Good Omens, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s classic book about the Antichrist and Armageddon, is finally getting the TV treatment it always deserved. Fans have been begging for decades for this favorite novel to make its way onto our screens. Fancasts have been going around for years on Twitter, Tumblr, and even LiveJournal (that’s how long people have wanted this! It’s practically archaeological!).
For years the biggest names from British TV and film have been thrown around on various fan lists, and now I’m happy to say the real cast of the upcoming six-part series lives up to even the most exacting fan’s standards. Just based on the cast alone, Good Omens is already shaping up to be an incredible show. When you combine some of the best actors from every important genre show in the past ten years, how could it not be?
I’ve always loved Good Omens. I stumbled upon the book by accident as a teenager while working as a page in my local library. It happened to end up on my cart to be shelved that day and the cover called to me like a siren. I would like to take this opportunity to formally apologize to that library, because instead of shelving books that day, I spent my entire shift standing in front of the P shelf in the fantasy section, lost in the novel. I had read Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman just a few weeks before, but Terry Pratchett was a new name to me. I left the library that night with every book by Gaiman and Pratchett I could find. I finished Good Omens around 3 AM and fell asleep in homeroom the next day. It was absolutely worth it. It took a little over a week to plow through all of Gaiman’s novels and comics…then came the glorious horror of discovering just how many Discworld books there were. I fell asleep in homeroom a lot that year in high school.
Ever since that life-changing day, I’ve always been a fan of those two brilliant Brits, and Good Omens is still one of my absolute favorite novels. It is almost perfect: deliriously funny, surprisingly touching, and wonderfully descriptive. Demon Crowley and angel Aziraphale immediately took up residence in my mind like a pair of gargoyles atop a church wall. I’ve read through it so many times that I now possess a copy so worn and tattered that it’s held together by tape and a hair tie I used because I own way more of those than I do rubber bands. Good Omens has been loved to death by me.
So, needless to say, I’m very excited about the upcoming series. We’ve only had small glimpses of the show thus far, leaving us with more questions than answers. How are they going to update the series for the present day? (Or will they do so at all?) Good Omens works so well because it’s ultra-light on modern technology. One important scene even involves a phone that still plugs into a wall and an answering machine! Is the action going to remain in the book’s late 1980s setting, or will it occur circa 2018/2019? How are the showrunners going to deal with all the hilarious info collected in the novel’s many footnotes? Will Crowley’s Bentley still only play cassettes? More importantly, have they licensed the Best of Queen for the soundtrack?! If I don’t see Crowley driving a car on fire while blasting “Don’t Stop Me Now” I may lose it!
Unfortunately the answers to these and many other questions must wait until we get closer to the (still unannounced) premiere date. For now, we can kill time obsessing over what we do know… The first question on everyone’s mind after the announcement was made was who is playing Crowley and Aziraphale? They are clearly the stand-out stars of the book and the performances of the actors cast in these roles could easily make or break the series. Thank the devil the casting people got it right, both in terms of those two main roles and the supporting characters. They’ve handpicked actors from Doctor Who, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and some of the best BBC productions of recent years and assembled what looks to be an almost perfect lineup of the some of the most charismatic actors working in genre right now. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at these names!
In what can only be described as absolutely perfect casting, the Tenth Doctor himself will be appearing as the demon Crowley. Tennant’s name has appeared on fancasts of Good Omens ever since the second he stepped out of the TARDIS and into our hearts. Obviously, Tennant has appeared in a long, long list of films as well as stage and television productions, from Shakespeare to Harry Potter—but the Tenth Doctor will always be my Doctor, so I am inordinately excited to see what he’ll bring to Crowley, a sarcastic and charming demon with a heart of gold.
Appearing opposite Tennant in the role of do-gooder angel Aziraphale is celebrated British actor Michael Sheen! Sheen is a veteran of stage and screen, appearing in such films as The Queen, in which he played Tony Blair, and Underworld where he played an 800-year-old werewolf. I’m excited to see how he will interact with Tennant—their energy together already looks electric just based on early promotional shots and the teaser we’ve seen.
If it’s a British TV show, you know Mark Gatiss will be there somewhere! Appearing in everything from Sherlock and Doctor Who to Game of Thrones, this seasoned genre actor probably couldn’t be kept away from the set! He is playing a character named Harmony who isn’t in the novel. I’m deeply curious to see what that’s going to look like.
