SXSW 2019: Good Omens – Red Carpet Interview with David Tennant and Michael Sheen

Good Omens
Red Carpet Interview with
David Tennant & Michael Sheen
SXSW
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 stars, David Tennant and Michael Sheen 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 Neil 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, popular British television director, Douglas Mackinnon (Doctor Who, Knightfall, Outlander), directed all six episodes. While Good Omens boasts a large ensemble cast, Tennant and Sheen are the undeniable above the title stars.

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

David was up first:

PCR: Good Omens, what drew you to the role, what drew you to the part of Crowley?

DT: I read the script. I hadn’t come across the book. It came out of the blue. All I knew was that Douglas Mackinnon was directing it. And Michael Sheen was already there. And it was a script by Neil Gaiman on  a book he had written with Terry Pratchett.  These are all names that make you think, “I’m probably not going to say no to this.” And then I sat down and read it and thought, “this is, this is brilliant.” These are two great characters. They’re sort of timeless characters and yet they’re completely new and individual and unique. These are great scripts. These are scenes I want to play. This is a story I want to tell.

PCR: For people that aren’t familiar, can you give a couple words about Crowley and what they can expect from him?  Or you, as him?

DT: Wow. Well, he’s been on Earth since the dawn of time. He’s Hell’s representative on Earth. He’s sent out on various missions to corrupt the local populace. But! He’s sort of fallen in love with what it means to be a human. And rather enjoys the world that the humans have created. He likes wine and he likes nice restaurants. And he likes the clothes. And he’s rather rock ‘n roll. And the idea that that should all come to a close … he’s charged with delivering the Antichrist which will herald the End of Days. He realizes, this will not stand because that means he’ll have to go back to the head office. And go back to living the life of a demon. So he teams up with his friend, the Angel, Aziraphale. And they set out to avert the apocalypse.

PCR: How was it working on such a large ensemble production again? 

DT: It was fantastic. Most of my stuff. Most of everyday I had was with Michael Sheen, which was a joy. To turn up and go to work with Michael everyday. To play those scenes with him and be inspired by what he was doing and to have fun acting opposite him. And then at the same time, we’d have people like Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson, Michael McKean, a whole host of actors. It just kept getting better and better. It was extraordinary, everyone wants to come and play. Wants to come and do a day with Derek Jacobi. Then, after we finished shooting, Johnny Vegas, Benedict Cumberbatch  came in and did a voice, Frances McDormand is the Voice of God. It just got more and more extraordinary.

PCR: That’s great, congratulations!

DT: Thank you!

Then, it was Michael Sheen’s turn to come down the line:

PCR: For people who don’t know Good Omens or the story, tell us about your character, Aziraphale. 

MS: Aziraphale is an Angel. And he’s been on Earth, representing his team, since the Garden of Eden. And his job is to try and make sure that people become better. Listen to their better angels and do good works. But he keeps bumping into this demon, Crowley, who is working with the other team and who is trying to corrupt people. And over the millennia that they’re on Earth, the start to develop this relationship and they become friends, essentially. And they have this agreement where they help each other out. And they kind of fall in love with the world. So, when the news comes that there’s going to be an apocalypse, and the Antichrist is coming and it’s going to be the end of the world, neither of them really want the world to end. They’ve enjoyed it too much. They’ve enjoyed their time there too much. So they sort of team up to try and stop that from happening.

PCR: Were you familiar with the book at all before coming to the script? 

Yeah, I had read the book when it came out. I was in drama school at the time and I read the book and I loved it. So I was a big fan of the book from that point on. And then, at a certain point, I think about ten years ago now, Neil Gaiman and I became friends. So, then when he started developing the scripts and writing the first drafts of the scripts, he would send them to me. So, as a fan of the book it was so exciting, to actually, you know,  have a look at the early versions of the scripts and to be part of bringing it to the screen, has been a real dream job.

PCR: What was it like doing a six hour mini-series, or basically, a long movie? Do you approach those kinds of jobs differently than you would some other kind of acting job.

MS: Not really. I think it is kind of a new thing, isn’t it? That because we know the people, a lot of people, will watch the whole thing in one go, then you are essentially making a six hour movie. But, I’m not sure that we as actors approach it differently. It gives you the opportunity to explore the character a lot longer, obviously, than if you were doing an hour and a half film. Also, it’s not a 22-part series as well. So, there’s the focus that comes with doing a smaller story. But, you’ve got much more room to explore it than you would with a regular movie. It’s kind of a new medium in a way, that’s being invented now. I think it really is great for actors.

PCR: I suspect we’re going to see you on screen with David a lot, who plays Crowley. What was it like working with the other actors, there’s a ton of names who are coming through the show with cameos and guest spots …

MS: I mean, every day, David and I would come on set and there would be some new, amazing actor that we’ve been fans of all our lives. You know, coming in to work with us. To see Michael McKean, who I remember seeing in Spinal Tap growing up.  Then to have Michael McKean there. Or Miranda Richardson, who is just this iconic actress in Britain. To see her coming in and doing this character, who I think is going to be another iconic character from her. It was amazing. Actors like Derek Jacobi, Sir Derek Jacobi, coming in just to do, off lines for me. It was amazing. Not only are they amazing actors, they’re also, just, fascinating people to be around. You know what it’s like on a set. You spend a lot of time just sitting around in a trailer, waiting to be called … so, if you’re with people who can tell a good story or led an interesting life, they’re happy to talk about it, it makes the whole experience a lot better.  So, we were very lucky. Not only were we working with world class actors but also, they were just really interesting people.

PCR: I can’t imagine. That’s amazing, thank you so much. 

MS. Thank you!

*** 

The enthusiasm that Michael and David had for each other and this project shone through their interviews, not just with me but all the way down the line. If you watch Good Omens, you will see that enthusiasm shine through their roles as well, these two are titans on the screen and they seem to be having the very best time. Good Omens premieres on Friday, May 31, 2019 on Amazon Prime!