Interview and Photo by Bleeding Cool’s Mike Sangregorio:
Good Omens, adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is coming to Amazon Prime as a six episode series in 2019. In advance of that Bleeding Cool sat down with Gaiman, head writer and showrunner of the adapted work, as well as Douglas Mackinnon, director.
The two men were happy to be in San Diego this week, “dealing with real human beings and daylight,” as they had spent the preceding fourteen weeks in a small, cramped editing room. Gaiman relayed the fact that to hear what was being said on-screen the air conditioners would have to be turned off so they were particularly happy for that to be over.
When asked which of the characters he believes most resembles him, or embodies him in some way, “Terry took all the bits of me that he thought were silly, but lovable, and gave them to Crowley. When I was 28 I was dressed all in black with a leather jacket and wore dark glasses even when I didn’t need them which was most of the time and Terry was very happy to put all of that into the character.”
Mackinnon disagree slightly saying that he felt Pratchett intended for Aziraphale to be more of a Gaiman character what with the character’s penchant for quiet places to read. Gaiman agreed that “given the choices of lifestyles, between driving around in a vintage Bentley and being cool, or holing up in a bookshop, I would hole up in that bookshop.”
Gaiman is fully involved with the show, having written all six scripts and being heavily involved in the editing process. He sees the work as a true adaption of the novel but as it is a translation to a different medium he understand, and intends, for it to be its own, unique work. As such he claims that he has “probably rewritten each of those six scripts a hundred times or more by now.” Gaiman worked with Mackinnon on casting as well, with Mackinnon remarking that Gaiman’s “involvement was total. I directed it but he was in charge.”
As a result of this Gaiman mentioned that “it has basically been 4 years since I wrote anything else or did anything that wasn’t [Good Omens] and I’m very much looking forward to it being this thing that I get to look at and go ‘yes, I made this… we made this.’ After that I can go back and be a writer again.”
Gaiman said he was very much looking forward to adding things not found in the book or expanding on those scenes on mentioned, not ‘shown,’ in the original novel. “It’s very different to be given a dry account of the exploding of Agnes Nutter and then to actually be there as the crowd marches to her cottage and drags her out. It is a different type of experience and I love them both.”
He did say that fans would be getting much more Crowley and Aziraphale in the show including “things that have happened to them over the years and events only implied. If we shot the book as written the second half of episode six would just be us saying goodbye to these characters. I wove, and rewove, the plot so that it carries on to the last 30 seconds and that makes me very happy.”
When prompted to discuss how the characters of the Four Horsemen would be adapted Gaiman added that “there is a real joy to actually getting to see when the Four Horsemen come into their own. They stop being these four people you have met and come to know and become more abstract concepts who are strange and even they are slightly afraid of death. Watching [the Horseman] War wielding a genuinely flaming sword. Some of the effects are done by CGI but there is a scene of her on the airfield which we did by actually setting her sword on fire.”
Regarding David Tennant, Mackinnon’s former collaborator on Doctor Who, the two agreed that they were genuinely blessed with the “greatest Scottish actor of his generation” who was joined by the “greatest Welsh actor of his generation” in Michael Sheen, portraying the angel to the former Doctor’s demon. The two men had incredible chemistry owing, at least in part, to the fact that prior to now they were both “going out for the same roles and here they were able to work together. It really is something special.”
Mackinnon remarked that he had been trying to get to work with Tennant again since Doctor Who ended for them and that having the two actors on screen was “a bit like having Thelma and Louise or Butch and Sundance all compressed into one little mad group. They have a very special bond on screen, which of course was due to the writing.”
Gaiman added that he believes that “Michael has a hard role because he gets to play the one who changes, the one who things happen to, the one who is not the same character at the end who he is at the beginning. Crowley does not really change, he gets to be the same character all the way through and David imbues him with so much depth. Watching them argue, watching them make-up, watching them make fun of each other… it’s that glorious screen chemistry that you hope for and never know if you’re going to get it but we got it.”