Casting was always going to be a major factor in the success of any adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s comedic take on the end times, Good Omens. The six-part series is set to debut on Amazon on May 31, and it’s clear they’ve nailed the casting of Michael Sheen and David Tennant as an angel and demon, respectively, who team up to thwart the apocalypse because they fancy their time on God’s green earth. Gaiman spearheaded the project to fulfill the wishes of the late Pratchett, who passed away in 2015, and wrote the TV scripts with Sheen and Tennant in mind, eventually landing both actors. With the hardest part of the casting process checked off, the Good Omens creative team got to have a little fun with the call sheet. And by divine intervention, Jon Hamm appeared.
Gaiman met Hamm at a dinner party several years before Good Omens went into production. They hit it off. When Gaiman needed another angel to be the boss to Sheen’s Aziraphale, he remembered that Hamm was a fan of the novel.
“We stayed loosely and lazily in touch,” Gaiman tells Den of Geek. “We would see each other and it was just lovely. Then one day I knew that I needed to cast Gabriel. I didn’t have a short list, I had Jon. I wrote him an email. I don’t even think I begged pityingly. I think I sort of said, ‘this is the thing and I know you like the book and will you do it?’ And got this great email back that just said, ‘Yes. HAMM.’”
Confirms Hamm: “I sign my emails with all caps, my last name.”
A match made in Heaven. The character of Gabriel was only mentioned in passing in the novel, but Gaiman found a narrative fit to expand the world of Good Omens for the screen.
“I needed to give Aziraphale a home office,” Gaiman says. “We needed to get an idea of what heaven was like, we needed to get an idea of who he’s working for. He needed a boss who was everything that he isn’t. He needed to be taller, he needed to be better looking, he needed to be much better dressed. He needed to be absolutely on top of things and he needed to care nothing about humanity and the earth. And all of these things except one, Jon already has!”
Adds Hamm: “Well I mean they put me in nice clothes, that was pretty much it.”
The character of Gabriel is more than a sharply-dressed angel. He’s pivotal to understanding how heaven views the threat of the apocalypse and Aziraphale’s role on earth. For Hamm, it was key having Gaiman write the scripts for the show to maintain the tone of the source material and add in a new(ish) character that felt naturally connected to the book.
“It was fairly seamless for me,” Hamm says. “I felt very much a part of the world. I didn’t feel like I was plugged in in any weird way or inorganic way.”
Entering the world of Good Omens has been a long time in the making for Hamm. He recalls hearing the chatter of a potential adaptation of Good Omens and kept tabs on the project: “Everybody was talking about it being unfilmable because of the scope, and because of how much CG and visual effects they’d have to do.” Hamm believes they’ve adapted it in a way that not only lives up to his expectations, but also one Pratchett would be proud of.
“What really they’ve been able to do is exploit the richness of the novel and really present it in all its glory, and I think that having a six hour timeframe to do that is great,” he says.
Good Omens releases May 31st on Amazon. Read more: Our spoiler-free review of Amazon’s Good Omens.
Image courtesy of Amazon