Neil Gaiman: ‘Good Omens fan response to Crowley and Aziraphale’s love story caught me by surprise’

The novelist and showrunner explains why he reimagined the characters' relationship for the screen

Good Omens

Having seen “30 years of Good Omens book fandom”, Neil Gaiman was expecting a big reaction to the TV adaptation of his and Terry Pratchett’s novel… but the “ferocity” of the response to one aspect of the show took him completely by surprise.

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Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Gaiman explained that while he had “enormous fun” writing the dynamic between David Tennant’s demon Crowley and Michael Sheen’s angel Aziraphale, the strength of the fan reaction to the pairing was more than he could have hoped for.

“I needed extra material for them, ’cause there just wasn’t enough in the book,” he said. “I felt, well, why don’t I essentially take the beats of a love story and see how that works? And I was very fortunate in having Michael and David understand that and let it happen…

Michael Sheen plays Aziraphale
Michael Sheen plays Aziraphale

“Particularly the way that Michael plays Aziraphale just as a being of pure love, I think that gave us something very special, because people of every and any sexual orientation and any and every gender looked at Crowley and Aziraphale and saw themselves in it, or saw a love story that they responded to, and that was completely unexpected.

“Things like this, you can’t manufacture, they have to happen from a fandom.”

Good Omens launched globally on Amazon Prime Video in May, with a BBC Two broadcast to follow. Gaiman adapted the 1990 comic fantasy novel into a six-episode series at the request of his co-author Pratchett, who passed away in 2015.

The show has inspired a fervent fandom, with aficionados producing fan art and fiction and attending conventions dressed as their favourite Good Omens characters. “David Tennant said something which I thought was rather wonderful when I was asking him about it – he said at DragonCon this year, for the very first time, he had more demons turn up to pose for photographs with him than Time Lords!” Gaiman recalled.

Neil Gaiman
Mike Marsland/WireImage

“I’ve seen photographs posted on Twitter from people in Moscow, from the Ukraine, from Japan, from China – which is really amazing because we aren’t legitimately shown in China! From Italy… not to mention America and England and Brazil and Argentina… all these places where people are dressing up as the characters and writing letters about how magical and how important the characters were to them… so it was incredibly unexpected.

“It wasn’t unexpected in the sense that I didn’t expect there to be some fan pick-up of Good Omens, [but it was unexpected in the velocity and the ferocity and the enthusiasm with which people embraced it… the way we became the most popular thing on Tumblr and then stayed the most popular thing on Tumblr for month after month. And you’re sort of going, ‘How did this happen?!’.”

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Good Omens is available to pre-order now on DVD and Blu-ray (as a standard edition and special steelbook)