Good Omens is back, thank heaven and hell, and with it Michael Sheen and David Tennant as the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowley. Ahead of Prime Video’s second season following the cosmic characters created by Neil Gaiman and the late Terry Pratchett, io9 caught up with the fan-favorite stars.
(These interviews were conducted prior to the start of the SAG-AFTRA strike.)
Season one of Good Omens showed us Aziraphale and Crowley hanging out in the Garden of Eden. But as season two’s opening shows us, that wasn’t actually the first time they met. Turns out they had an encounter at the birth of the entire universe—and that’s where their first impressions of each other were formed.
“I think Aziraphale is very struck by Crowley,” Sheen said. “It’s hard to put a finger on what it is, but something about him makes Aziraphale’s ears prick up. And then almost immediately, as is always the way with Crowley, he gets annoyed by him. He gets infuriated by him, he gets intimidated by him. And very worried by him—Aziraphale always finds Crowley a worrying presence. He’s always rocking the boat. We see all those things at play in that first meeting in the second series—where he’s sort of drawn to him and kind of impressed by him, but very worried by him as well. And nothing changes really, as it moves on.”
Tennant reflects that Crowley didn’t quite have the same experience. “There’s certainly no sense to Crowley that this is someone who is going to become terribly important to him, so central to his very existence, but then Crowley’s still an angel at that point. He’s got a long journey to go on before he becomes the character that we get to know,” he said. “[In this scene] we get to see how central they were to the creation of it all—and how misjudged Crowley was in the way that he imagined the hierarchy of heaven to work. So it’s a rather delicious little snapshot that I think also helps to inform their relationship forever, really. And of course, when we then cut to present day, they’re still the same two that met all those millennia before. So it’s a very pleasing little way to open the series. It was the first thing that Neil shared with us of season two, and it just felt immediately ideal, I thought, that was how we should reconnect with these characters.”
Aziraphale and Crowley have been through a lot together; season one’s successful derailing of the apocalypse came after we witnessed their relationship being formed, cemented, and challenged—always challenged—over the centuries. Season two finds them in a reasonably comfortable place after having cut ties with their respective “employers,” who are still unsure what to make of them after the climactic events of season one. But there’s always room for chaos in Good Omens.
“They’re sort of like an old married couple by the time we pick up with them in season two,” Sheen said. “I think for Aziraphale, he’s gotten everything he’s always wanted—but he’s also very disconcerted by his situation. On the one hand, for a very long time, all he’s really wanted is to be able to sit in his bookshop and read books, and listen to music and eat nice food, and have cups of tea and the occasional hot chocolate, and then a nice bottle of wine and hang out with the being he most likes being with. He’s got that now. But at the same time, I think he’s always someone who has felt a great deal of security as being part of the company. He’s very much a company man in that respect. So being independent from heaven is very disconcerting for him; I suppose in some ways that makes him cling all the more to the relationship with Crowley. But it definitely feels like things have settled into that relationship now, and settled into committing to being on Earth surrounded by all manner of earthly things.”
Good Omens fans responded to the Aziraphale-Crowley relationship with great enthusiasm—and that’s putting it mildly. “It was both incredibly surprising and just wonderful,” Sheen said of season one’s reception. “I’ve never really experienced anything like that. David has had the whole Doctor Who experience and so was kind of more prepared for it. But it was very new to me and I absolutely loved it. It was just so wonderful to see how people responded creatively, with all the fanfiction and the art and the cosplaying and all of that, which is just amazing and breathtaking, to see the talent that they have, and how much people took these characters and their stories to heart. And then just seeing the community that developed as well … [there was a] very diverse audience for this story and these characters, and seeing how much people were brought together and supporting each other and helping each other [as a result of Good Omens]… it felt like a real honor and a privilege to to be a little part of that.”
