Michael Sheen and David Tennant appeared on Steve Wright’s Big Guests on BBC Radio 2 to promote Good Omens.
Announcer: This is the BBC
OJ: Well hello there it’s OJ here sitting in for Steve Wright on the Big Guest Podcast once again. Coming up I play something called Midnight Mastermind, but we do it at midday, hence it being Mid-afternoon Mastermind with Chris Bavin. Plus I chatted to nature enthusiast Kate Humble, but first, I got my fanboy on, with two people who I was very nervous talking to them, mainly because of what they’ve got coming up, that is David Tennant and Michael Sheen. They swung by to tell me about their new series Good Omens.
Announcer: Steve Wright’s Big Guests
OJ: Guest time now, on the Big Show, and I was very excited, I don’t want to overly fanboy about this. I was gonna interview just one guest today but I was texted by my producer over the weekend to say one guest had morphed into two which makes me double excited, but this is the BBC and it’s about balance, if you’re gonna have evil on, you have to have good on as well, as it works. Let’s make sure we’ve got the right guests first. Let’s check we’ve got the right Michael Sheen. Are you the Michael Sheen who was offered a place on the Arsenal Youth Team?
Michael: Haha, ish, yes.
OJ: You weren’t?
M: Well, I… no I was, they were interested in me playing for the youth team
OJ: And you said no?
M: I didn’t say no, my mum and dad said no! Because it would have meant living in London when I was 12. I’d have become a chimney sweep!
OJ: Ah ok. [laugher]
OJ: Are you the Michael Sheen who likes getting in touch with famous people he likes and telling them that he likes them?
M: Haha that makes me sound like a bit of a weirdo! I mean yes I’m on social media!
David: Haha Michael Sheen’s a stalker!
M: I go on social media and say you know that I’ve enjoyed certain things, like everyone else does! That makes it sound like I’m a right weirdo!
OJ: And just to check, you’re definitely not part of the Estevez family?
M: I am not part of the Estevez family, no.
OJ: We’ve done the good, let’s do the evil now, and that is David Tennant.
OJ: Have we got the right David Tennant, who was voted the coolest man on our screens in 2007?
D: I can’t… I have no idea, I mean I hope so
OJ: Is it the David Tennant who is the 16th sexiest man in the world?
D: Again, I’m not sure where you’re finding your statistics, but I’m delighted to be on that list anywhere!
OJ: I’m not sure it’s current, it was Esquire, just don’t know what year they did it
D: Oh. I’ll take anything you’ve got to be honest
OJ: He knows his way around a sonic screwdriver
D: Oh well I did once, yes.
OJ: I have got Michael Sheen and David Tennant with me…
D: Can’t work the new one though, somebody gave me one of the new ones, one of Jodie’s ones, lately, I don’t know how they work!
OJ: No? Oh it’s changed. Well listen, thank you so much for both being here. The reason you’re here is the fact that Good Omens, the book by Terry Pratchett and also by Neil Gaiman has now been turned into a TV show, it is out on Friday on Amazon, I am so excited about this.
D: Yes. You’ve read the book I believe?
OJ: I’ve read the book many times! Although I have to put it out there, it’s my most re-read book in life, and then when I found out I was interviewing you, I went yes I love the book and then I realised, I can’t remember the plot, at all [laughter], which is a sad state of affairs on me.
D: Ahh, well luckily, luckily you can watch it on TV on Friday!
M: And enjoy it all over again!
OJ: Did you both know of it before getting offered these parts?
M: I did, when it came out I was at drama school in London and I remember it coming out, and I read it and I loved it, and then many years later, I got to meet Neil Gaiman, and we became friends, and so I’ve sort of been aware of the genesis of this televisual project.
OJ: Has it been a long while coming then?
M: Well the book came out 30 years ago!
M: Yeah and there’s been the beginnings of trying to adapt it. Terry Gilliam was going to make it into a film at one point, and various things, so for a book that is so well-loved, for it not to have had an adaptation onto the screen in 30 years is very very rare, I’m not sure there is a book that’s similar to that. So it’s taken a long time.
OJ: My favourite review of the book is one that they put on the cover, or at least the version that I had, which is “not as sinister as the authors’ photos” [laughter] which I always loved. Now for people who haven’t read it or maybe like me have forgotten about it, what is the premise, and the reason I keep calling you both good and evil, why am I doing that?
M: Well, I play the angel Aziraphale
D: And I play the demon Crowley
M: And they have been on earth, representing their various head offices since the garden of Eden. I have been trying to make sure that mankind follows a path of goodness and redemption…
D: And I’ve been trying to tempt them off that path and to make them do lots of terrible things to each other.
