Presents event in London in October] “We did know each other but we’d never worked together and you think, ‘This could be awful. What if we rub up against each other the wrong way?’ But mercifully I think we found a rhythm very quickly. If you’ve got two characters that feel completely new and instantly recognisable, that comes from the writing. You know what this really unique, odd, peculiar world is straightaway, the minute you start playing it. It was a joy.”
  9. Jon Hamm, who also stars in the show, seemed to have a good time working on it too: “I knew that whatever direction it was going to take, it was going to be excellent. Then I saw who else was in it and I thought it was going to be fun, too. I love working over here [in the UK]. I got the chance to be over here for five or six weeks and really just play at this exciting, fun job. So it was a no-brainer for me. I was just happy to be asked.”
  10. Hamm is able to describe just what Good Omens is fairly succinctly: “I say it’s a comedy about the Apocalypse. That usually gets a little head cock and demands further explanation, and that’s the best way in.”

Read the entire piece here

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