Tennant knows what it means to be the object of passionate fandom—and his time with Doctor Who isn’t over yet, since he’ll be leading the series’ 60th anniversary specials later this year—but he was still surprised by the tidal wave of love that Good Omens received. “I don’t think I’d quite understood how beloved this book was or these characters were until we were shooting it—and I kept meeting more and more people who who were so thrilled that we were making the show, but only but also a little bit worried that we might break their dreams,” he said. “So then it feels like you’re carrying a Ming vase across a minefield, and that you have to get this right, that you’re carrying a lot of dreams with you and a lot of expectations. To have it well received was a huge relief and hugely humbling actually, because it has meant so much to so many people over decades. Seeing all the Crowleys and Aziraphales coming to Comic-Con, and almost always as a duo, which I think is the loveliest thing—you very rarely see a Crowley or Aziraphale, you almost always see two best mates who’ve come together. And that, I think, is probably been the thing that tells me most of all that we got at least a part of it right. That’s what I feel very proud of, certainly.”
Good Omens season one had Gaiman and Pratchett’s novel to guide its story. Season two expands into new territory for the characters, but it’s still coming from the imaginations of its creators. “From the beginning, Neil always told us that he and Terry had thought much further ahead with the story than book one. We knew that there were all kinds of ideas and storylines that existed in Neal’s head that he and Terry had talked about and worked on. But at the same time, we had no idea that any of those would become a reality. We just thought we were doing a one-off story,” Sheen said. “That one-off story also happened to be a book that I had read when it came out, when I was in my late teens and that was a favorite of mine, and that one-half of the writing partnership was Neil Gaiman, who is probably one of my favorite writers of all time and whose work I love. So working on the adaptation of the book, it was both a sort of dream come true, but also a massive pressure because there was it felt like a huge responsibility. And also, strange to be bringing this story that I knew so well and these characters that I knew so well to life—sort of being on the inside of them. That was a very peculiar experience.”
Sheen continued. “So coming into series two, it did feel very different, yes, but kind of liberating in all kinds of ways—and especially once we got the scripts and we could see that they were terrific, and it felt very much like still being in the world of the first series, but getting to explore all kinds of new areas. It was really, really exciting. And it was very moving, coming back to the characters again. When I first put my costume back on, and my hair had been bleached again and all that, I suddenly saw [Aziraphale] looking out from the mirror—that was very moving. When David walked on to set, and I saw him for the first time—I was on set as Aziraphale, and he came on dressed as Crowley—that was very moving to see him. And for them to suddenly be together again was a very emotional moment.”
Tennant had a similar feeling coming into season two. “Neil had always told us that he and Terry had ambitions for a sequel, or at least they’d had discussions about it. There are some elements in series one that I think came from conversations that Neil and Terry had many years previously about where those characters might go,” he said. “It feels like we’re still part of the same continuum; only Neal knows really how much is completely new material and how much comes from ideas that might have been had between him and Terry many years ago. But it certainly feels like the same world and same story; it all felt very natural and sort of an organic evolution for these characters. It’s a very different type of story—it’s quite different structurally but it still feels like it’s part of the same world. It just felt like a pleasure, really, to be revisiting these characters and telling more stories with them.”
Sheen pointed out that even though Good Omens has a fantastical setting, it has very grounded themes. “I find that [the themes in] all of Neil’s work seem to be very similar, which is: we’re all human and we have to just look after each other. The themes come back to the simplest of things, [like] love, and being forgiving and kind, and accepting people’s flaws. That’s always what it comes back to with Neil,” he said. “I think the fact that he is able to weave these extraordinary, epic, mind-bending stories around that is why people respond [so strongly]. That isn’t going to change. That is always going to be the theme. But I suppose, in terms of the setting—if you thought the apocalypse was bad, just wait to see what’s coming down the road next.”
And what about the future? Both Sheen and Tennant said they’d absolutely want to return for more Good Omens, if that opportunity happens to come along. “From the very beginning, we found the characters both individually and as a relationship so enjoyable to play. It would be very difficult to not want to come back,” Sheen said.
“I think we are there to be further stories to be told and I imagine we’d be quite happy to tell them,” Tennant agreed, noting that the end of season two is “certainly teasing the idea that there might be another tale to tell at some point.”
Good Omens season two arrives July 28 on Prime Video.
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