Neil Gaiman: ‘Good Omens feels more apt now than it did 30 years ago’

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Before Terry Pratchett died, Gaiman told his friend he would adapt their novel about an angel and a devil stopping the apocalypse. As Good Omens starts on TV, he discusses fame, politics and honouring that promise

You’d never know from watching Good Omens, Neil Gaiman’s effervescent apocalyptic comedy of errors, that he started writing it fresh off the plane from the funeral of his friend Terry Pratchett, when “nothing seemed funny”. After “all of the fanciest writers that we could find and think of” had turned the job down, Gaiman promised to adapt their co-written 1990 novel himself; and when Pratchett died in the spring of 2015, “suddenly it was a last request”.

Having made the pledge, Gaiman said when we met recently in New York, he “knew that I couldn’t just invent it, write it down and give it to somebody and go: ‘OK, I’m done,’ because at that point anything could happen”, so he plunged in as showrunner, making all the creative calls himself and cast it partly from “my address book”. The result is a delightful, hectic and “ridiculously personal” confection, brimming with jokes and stars – Benedict Cumberbatch is Satan, Frances McDormand plays God – which aspires, despite its lavish Amazon budget, to “a handmade feel”. Gaiman briefed the designers to bring him all the ideas they might assume were “a bit too mad, but …” and gleefully embraced “the little clunky bits”: there are pointedly old school graphics and a pre-credit sequence in episode three that spans much of world history and goes on for nearly half an hour. If you look carefully at the scenes set in a second-hand bookshop, you might spot Pratchett’s hat and scarf, “just hanging there” in tribute.

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  • May 30, 2019