Fans of the novel Good Omens
, written by best-selling authors Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, are sure to embrace the soul-satisfying cinematic re-telling of the cult classic in the six-part miniseries coming to Amazon Prime, May 31.
previewed the complex and whimsical tale of the end of times in a deconstructed screening at SXSW this weekend. Director Douglas McKinnon and cast Michael Sheen (Aziraphale), David Tennant (Crowley), and Jon Hamm
(Gabriel) joined Gaiman on stage. Popular gaming personality and actress Aisha Tyler moderated the panel and treated the audience to a first reveal of clips from the show.
Good Omens was Gaiman’s first novel. From 1988 through 1990, when Gaiman and Terry Pratchett partnered on writing it, Pratchett was well on his way to becoming the UK’s best-selling author, with more than 85 million books sold. He died in 2015. Gaiman discussed what it was like writing the series without him. “The biggest challenge was Terry is dead. Whenever I got stuck I couldn’t call Terry.” Gaiman planted Pratchett Easter eggs throughout the series as a tribute to his long-time friend. Gaiman also makes a number of cameos in the show, including Episode 4 where viewers can spot him as the sleeping drunk in the movie theatre scene, as well as acting as the voice of various rabbits.
“I’m now a retired showrunner and in my retirement I’m thinking of taking up writing!”–Neil Gaiman.
He explained that he didn’t have the heart to do one particular cameo. “It’s fairly early on in Episode One, which for me was actually in a weird kind of emotional way the saddest thing that we did. But if Terry had been alive, it would have been the best, and it’s the one where Gabriel and Aziraphale meet for the first time in a sushi restaurant. I wrote that scene because Terry and I always talked about the idea that there would be a scene, set in a sushi restaurant. We just liked the liked the idea of having an entire day sitting in the background eating sushi.”
Although the central characters Aziraphale and Crowley remain true to the book, Jon Hamm evolves the minor character Archangel Gabriel into an outrageously hilarious counterpoint. He explained what drew him to the project. “It’s a road movie and it’s also an office movie. That was something I loved about the book, the idea that heaven and hell, the damnation of souls and eternal salvation are managed by a bunch of asshole bureaucrats in an office somewhere, and that Heaven and Hell are equally shitty places to work, except one has a better view.”
Staying in character, Hamm fielded questions about fashion. He beamed as he revealed that his shiny red soled shoes were Christian Louboutin. When I asked about next projects, he shared news: “I’ve got a movie coming out at some point called The Report that is also going to be distributed by Amazon, and I’m working on a tiny film called Top Gun 2. We’re just about to on-ramp to the highway to the danger zone.”
In addition to the Good Omens screening, SXSW featured a Gaiman keynote and 19,000 square-foot recreation of the show’s Garden of Earthly Delight, complete with angels, demons, Crowley’s Bentley, Chattering Nuns, a Hellpound with puppies, and sushi. The cast celebrated Jon Hamm’s birthday at the activation Saturday night, and Buzzfeed hosted a wicked fan party featuring Questlove Sunday night.
When asked if he would showrun again, Gaiman replied, “Absolutely not. I’m now a retired showrunner and in my retirement I’m thinking of taking up writing!”
(Left to right) Neil Gaiman, Michael Sheen, David Tennant, and Jon Hamm at the SXSW preview of Good Omens. (Photo by Martine Paris)