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Good Omens has finally premiered on Amazon, and the six-episode series delivered an adaptation of the immensely popular novel of the same name. The novel, penned by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, tells the story the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale as they work together to prevent the end of the world. There are plenty of other quirky characters in the mix as well, but it was really the dynamic between Crowley and Aziraphale that needed to be something truly special for Good Omens to stand out.
David Tennant and Michael Sheen were cast as Crowley and Aziraphale, respectively, and it was difficult to guess going into the show whether they had the right kind of spark together to portray two characters who spent six thousand years rubbing off on each other and becoming an oddball sort of angelic/demonic unit.
Fortunately, David Tennant and Michael Sheen nailed the dynamic from start to finish. Neil Gaiman, who wrote the scripts and ran the show on top of his role as one of the authors of the original novel, recently spoke at a press junket attended by CinemaBlend and other outlets, and he described Tennant and Sheen's dynamic from early on:
There was a special chemistry, and on that we got lucky... We started to see it during the read-through. They were about ten minutes in, suddenly it was as if they started dancing together, and the dance continued to the end.
David Tennant and Michael Sheen were cast for their roles without a chemistry read that revealed how they would build their characters around each other before the table read, but Neil Gaiman explained that it was as if they began dancing together, and they didn't stop until the very end.
The read-through happened without all the TV magic of makeup and costuming and set pieces, so David Tennant and Michael Sheen must have been truly remarkable together to make such an impression as a demon and angel. Neil Gaiman wasn't the only one immediately impressed, either. (More on that lower.)
Honestly, if one half of the writing team who created the characters nearly 30 years ago is enthusiastically on board, there can be no doubt that these were the right actors for the job! Considering that Neil Gaiman has said many times that the goal of Good Omens on Amazon was to create something for his late writing partner that Terry Pratchett would have been proud of, his comments about David Tennant and Michael Sheen are high praise indeed.
Director Douglas Mackinnon, who helmed all six episodes of Good Omens, weighed in on the dance between the two lead actors, as well as what they brought to the show as their characters in their funny little relationship. Mackinnon said this:
We sort of knew they would learn and turn up, and they would be good. Michael himself talks about that dance. He said, 'Suddenly I was saying a line, and then the other line.' I think it's worth saying as well, [to Neil Gaiman] because you've said before, the two characters started off as one character, and you split them at some point into the two characters. I'm from Scotland, which won't surprise you, but there's an ancient Celtic myth that when God first created a human being, she'd basically created a two-headed, four-legged, four-armed creature, and then it wasn't working, so split it in half. And the idea is that they've always been trying to get back together again ever since. And it's almost like that's who David and Michael are [as Crowley and Aziraphale]. They're in a very polarized world that we live in now. They represent those two polar ends of life, and yet they rub along together. They get on. So if they can get on, why can't everybody else? I suppose [that] is our message.
The actors playing Crowley and Aziraphale needed to sell their separate sides of the story while still coming across as two halves of a whole. Luckily, David Tennant and Michael Sheen had a lot to work with thanks to the original Good Omens novel and the new sequences Neil Gaiman crafted for the show. Although Tennant hadn't actually read the book, Gaiman was a resource for clarifying what Crowley and Aziraphale did and why they did it.
Interestingly, one of the most entertaining new sequences for the show almost didn't happen thanks to some filming complications at one iconic London location. If not for Neil Gaiman and Douglas Mackinnon improvising, the Globe Theatre scene could have been a disaster.
That scene and many others proved Crowley and Aziraphale are the real heart of Good Omens. Not just because Good Omens delivered a distraught Crowley leaving Aziraphale's burning book shop to the tune of Queen's "Somebody To Love," and not just because Aziraphale was willing to go against every instinct and give Crowley some holy water because he was afraid Crowley would get himself killed attempting to steal it.
Thanks to the combination of Neil Gaiman's writing, David Tennant and Michael Sheen's performances, and Douglas Mackinnon's filming, Good Omens is in many ways a love story between an angel and a demon that is just open enough to interpretation that everybody should be able to enjoy it.
David Tennant and Michael Sheen also spoke at the press event about crafting the Crowley/Aziraphale dynamic:
David Tennant: It was something that we very much discovered. From reading the source material, they felt very vivid. It felt like I knew who both these characters were and what they needed to feel like, but we didn't really unpack with each other how we might sort of embody that. We just read the scenes, and we read all the scripts in one day. And it did sort of develop over the course of that.
Michael Sheen: You've got broad strokes. You know that they're supposed to be an odd couple. You know that I'm a bit fussy and a bit anal or whatever, and you're a bit loose and a bit swaggery and all that kind of stuff. But the specifics of that, you have to discover, and I remember in that table read, starting to discover those. And then they changed. I came in with sort of an idea, and that idea went quite quickly. And you start to define yourself in terms of what the other person is doing.
Even the actors didn't know what they had together until the read-through! Fans can argue until the end of time about whether the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale is platonic, romantic, familial, or just undefinable (or perhaps ineffable) as an angel and a demon who bonded through a unique shared experience, but I think all viewers can probably agree that David Tennant and Michael Sheen brought something remarkable to their scenes together.
Despite the fact that I'm guessing plenty of fans would give their right arm -- or somebody's right arm, anyway -- for another batch of episodes with David Tennant and Michael Sheen as Crowley and Aziraphale, we'll probably just have to content ourselves with pitching spinoffs and imagining what came next for them after the final credits rolled. The Good Omens novel didn't have a sequel, and Neil Gaiman is looking forward to getting back to writing novels rather than crafting shows.