Don Draper himself has also been cast, bringing his formidable talent and chiseled jawline to the show to play the angel Gabriel. Gabriel is only a bit part in the novel, where he’s referred to as a pompous jerk, and his role has been expanded for the show. Honestly, I think the casting here is spot on.
Anna Maxwell Martin
A star of period films, theater, and BBC prestige productions, this actress gets to spread her wings as the demon Beelzebub, in what’s sure to be quite a change from starring in Dickensian roles or playing Elizabeth Darcy (in Masterpiece Theater’s excellent Death Comes to Pemberley).
This Academy Award-winning actress is known for her character work, as well as starring turns in major films like Fargo and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, and now she gets to bring that intensity to the role of God. When I heard this casting announcement, I actually gasped out loud. She’s going to be incredible.
This classically trained British actor has two knighthoods and has appeared in everything from I, Claudius to films like Gladiator and Gosford Park, to name just a few credits from his impressive acting resume. Of course, he’s also done his fair share of genre work, appearing in Doctor Who and Underworld. In Good Omens he will be the Metatron, an angelic being considered to be the voice of God.
Grantchester is one of my Dad’s favorite shows. I knew I had seen Faberes’ face before! This actress will play Pollution in the series.
Our beautiful Anathema Device—the descendent of Agnes Nutter who foretold everything in the novel—is being played by the very talented Adria Arjona. She recently starred in Pacific Rim: Uprising as well as appearing in True Detective and Person of Interest. I wonder what kind of chemistry she’ll have with Newt?
Ah, there he is. This British comedian is going to be just fantastic as shy, logical, down on his luck witchfinder Newt Pulsifer. Jack Whitehall has starred in numerous comedy specials, including one on Comedy Central.
He’s been in everything from This Is Spinal Tap, Clue, and more recently Better Call Saul, and now this iconic character actor gets to shine as witchfinder Shadwell, a gruff old witch hunter who takes Newt under his wing. You could not ask for a better Shadwell.
This is a real treat: this British actress has appeared in some of the best of British TV over the years, starring in everything from Blackadder to Absolutely Fabulous, as well as movies like The Crying Game. Richardson also played Rita Skeeter in the Harry Potter films and will bring that same charm and energy to her role as Madam Tracy, the psychic who lives in the flat next to Shadwell.
Fresh off his role as Stephen Black in Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell and a part in Star Wars: Rogue One, he’s part of the fearsome duo of demons that are sent to stop Crowley from trying to stop the end of the world.
And here is the other member of that demonic duo. Dennehy has appeared in Peaky Blinders, the Harry Potter films, and the recent horror movie Mandy.
Last but never, never, ever least is Nick Offerman: a man who needs no introduction. A wholesome fan favorite, known for his role as adorable curmudgeon Ron Swanson in Parks and Recreation, he will play the American diplomat father to a child who might be the Antichrist. Sort of. Maybe. Look, it’s complicated…
With a cast like that, there is no way this show can fail. I have faith in Good Omens so far: not only is the cast is amazing, but Neil Gaiman himself has been deeply involved in every aspect of its transition from page to screen. It’s bittersweet since Sir Terry is no longer with us, but I know he’d be just as excited to see it come to life as the fans are.
And now all we have to do is wait until 2019 for the show to premiere. What ever will we do until then?
Don’t worry—I’ve got your back. It will be my utmost honor and privilege to lead an ongoing discussion of Good Omens this fall with a full reread of the novel here on Tor.com! Starting in a couple weeks, I’ll lead you through a deep dive into the adventures of Crowley, Aziraphale, and company, poring over footnotes, untangling plot points, and generally celebrating this incredible, wonderful, beloved, hilarious work of fiction. And yes—there will be extra attention paid to puns. I hope you will join me on this journey as we wait (mostly patiently) together for Good Omens to storm onto our screens. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine!
Meghan Ball is an avid reader, writer, and lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy. When she isn’t losing to a video game or playing the guitar badly, she’s writing short fiction and spending way too much time on Twitter. You can find her there @EldritchGirl. She currently lives in a weird part of New Jersey.