‘Good Omens’: How Amazon’s Apocalypse Comedy Assembled One of 2019’s Most Exciting Ensemble Casts

The casting for the upcoming Amazon/BBC series “Good Omens” just keeps getting better and better. As revealed at the Television Critics Association press tour, Benedict Cumberbatch will play a small role in the final episode — as Satan.

Showrunner Neil Gaiman, who adapted the novel he co-wrote with Terry Pratchett for the screen, built up the announcement with the note that the previously announced Frances McDormand will be playing the role of God, and thus “we needed someone who could give Frances McDormand a run for their money.” But it was also news that was in line with how “Good Omens” has managed to attract an extraordinary cast, including David Tennant, Michael Sheen, Anna Maxwell Martin, Jon Hamm, Josie Lawrence, Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, and Nick Offerman.

The six-episode miniseries, which it was announced will premiere on May 31 on Amazon, covers the events surrounding the onset of Armageddon, which the angel Aziraphale (Sheen) and devil Crowley (Tennant) hope to prevent. The comic novel, first published in 1990, has been a cult favorite, and Gaiman credited that fact with what attracted many of the bigger names to the series, saying that he took “joy in ransacking my address book… because there were hidden ‘Good Omens’ fans in the world.”

This included Hamm, who told Gaiman during a social occasion that the book was his favorite in college, a fact Gaiman “filed away” for the future. (Joked director Douglas MacKinnon: “He said he did it for the money!” Replied Gaiman: “The money, and also because he loved the book.”) In addition, when an actor dropped out of a key role, Gaiman was able to text Nick Offerman with the message “I’m in trouble, can you help?”

Offerman’s response, according to Gaiman: “I will buy my own plane ticket to be with you.” Two days later, the “Parks and Recreation” actor was on set in South Africa. Tennant marveled that when he was watching episodes, he was constantly surprised to learn about actors who he hadn’t known were in the show.

In terms of tidbits of news about what to expect from the adaptation, Gaiman said that there were details that he and Pratchett had developed for potential sequels to the book which would be included, including the expanded role of angels in the show,

While the book was written many years ago, Gaiman also mentioned that not much updating for the time period was required for the adaptation, because “we set it in a nostalgic present.” Speaking of nostalgia, he also teased that the show’s opening credits sequence will invoke “Terry Gilliam, Edward Gorey, and Hieronymous Bosch.”

But when you watch Episode 3, don’t expect to see that opening credits sequence until nearly halfway through the episode, after what Tennant referred to as “the longest cold open in the history of television.” The sequence will depict the centuries of friendship between Aziraphale and Crowley.

Of all the show’s casting choices, Sheen and Tennant represent the show’s core pairing, and Gaiman was delighted to have attracted them both, if only because it meant taking “the premiere Scottish actor of his generation and the premiere Welsh actor of his generation — and make them act British.”

“Good Omens” will premiere May 31 on Amazon.

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