SXSW 2019: Good Omens – Red Carpet Interview with Neil Gaiman and Douglas Mackinnon

Good Omens
Red Carpet Interview with
Neil Gaiman & Douglas Mackinnon
March 9, 2019

UPDATED May 31, 2019: At the SXSW 2019 world premiere screening of Good Omens, we had the pleasure of speaking with series scribe, Neil Gaiman, and director, Douglas Mackinnon, as they came down the red carpet. Below is a transcript of the conversation. If you’re interested in whether you should watch Good Omens, check out our Love It Or Leave It? Review here.

Good Omens premieres on Amazon Prime on Friday, May 31, 2019.  The six episode, limited series is based on Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, the 1990 novel by Terry Pratchett and Gaiman. The limited series follows a close adaptation of the novel which is probably due in no small part to Gaiman writing the scripts for all six episodes (and serving as showrunner).  Behind the camera, iconic television director, Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Knightfall, Outlander), directed all six episodes. 

Douglas Mackinnon
Neil Gaiman








Note: The interviews have been edited for clarity and length.

Douglas was up first:

PopCultureReview: When you’re approaching a work like this, where it’s six episodes, does that change how you approach it? Versus doing a single Doctor Who or Knightfall episode, where’s here it’s almost like a long movie?  How do you approach this type of project?

Douglas Mackinnon:  You’ve got it exactly right. That we treat it as a long movie, like a six hour film.  Actually, structurally, a lot of the questions are very similar. But it’s more ambitious in the sense that you’re dealing with six hours of drama instead of one or two. In your head. Apart from everything else. I just felt like we had to be bold and decisive and delicate. And enable all our extra days to work. It’s such an ambitious project that you have to treat as a thing that was enjoyable rather than a fight.

PCR: When you’re dealing with such a large cast, does it change your process? Versus, say, a guy in a TARDIS? 

DM: I don’t think so …

PCR: You end up being a ringleader …

DM: You’re still the ringleader. I think it’s more, what’s interesting about it is that because we had a lot of big names come in for a day or two often, as well as amazing big names that were there a lot, everybody came in with their A-Games because they had to.  Cause they knew they were going to bump into Derek Jacobi or whoever. And it was really interesting. But also, the entire cast and crew just loved the project. And that makes life easy for a director.  And the second thing that makes life easy for a director is that scripts are great, which they were.

PCR: Does that, the scripts, play into how do you decide to take a project?

DM:  My primary thing is the writer, and then, the writing.  And he [ looks at Neil Gaiman is standing next to us] passes muster.

PCR: He’s oookay.

DM: He’s okay [laughs]. He’s passed the first test.

PCR: This was great. Congratulations and good luck with the screening. 

DM: I’m looking forward to it.

And, Neil was up next:

PopCultureReview: Congratulations! How is it being at SXSW with Good Omens? And American Gods was here too! 

Neil Gaiman:  Yes. Although my inability so far to master the art of my location, I’ve just been doing Good Omens while I know that American Gods is happening. But I ran into Ricky Whittle [who plays Shadow Moon on Starz Channel’s American Gods – a show adapted from Gaiman’s novel of the same name] in the airport last night.

PCR: Welcome to the small world that is Austin. How does it feel to see your novel that is almost 30 years old, come to TV, get this six episode treatment?  

NG: You know, if other people had made it, I’d probably be able to give you a sane answer.  But, it’s not like I made the thing 30 years ago and then I’m coming to South By to see what people have done with it. Which is more like my American Gods experience. With this, I wrote it , any line of dialogue, anybody saying anything that happens on the screen, I wrote it. I show ran it. I was there. Douglas and I have spent the last 11 months sitting on couches, side by side, staring at effects edits. So, it’s been a kind of a process of taking that always, and trying to bring it to the screen and bring it to the audience. So mostly, it’s Pride. Pride, thinking have I made something that Terry Pratchett would like? And I hope I have. And, it’s, have I done right by the book? And I hope I have.

PCR: How do you approach adapting written work, especially your own work? How do you make the call of what goes? What stays? Like the Gabriel character expanding, how do you make that decision?

NG: Sometimes it’s just, you cannot directly translate something from one medium to another. You have to translate it right. You have to be willing to say, okay, what is good television? This is a fantastic thing for a book but a book is not TV. TV is not a stage show. You have to change things to make them work. So, a lot of it was, what does it need in order to work? And, I got to choose, make a set of decisions, and keep my fingers crossed that they’re right.

PCR: I’m sure it’s going to be great. Congratulations. Good Luck! 

NG: Thank you. I’m so proud of it.


If you do this long enough, you tend meet people you idolize. And, with that, comes the worry that they’re going to fail the expectations you’ve set in your mind. That the pedestal you’ve place them on, will crumble like sand once they’re in front of you. Well, I had nothing to worry about from these two.  Douglas and Neil were as gracious and lovely as you could have hoped. And, from the above, you can see the honesty shine through in how they approach their work, and the passion and pride that they have invested, in particular, in Good Omens.  These kinds of interviews are the reason I love doing what I get to do.


Make sure to follow PopCultureReview on social media so you never miss an update on SXSW or Good Omens.  Follow us on Twitter @popcultureview and Instagram at pop_culture_view! And thank you for reading.

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