Following the success of American Gods, another Neil Gaiman book (written in collaboration with the late Terry Pratchett) is being adapted to the small screen: Good Omens. This darkly funny story of a demon and an angel working together to stop the apocalypse will land on Amazon's streaming service this year, starring David Tennant and Michael Sheen, and with Neil Gaiman and Douglas MacKinnon (Sherlock, Doctor Who) behind the camera.
Good Omens will release on May 31, and while there's not been too much revealed, the first trailer at New York Comic Con looked fantastic. Of course, as with any adaptation, there are going to be some changes from page to screen - some of which have already been revealed with casting announcements, and some of which were revealed for the first time at NYCC.
Related: Every Trailer Released At NYCC
As a whole, it seems that Good Omens is definitely going to satisfy fans of the novel (although Gaiman is well aware that not everyone will love the show), and we talked with the cast and creators about what kinds of changes (big and small) have been made for the small screen.
- This Page: How Good Omens' Cast & Characters Are Different
- Page 2: Smaller Changes Good Omens Has Made To The Book
Casting Unexpected Characters
Some of the biggest changes coming to the show are to do with the physical appearance of the characters - most of whom had already been revealed ahead of the con, meaning that Gaiman and MacKinnon were well aware of some of the less-than-positive reactions to changes. Multiple characters will not match the gender or race mentioned in the original books, while some didn't have a description in the books, but have still surprised a few people with their on-screen appearance. Gaiman and MacKinnon are quick to point out, though, that these changes simply reflect how they saw the world:
Gaiman: Well in terms of gender diversity, angels and demons, as stated in the book, have no gender... Archangel Uriel and Archangel Michael are both played by women, Sandalfon and Gabriel are both played by men. I love that one of those women is black, Gloria, who is just this amazing actress. And doing the same in Hell, we had male demons in Hastur, and I love the idea that Beelzebub would be Anna Maxwell Martin, Aegon would be Elizabeth Berrington, I think that it gave us a nice kind of balance.
MacKinnon: I think that the thing we were doing all the way through the casting process in these terms was to question the assumptions and see if there was a different answer that just felt right.
Gaiman: The one I received the most s**t for, was Pepper. Who is played by a fantastic young actress named Amma Ris, who is a person of color. Who is a small girl of color. And who also happened to be the best and the feistiest person who turned up at any of the auditions. What’s interesting is that there are almost no physical descriptions of anybody in the book, but Pepper is described as having red hair and a face that was basically one giant freckle, and so people are like ‘oh my god, that has to be white’, and… no she doesn’t.
MacKinnon: And you know, Adam and Eve being people of color, just feels completely honest and straightforward, you know, it’s the Garden of Eden, where was it? It was in Africa.
Gaiman: It is going to be respectful towards religion because Good Omens fundamentally is. But, if you’re the kind of person who is going to have a problem with a black Adam and Eve, please stop watching in the first minute or two, because it’s only going to get worse. If you have problems with that, it’s just going to get so much worse for you.
Creating New Characters
As well as changing things up for some of the existing characters, the TV version of Good Omens is going to be bringing in some new characters - most notably, John Hamm as the Archangel Gabriel. Gabriel is only mentioned in the original novel, but will become a full-blown character in the series, and fans at NYCC were treated to a clip of Hamm in action as an angelic boss who hasn't quite got the hang of being human. The scene (which was not released after the panel, so we can't include it here) shows Gabriel and a lackey visiting Aziraphale in his bookshop, and their hilarious attempts to fit in on Earth just make them stand out all the more. Hamm and Sheen also spoke about how this character is going to be fleshed out on screen this year:
John Hamm: Yeah, the good news is when you are creating something kind of out of whole cloth and you have the actual creator (or co creator) of the cloth there, then you can ask him anything. And we quickly settled on the idea that the archangel Gabriel... he’s that guy who’s that boss that you’ve probably worked for who’s just an a**hole. He’s got that combination of confidence and absolute misinformation that is toxic and weird, but it doesn’t prevent him from making decisions swiftly.... The idea that even in a place that’s Heaven, that’s meant to be all good, there is some not so good, was appealing.
Michael Sheen: Aziraphale gets really flustered by Gabriel, as his boss, because he's so sort of perfect and annoying. And it was quite funny because obviously John has done Mad Men, and I did a series that was set in a similar time period and I always felt like, 'oh, John is the real deal, and I'm just sort of messing around', and so I got to bring that out. That is how Aziraphale feels about Gabriel, he always looks so good when he’s running through the park and I’m just wheezing along, so I was able to bring all those insecurities out with him which was kind of great.