Neil Gaiman and David Tennant took part in a short interview today at New York Comic Con about their upcoming Amazon Prime series Good Omens. They were interviewed by comic writer and journalist Marc Bernardin on the NYCC Live Stage in Booth 174 at the Javits Center. Gaiman and Tennant were joined by a few of their fellow cast and crew members, including director Douglas Mackinnon, plus actors Michael Sheen, Jon Hamm, and Miranda Richardson.
Earlier today, the cast and crew took part in the Good Omens panel at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, which was moderated by legendary actress Whoopi Goldberg. The group saw the unveiling of a brand-new trailer for the show, which is set to be released next year.
During this interview, the cast and crew revealed some intriguing new details about the upcoming television adaption of Good Omens and their experience of working on it thus far.
Why is Now the Time for a Good Omens TV Series?
Bernardin began by asking why now is the right time to bring Good Omens to the screen, and what it is about the world we’re living in that makes now the perfect time to make it. Gaiman responded by speculating, “I think it’s the fact that the Doomsday Clock is currently set at about fifteen seconds to midnight. It makes doing something that may possibly be the funniest six-hour drama about the end of the world and how we’re all going to die very appropriate for right now.”
Neil Gaiman on Why He Had to be the Showrunner for Good Omens
Marc Bernardin went on to point out to Gaiman that ‘your work has been adapted quite a bit over the years – what was it about Good Omens that made you want to step front and centre and be the showrunner of this?’
Neil Gaiman instantly responded with his one very simple reason: “Terry Pratchett.”
He explained that “normally with my stuff I’m very happy to write it, to make it, and then give it to people, and, you know, you give a Coraline to Henry Sellick and he gives you back a masterpiece, and I’m very happy doing that. With this, Terry Pratchett and I looked for a writer – we couldn’t find one, and then Terry asked me if I would do it, and if I would write the thing. We’d never doing anything on our own. The idea was always that whatever we did, we did it together, and now I had to do it on my own. And that meant that I was carrying the responsibility of making something that Terry Pratchett would’ve been proud of, as well as something I would’ve been proud of, and I was just really lucky in having these amazing co-conspirators in making that with me.”
Michael Sheen and David Tennant on their History with Neil Gaiman
During the interview, Michael Sheen (who will be taking on the role of angel Aziraphale) admitted to being a long-term fan of Good Omens. He told Bernardin that “I read the book at drama school in 1990 when it came out, became one of my favourite stories of all time, so this has literally been a dream come true to be a part of bringing this to the screen.”
David Tennant also spoke about his relationship with Neil Gaiman and his work in the past. He expressed his regret that he didn’t have the chance to work with Gaiman during his time on Doctor Who: “Leaving Doctor Who was a big thing, and it was quite traumatic, and then I found out that the next season Neil Gaiman was going to be writing for it. I feel like that was a great sadness that I finally now get to put right by actually working with the man and getting to speak his words, so I feel like a near miss has been averted there.”
Interestingly, Neil Gaiman admitted that he had in fact written for Tennant‘s Tenth Doctor in a way: “On the other hand, I would say, for the record, that because Matt Smith had not yet been cast, when I wrote my first draft I did write the dialogue with your Doctor in mind. I was actually writing for you, even though I then sort of Matt-ed it as the seasons went on.”
David Tennant and Miranda Richardson on the Pressure of Joining an Established Franchise
Miranda Richardson, who will be taking on the role of Madame Tracy spoke about her experience of joining the Harry Potter film franchise to play Rita Skeeter. “I came in on number four [The Goblet of Fire], so I’d been able to see how brilliantly they’d brought the books to life and wanted to be part of it, also working with the director I’d worked with before, so that was a no-brainer really.”
Tennant also spoke about the excitement, but also the overwhelming pressure, which comes with being a part of a work with an already established fanbase such as Doctor Who or Good Omens. He told Bernardin, “I think there are two sides to joining a known property. When you first get the offer it’s thrillingly exciting, you think ‘what, that thing? I get to be part of that amazing thing that everyone loves so much?’ And I’ve been very fortunate that that’s happened to me a few times with Doctor Who, with the Marvel Universe, this book, with Harry Potter. Joining that club is thrilling, and then, as the months go by, and you start to meet the people whose dreams you carry, the pressure starts to mount, so it moves from something that you’re just thrilled to be a part of to then feeling the pressure of the responsibility and hoping that you don’t crush everybody’s dreams! And certainly, in the run-up to this show coming out, so many people are coming up and going ‘that book is the most important book in my entire life – don’t eff it up!’
How has Good Omens changed from book to television?
Finally, Neil Gaiman revealed some very intriguing details around the types of changes which have been made to the original Good Omens story in adapting it from page to screen. He explained that viewers would get more of an insight into Crowley and Aziraphale’s friendship over the centuries, as well as the backstory of one particular character: “Episode Three is the history of Crowley and Aziraphale from the Garden of Eden until the present day, so you get to see how their relationship evolved and changed, how they became friends, the times they’ve fallen out. We got to go to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and Ancient Rome, we got a 1940s spy drama with some of the League of Gentlemen in it, we get a 1960s/1969 Soho, and you even get to see Crowley’s first meeting with Shadwell when he is just young Lance Corporal Shadwell, fresh out of prison.”
Gaiman also hinted at some alterations which have been made to the original ending of the book, saying that “I also built in some things for people who think they know how the book ends. And you do know how the book ends, but if I did that ending then the book story would end and you’d still have half an hour of television while people said goodbye to each other, so I decided to reconfigure things, and now there is a plot that ticks until the final second of the final episode.”
Michael Sheen also pointed out that a minor character within the book becomes far more prominent in the television adaptation, noting that “not a new character, but a who has only been mentioned a little, that is now a fully fledged character.” Neil Gaiman followed up by explaining that “he is fully fledged in the sense that he has wings and he [Jon Hamm] is just behind us – it’s the Archangel Gabriel.”
The full interview with the cast and crew of Good Omens is available to watch on the SYFY Wire NYCC Livestream on YouTube now.
Good Omens is set to arrive on Amazon Prime and BBC Two in 2019.