The very busy Neil Gaiman came to TCA – again – to charm TV critics, explaining his utter delight in casting Welsh and Scottish actors Michael Sheen and David Tennant in the two extremely English starring roles of Amazon’s Good Omens. Sheen plays stoic and sensible angel Aziraphale, and Tennant is suave man-about-town demon Crowley.
The six-episode series, which Amazon announced today would launch May 31, is based on Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s bestselling novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, and set in modern-day Britain. It follows the odd couple as they join forces to prevent the coming of the Apocalypse.
It’s a “quintessentially English” book, Gaiman insisted Wednesday. And two actors, the Brit writer said, are playing “more English than if they were English.”
“They generate a PG Wodehouse English that doesn’t exist in reality,” he smiled.
Other than that, the project has no one style, Gaiman said. “It’s whatever we needed to make that sequence work. Because the book includes so many things. We felt like we were allowed to do that,” he said.
The TV series is thick with celebrities in guest roles. Asked how he pulled that off, Gaiman compared it to a story he read as a boy about soldiers who invaded castles by shooting an arrow tied to a thread which, in turn was tied to a string which, in turn was tied to a rope.
Sheen was his thread, he said. Once said “yes” to the project, “we were home and dry,” Gaiman said. “I’d meet someone like Jon Hamm (who plays Gabriel) and he said his favorite book…was Good Omens. He does say he did it for the money – but I know he did it for the money AND because it was his favorite book.”
Benedict Cumberbatch also joined the series, Amazon confirmed today. The Sherlock star is playing the voice of Satan.
On a rare serious moment, after saying that Good Omens illustrates that good and evil can exist inside every individual simultaneously, Gaiman added that the work he has done with the United Nations Refugee Council, which he described as a group of people “working selflessly to help 65 million refugees,” left him “with a new appreciation and understanding of ‘good.’ “