Fans of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s beloved 1990 novel Good Omens have been waiting a long time for a filmed adaptation of this quirky take on the story of the antichrist. The project has been kicking around the fringes of Hollywood since at least 2011. But with the leads cast and a table read currently taking place, the six-part Amazon TV series will finally fulfill the long-cherished wishes of the book’s many devoted followers. Thanks to social media, we also now have our first looks at series stars Michael Sheen and David Tennant, as well as a surprising casting announcement or two.
Before we dive into the news, here’s some brief background on why this particular adaptation of this particular novel means so much. When Pratchett died in 2015, his long-time friend Gaiman announced that there was no way a Good Omens adaptation would ever happen without him. “Absolutely not,” Gaiman recalled saying during a well-attended 2016 memorial for Pratchett. “Terry and I had a deal that we would only work on Good Omens things together. Everything that was ever written—bookmarks and tiny little things—we would always collaborate, everything was a collaboration. So, obviously, no.”
But Pratchett, perhaps anticipating that his friend would have this attitude, arranged for a letter to be sent in which he urged Gaiman to finish the adaptation without him. “At that point, I think I said, ‘You bastard, yes,’” Gaiman announced to the cheering crowd at Pratchett’s memorial. So expectations around this particular adaptation are, as you might imagine, unusually high. Very few TV series involve a nearly 30-year wait, the death of a beloved co-author, a posthumous wish, and the work of a devoted friend.
And anticipation kicked into an even higher gear very recently, when it was announced that genre favorite and Doctor Who alum David Tennant would play the louche demon Crowley and Michael Sheen his fussy angel friend Aziraphale. A little over two years after his death, the Twitter account associated with Pratchett posted the first photo from the show’s table read.
Very soon after, fans got a glimpse of a ginger-haired Tennant and a bleached Sheen grinning gleefully from the read.
The hair dye seems to be related to the production, though fans have always thought that Crowley and Aziraphale were vague stand-ins for Gaiman and Pratchett themselves. The demon, like Gaiman, has “dark hair and good cheekbones” and prefers black clothing and boots. The angel, like Pratchett, is plumper and, overall, better put together. We’ll reserve judgment on the red and blond dye until we see Sheen and Tennant in full Good Omens costuming.
Hot on the heels of these photos came some exciting casting news. The book, as I said, it a comedic spin on the horror classic The Omen. In the novel, instead of being raised by rich diplomats and influenced by satanic nannies, the antichrist is switched at birth and raised as a perfectly charming English boy named Adam. An apocalyptic-type event starts brewing anyway, as they do, and Adam, his friends, an angel, a demon, a prophet, the four horsemen, and many more get drawn into a clever, funny take on your run-of-the-mill end-of-the-world catastrophe. Michael McKean (Better Call Saul, Spinal Tap) tweeted out a photo confirming he’ll play the shambling, paranoid “Witchfinder Sergeant” Shadwell, whose suspicions about paranormal activity turn out to be somewhat right.
English comedian Jack Whitehall makes for an unusual choice as Newton Pulsifer, Shadwell’s awkward, timid second-in-command. Whitehall is known for playing brash, arrogant characters, so this will either be a new spin on the character or a stretch for the comedian.
Gaiman announced that Adria Arjona, recently of Emerald City and True Detective fame, will play Anathema Device, the no-nonsense descendant of a highly accurate prophet named (charmingly) Agnes Nutter.
Gaiman also confirmed that Nina Sosanya (Last Tango in Halifax) plays Sister Mary Loquacious—the inept Nun of the Chattering Order of St. Beryl—who switches the babies. Ned Dennehy (Peaky Blinders) and Ariyon Bakare (Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell) are appropriately creepy choices for the menacing dukes of hell Hastur and Ligur.
More casting news is sure to follow, including the choice for Adam and his three bike-riding, Stranger Things/It-esque friends, whom Gaiman intentionally omitted from a blurred cast photo . . .
. . . as well as their supernatural counterparts: War, Famine, Pollution, and Pestilence, plus DEATH himself. Gaiman has revealed that this six-part series will expand a bit on the original novel to include new “bits” he’s written.
That’s all the Good news for now—we’ll let Gaiman leave you wanting more.
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