Good Omens and great expectations

David Tennant and Michael Sheen in Good Omens, on Amazon Prime Video on May 31.

David Tennant and Michael Sheen star in a new streaming adaptation of the novel by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, writes Georgia Humphreys.

There's an inevitable sense of responsibility when it comes to adapting a novel for telly. But particularly so when it’s a cult classic like Good Omens, written by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett (he died in 2015, aged 66, after suffering from a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease).

Since the book was published in 1990, it has become “hugely important to people”, notes Scotsman David Tennant, one of the lead stars of the new Amazon Original series based on the story.

“When you bump into people for whom this book has meant everything, of course you feel a weight of expectation,” continues the 48-year-old. “And it feels like, since this has been announced, I keep doing that.”

Add in the fact there’s been talk of a Good Omens TV show for years now, and “much-anticipated” really is the term to describe the six-part fantasy-drama, which also stars the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Miranda Richardson and Jon Hamm. However, the pair playing the two main characters are trying not to worry about the pressure of the roles.

“Neil is so involved in it, he’s done the adaptation — I think that helps, obviously,” suggests Welsh actor Michael Sheen, 50, known for TV show Masters Of Sex, and films such as The Queen.

“But it’s hard isn’t it, especially something that hasn’t been adapted before — everyone has their own version in their head of what characters should look like.”

“It won’t mirror what everyone sees in their head but maybe it will be better for some people,” reasons former Doctor Who star Tennant. “I’m sure some people will be furious, I’m sure other people will be utterly delighted and all you can do is do your best.”

The basis of Good Omens is this: the end of the world is coming. But loose-living demon Crowley, (Tennant) and fussy angel Aziraphale (Sheen), decide to take it upon themselves to stop Armageddon. First they have to find the Antichrist — an 11-year-old boy unaware he’s meant to bring upon the end of days. The series allowed for lots of fun dress-up opportunities for the actors.

Tenant reveals:

There’s a great sequence where we jump cut a few hundred years in time and we see them at Noah’s Ark, we see them in Shakespeare’s Globe, we see them in the Second World War

They drift towards each other, as they have the common goal to avert the apocalypse.

“Really for no other reason than they’re quite enjoying their life,” says Tennant, who is married to fellow actress Georgia Moffett (they have four children together).

The first thing you’ll probably notice when watching Good Omens is how different both the actors look on screen. Tennant’s hair has been dyed red.

“There’s obviously a bit of ginger in my gene pool because it kind of suits my colouring more than I was expecting,” he admits, chuckling. Sheen, meanwhile, has gone a startlingly bright blonde.

“Oh it’s a lot of upkeep!” exclaims the father-of-one (he has a 20-year-old daughter with former partner, actress Kate Beckinsale).

“Fortunately I don’t have to do it — I just turn up and someone does it. But yeah, I don’t know how people do it in real life, that’s a lot of work! And now I find myself going, ‘Ooh, look at my roots’. I don’t like my roots coming through!”

Another element of Good Omens we can’t ignore? How timely the story feels, with sabres being rattled in such hotspots as the Middle East and North Korea.

“I just pray we make it to transmission!” quips Tennant. “It does all feel so apocalyptic on an almost daily basis, that it’s quite a tonic to come to work and to be able to make a joke of the end of the world. Maybe we all need to do that, maybe that makes it all the more relevant.

“I hope that by the time 2019 comes around... It would be nice if it didn’t feel quite so relevant.”

We’ll leave you to decide whether you think that’s the case or not...

Good Omens is available on Amazon Prime Video from Friday May 31

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