Amazon Prime Video’s much-anticipated series Good Omens, based on the bestselling novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, is set to launch to Amazon Prime subscribers on May 31, 2019. Good Omens follows the story of the angel Aziraphale and a demon named Crowley who unite to stop the impending Armageddon. Michael Sheen (Masters of Sex, The Good Fight) channels his angelic side as Aziraphale while David Tennant (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) sinks his teeth into Crowley.
Sheen and Tennant were teamed up for roundtable interviews at the New York Comic Con to promote the supernatural fantasy series. The interview turned out to be an entertaining lovefest, with Sheen and Tennant sharing their admiration for each other’s work. The talkative duo also expressed their pleasure at being a part of a series based on Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s book.
How long have you known each other?
David Tennant: “I feel like we knew each other even before Bright Young Things. I seem to remember we got to know each other reasonably well.”
Michael Sheen: “Yeah. We were both in a film together called Bright Young Things that Stephen Fry directed. So, 2003?”
David Tennant: “Yeah, let’s say that.”
Michael Sheen: “But we weren’t in scenes together, so we were just sort of in the same film. And then we’ve just sort of known each other since then, but this is the first time we’ve actually got to work together. And this is, like, into the deep end.”
David Tennant: (Laughing) “Certainly is!”
Michael Sheen: “It’s just the two of us all the time.”
So, was working together everything you expected it to be after all that time?
Michael Sheen: “I’ve been saying that – and it’s true – I came into it as a fan of David’s work.”
David Tennant: “And likewise.”
Michael Sheen: “And so you don’t know how that’s going to go. We’re not massively dissimilar. As actors we could be up for the same sort of parts, and that’s part of why this works quite well because they both started off as angels. It’s good that there’s a sort of connection, but that could go one of two ways. So, when we first started doing the table read, the first time we ever did the lines out loud, there was a sense of, ‘Oh, right, you’re going to be in that area, so I’ll be in this.’ And then it is like a dance. You just sort of get into a rhythm and it just seemed to fit. It just seemed to fit really well, didn’t it?”
David Tennant: “I think in the end it was exactly like I thought it was going to be because I imagined Michael would be a certain way because I thought, ‘Oh, he’s that kind of actor and he’s creative and he does that. He’s sort of clever and quick.’ But then, you never really know until you’re there because sometimes you think, ‘Oh, working with that person will be like this,’ because you make certain assumptions about how they work and who they are from what you’ve seen.”
Michael Sheen: “Right. But you have no idea about someone’s process, and someone could be an absolute pain in the ass that’s nice to work with aside from what the work is like itself.”
David Tennant: “Yeah. And even when you do know someone personally and socially, that doesn’t necessarily translate to how they will be professionally. But I think it probably did in this case. It was as easy and it was as creative and it was as fun.”
Michael Sheen: “I’ve been asked this before and at the risk of embarrassing David, someone said, ‘What is the biggest challenge about playing the part?’ And genuinely the biggest challenge was being in scenes with David and just enjoying watching what he was doing so much that it would be in danger of me just stopping acting. ‘That’s very good, what you’re doing! I really like that.’ And what was lovely is then it really felt like… There’s all the clichés about playing tennis and knocking the ball back and forth but it really did feel like that.”
David Tennant: “And upping your game.”
Michael Sheen: “And really playing together.”
David Tennant: “Yeah, it did feel like genuine playing. Yeah. It felt like we were out to make the scene better. There was no sort of one-upmanship.”
Michael Sheen: “Exactly. And the characters themselves lend themselves to it, I think.”
David Tennant: “They really do.”
Michael Sheen: “They compliment each other so well, the characters. The better you are at trying to be your character, actually what it does is it makes the relationship better. That’s the engine of the story and the engine of that relationship.
It was easier for me because I decided that early on that Aziraphale just loves Crowley. And that’s difficult for him because they’re on opposite sides and he doesn’t agree with him on stuff. But it does really help as an actor to go, ‘My objective in this scene is to not show you how much I love you. And just gaze longingly at you all the time.’ That really does happen.”
David Tennant: “But then Crowley absolutely loves Aziraphale. He hates that he loves him. It’s really annoying for him. So, they’re both going through that.”
Michael Sheen: “There is a sort of wonderful love story in this. I think a lot of the fans of the book kind of like that when they think about the characters, there’s an interesting love story going on. It’s never explicit in this, but it’s there. It is there.”
David Tennant: “There’s something about that kind of co-dependency and that kind of eternal relationship that has a kind of mythical quality to it and yet is very human and mundane.”
Michael Sheen: “And they’ve just got each other. There is no one else. That’s what I love about The Beatles story; they went through it together and no one else can understand what it was like to be a Beatle. No one else could understand what it was like be an angel or a demon on earth for all these centuries.”
David Tennant: “Especially after all these centuries they’ve cut themselves off. For self-preservation purposes they’ve cut themselves off from their respective head offices so that they can preserve that life. They’ve become rather proprietorial and greedy about that life on earth because they enjoy the trappings of humanity that they’re not supposed to be indulging in.”
Michael Sheen: “The more I think about it, the more I come back to just the brilliance of Neil and Terry’s original idea. The idea of an angel and a demon, we’re on earth supposedly enemies fighting against each other and they fall in love with the earth and humanity and what it’s like to be a human so much that they end up going against their own head offices to stop it from ending. That’s just a brilliant premise.”
Are there any characters you’ve played in the past that share similarities with your Good Omens characters or is this something totally new?
David Tennant: “Oh, I don’t know. That’s a good question. I feel like I needed three days notice to give you a decent answer.”
Michael Sheen: “I played a character in a very little film – a small independent film when I was just starting to do films – called Heartlands and that character was a real innocent. And it’s a sort of road movie and it’s about a young guy who’s never left his village. He goes off on a little moped across Britain to try and get his wife back. He’s a real innocent, that character.”
David Tennant: “You were great in that film. I remember that!”
Michael Sheen: “Thank you. But the innocence of that is sort of the closest to Aziraphale. But then Aziraphale isn’t just innocent so there’s that in there, and he’s very vulnerable and everything is very on the surface with him. But no, I’ve not really played a character like Aziraphale before.”
David Tennant: “The only character I think of a bit is Peter Vincent from the movie Fright Night who’s a bit… I mean, they dress quite similarly. He’s a bit rock ‘n’ roll; he thinks he’s really cool and he’s actually not cool at all and he’s rather soft and rather sweet underneath a very swaggery exterior. So, there’s elements of that to Crowley.”
Michael Sheen: “Well, there’s a little bit of Aziraphale I suppose in the character I played in Bright Young Things. A tiny little bit in there maybe.”
David Tennant: “Yeah. But I think again they’re characters that feel eternal. They feel like archetypes and again that comes back to what Neil and Terry created because they feel like they’ve been around forever.”
Michael Sheen: “And I do find it difficult to describe Aziraphale without describing the relationship. There sort of is no Aziraphale without Crowley. I do feel like that.”