He’s No Angel?
Gaiman’s TV adaptation of his and Terry Prachett’s Good Omens is coming to UK terrestrial TV this January and here’s Michael Sheen who plays angel Aziraphale talking about it…
What drew you to Good Omens?
I have been a huge fan of Neil’s work for years. I first read Good Omens at drama school when someone in my year introduced me to comic books, and Neil’s work in particular. I read all the classic comic books – Sandman, Hellblazer, Watchmen and Swamp Thing. I loved them. I had always assumed that comic books were about superheroes and wasn’t that interested in them. But this stuff was brilliant. It was great storytelling; it was dark, gritty and fantastical. It really rang my bell. So I’m absolutely delighted to be involved in the TV version of Good Omens.
At the heart of Good Omens is the relationship between Aziraphale and Crowley. What brings them together?
They both begin to realise they are rather more fond of the human race than they should be. When Aziraphale and Crowley start to appreciate each other’s positions, that compromises them, but it also draws them together. It is something that is particular to them. Over hundreds of years, we see that bond developing. They’re on opposite sides, but they’re actually very similar. They’re both supernatural, but both very appreciative of humanity.
Do they come to that realisation at the same time?
No. Much later than Crowley, Aziraphale starts to see the contradictions in the position of each team. Part of being a demon is being cynical about everything from the beginning, so Crowley realises it much more quickly. Aziraphale, on the other hand, brings an innocence and an openness to things. He’s not exactly naive, but he possesses this innate goodness.
Has it been fun to play?
Definitely. What I love about it is the idea that these two characters are special and magical. They can do miracles, but at the same time, they are very much of this world. There is also something Odd Couple-ish about them, which is great.
What do you love about the script for Good Omens?
There is a lot more humour in Good Omens than the stuff Neil has done on his own. The subject is very serious, but it is dealt with in a comic way. In revisiting it for TV, Neil has balanced it out more. There is more potential for darker notes, but it’s still very much a comedy. This script is a triangulation of the young Neil, Terry and the older Neil.
Does the fans’ passion for the book make it harder to bring Good Omens to life on screen?
Yes. It makes it difficult to adapt that world and make it exist on TV because people have very particular ideas about what it is for them. Good Omens is such a widely loved book. A lot of people have a very fond relationship with the book and have developed a strong sense of who the characters are and what they should look like.
Has fantasy writing been underrated by critics?
Yes. But by writing about things that come out of the here and now from left field, sci-fi dislocates our critical faculties and opens us up to seeing the world more clearly than some other forms. It is a great way of getting into our consciousness and sneaking up on us. It has real power.
Authors such as Neil and Alan Moore and Grant Morrison have produced some of the best writing of the last 50 years. Just because it happens to be in comic book form, people tend not to give it the attention it deserves. Maybe that’s good because it appeals to a passionate audience and doesn’t have to deal with mainstream critics gobbing off about things!