Whether you’ve read Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s Good Omens or not, there’s a fair chance that you may not be familiar with either the characters or the voices behind them when it comes to listening to Radio 4’s adaptation tonight.
So, to make sure you get the most out of the apocalyptic comedy, here’s a handy guide to all the major players in the last days of earth.
Heaven and hell
These are the End Times, apparently: when both heaven and hell have decided that Earth will become the battlefield for a holy war. The Antichrist, who will be nurtured in an environment that will fuel his evil, will be the one to initiate this apocalypse. But… where is he?
A wry demon who previously took the form of Crawly, the serpent of Eden who tempted Eve to eat the apple in the bible. He has since represented Evil on Earth – “he’d been particularly pleased with Manchester” – but has actually come to rather like life among the humans. Hence, when he’s told of the coming apocalypse, he decides to do his best to stop it. But to do so, he must track down the Antichrist, who appears to have been misplaced at birth…
… played by Peter Serafinowicz
If you’re a fan of British comedy, then you’ll know Peter Serafinowicz from roles in Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, as well as his own sketch comedy The Peter Serafinowicz Show. Otherwise, you will definitely recognise him as Denarian Saal from this year’s Marvel hit Guardians of the Galaxy. Oh, and he also voiced Darth Maul in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.
A very intelligent, slightly camp angel who is representative of good on Earth, making him Crowley’s opposite. Nonetheless, he has more in common with Crowley than he does with those in Heaven, and the two have become good friends. Of course, this means that Aziraphale is also not too keen on the end of the world and the two team up to avert it.
…played by Mark Heap
Just like Serafinowicz, you’ll know Mark Heap from British comedy, where he specialises in deluded and obsessive characters. Mostly notably, he played tortured artist Brian Topp in Spaced and pompous, childish deviant Dr Alan Statham in surreal cult comedy Green Wing. More recently, he featured as weird neighbour Jim in Friday Night Dinner.
So, instead of the Antichrist growing up in the home of a US diplomat, he has grown up in a perfectly normal English village to perfectly normal English parents. He is, however, part of a trouble-making ‘gang’ called Them, who are…
Adam, played by Adam Thomas Wright (centre)
Simply put, Adam Young is the antichrist. He is the one who will bring about the end of the world. But he’s been misplaced. According to the plans of heaven and hell, Adam was meant to be raised in an environment that would harness his evil, but due to the mix-up at birth, that’s not the case, and he must be found – for either good or evil. He’s played by 14 year-old Adam Thomas Wright, who is relatively unknown.
Brian, played by Lewis Andrews; Wensleydale, played by Bobby Fuller; Pepper, played by Hollie Burgess (all standing left to right)
These are the members of Adam’s ‘gang’ who he grew up with, and who he will inevitably drag into the events that will determine the fate of mankind. Again, being child actors, they’re all relatively unknown.
Caught up in those grand divine plans, of course, is humanity. Specifically, witch-hunters and a witch who holds the key to Crowley and Aziraphale locating the Antichrist.
A 17th century witch, and the author of the Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agness Nutter, the only known accurate prophecy book of all time, and inevitably, an utter commercial failure. Agnes’ book becomes a go-to guide for the characters as the apocalypse grows nearer, trying to unfurl her cryptic clues written hundreds of years ago. Naturally the world’s only real clairvoyant happened to be a bit batty.
… played by Josie Lawrence
Who better to play such an unpredictable lady of sorcery than chief improvising expert Josie Lawrence, who rose to comedic fame when she became a series regular on Whose Line is it Anyway. Cropping up on every British TV show you can think of, from Skins to Eastenders, Lawrence’s finesse for eccentric characters makes her a dab-hand for old Agnes.
Anathema is a late, late descendent of Agnes Nutter, who now possesses her Nice and Accurate Prophecies. Unlike her eccentric ancestor, Anathema is a straight-laced lady with a PhD and a very matter-of fact attitude – impressive, considering so much oddness going on.
…played by Charlotte Ritchie
Ritchie is an up-and-coming comedy actor who Fresh Meat fans will instantly recognise as Oregon. She is currently starring in BBC sitcom Siblings.
The anti-social Shadwell is one of two remaining members of the Witchfinder Army: an army that, you’ll be surprised to hear, specialises in finding witches. He’s not particularly successful, mind, although is very much committed – always checking to see how many nipples someone has in case they’re a witch.
… played by Clive Russell
And playing Shadwell is Clive Russell, an actor who is well experienced in matters of times gone by, having starred in Thor and Game of Thrones. He has also cropped up in fantasy epics Merlin and King Arthur, so we’re not surprised he was drawn to the truly magical Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett collaboration.
Colin Morgan is certainly no stranger to fantasy, given that he rose to fame playing Merlin in the BBC drama series of the same name. He is currently making his way through the cream of British TV (from Doctor Who to The Fall) and, as a huge fan of Terry Pratchett, comes into Good Omens very well versed.
The four horsemen
You can’t have an apocalypse without the four horsemen. All the way through Good Omens, War, Death, Famine and Pollution, who took over from Pestilence in 1936 after the invention of penicillin, gear up in the background for the apocalypse. But will they ever get the chance to end the world? From left to right they are…
Famine, played by Patterson Joseph
Any lover of Peep Show will immediately know Patterson Joseph as the suave Alan Johnson, Mark’s switched-on boss. But others may know him from, say, absolutely every TV show ever made – from That Mitchell & Webb Look, to Green Wing to Doctor Who. He is no stranger to the work of Gaiman either, having appeared in the BBC’s original Neverwhere TV show in 1996.
Death, played by Jim Norton
Jim Norton has had a seasoned career, appearing in everything from Harry Potter, to American History X, and a memorable role as Albert Einstein in Star Trek. But of course, we’ll always seem him as the steely-faced Bishop Brennan from Father Ted – the one who, famously, must be “kicked up the arse”. We imagine once you’ve played Bishop Brennan, playing Death himself must be a doddle.
War, played by Rachael Stirling
A two-time Olivier nominee with an impressive background in theatre, Rachel Stirling is perfectly poised to take on one of the four horsemen. Throughout her career she has ticked the box of many a British drama, with a particularly memorable turn in the racy Tipping the Velvet.
Pollution, played by Harry Lloyd
Game of Thrones fans will know Harry Lloyd as the petulant King Viserys Targaryan, while Doctor Who fans may remember him as the evil, mouth curling “Son of Mine” from the creepy two parter Human Nature/Family of Blood. Who better to have around at the dawn of the apocalypse.