M: And over the millennia, the demon and the angel have come to an understanding
M: That they find themselves having to go to the same places to do their respective jobs, and they realise well, why do we both have to go? Why, if you’re going there…
D: We’re cancelling each other out!
M: Yeah, so if you’re going up to Edinburgh to tempt someone, maybe you could do a bit of my job as well whilst you’re there then I don’t have to go
D: And they decide that they actually quite like this mortal world, with its glasses of wine and its nice dinners. And then of course I am tasked with delivering the Antichrist, which is going to trigger the apocalypse, which means we’d have go to back to our home, to our respective head offices, and we would lose all the joys of the mortal world.
M: Mm. So we decide to team up and try and avert the apocalypse, so that we can stay on earth.
OJ: We’ve got more chatting to do, I’ve got more questions about this to ask you in a second, first though you have both done shows on Radio 2 haven’t you?
OJ: You have, David, because you were in for Sara Cox when she did the ten til twelve slot, you were before me!
D: Ah right yes, yes!
OJ: Don’t want to say you were my warm-up artist…
D: Yes I, did they call it the throwover, what did they call it?
D: Handover yes there you go.
OJ: I was very impressed you pronounced my name right, which made me happy at the time
OJ: Did you enjoy your presenting on Radio 2 because it was just the one show?
D: I loved it, I’ve done it before as well, Catherine Tate and I had done what used to be the Jonathan Ross show on Saturday morning a few times, and we had such fun. The bit I find scary, and you can tell me how you cope with this, it’s the bit as the song’s coming to and end, and it’s just you, and you just have to talk, there are people in the nation waiting to hear, I mean anything come out of your mouth, that gave me the fear a little bit!
OJ: You have to not think about it. Michael you’ve been on Radio 2 as well?
M: So I’ve done three shows on Radio 2, and before I did my first one I remember coming in to Steve Wright’s show and him giving me some advice
OJ: What was that? He didn’t give me any advice!
M: He said don’t imagine you’re talking to lots of people when you’re talking to them, just imagine that it’s one person who’s listening to you. I totally eschewed his advice, and kept saying “ladies and gentlemen!” [laughter]
OJ: I have to qualify this before I ask this next question. That is have either of you been in one of the adaptations of a Gaiman or Pratchett book before?
M: One of Neil Gaiman’s Doctor Who episodes, I was in
D: Oh yes, yes, and I was in a radio play of a Terry Pratchett novel
OJ: Oh which one?
D: The Amazing Maurice and His Marvellous Rodents
OJ: Which is a brilliant kids book, it’s a fabulous kids book
OJ: And the only reason I say this is, that I am a massive Pratchett fan, you know, for me he’s one of the all time great English authors, and I love Neil Gaiman as well, I’d say he’s probably my second favourite
D: You’re very much in our target audience!
OJ: Well yes, and that’s why I was so scared about watching this, because I love both of you, I love both those authors, and up to this point I’ve not totally loved anything that’s been adapted from their books
D: Right. Ahh
M: Right. Well of course that’s what helped so much having Neil Gaiman be the showrunner, so he’s done the adaptation but he was also there on set every day, working alongside Douglas Mackinnon who directed it, and was at the heart of all the creative decisions really, so that gives you a lot of confidence, he’s not done that before.
OJ: When I heard about the casting of both of you in this, and I’m not just saying this because you’re at Radio 2 today and I have to say it, I can’t think of a better casting for this. I can’t at all. I mean you’ve both got a little touch of the evil about you, and a little touch of the good about you as well! [laughter] I mean Michael you have got a look of the angelic about you!
M: Oh well thank you so much! They become this strange odd couple, it’s like this marriage, where even though they’re supposed to be absolutely on opposite sides, they’re sort of a bit in love with each other I think as well, but although they wouldn’t admit it.
OJ: David, I said you were evil, obviously lets point this out, that’s because you play a demon, who’s described as such
OJ: Not so much as fallen as sauntered vaguely downwards. He has snake eyes and a penchant for designer sunglasses
D: Yes he does
OJ: And you wear them both well
D: Thanks very much!
OJ: Those lizard eyes, was that a serious pair of contact lenses?
D: It is a pair of contact lenses, yeah! It wasn’t too much of a trial
M: I have to say that David was heroic in how he dealt with those contact lenses, they were huge, and towards the end of the shoot when we went to South Africa, to do a lot of the stuff out in the desert and that kind of thing, he had to deal with having like bits of sand going…
D: That’s when they weren’t fun, the desert is the one day they really weren’t fun
M: And you never complained!
D: Oh I had a little grumble, but you know yeah the desert, when they get dried out, they were a little bit,
OJ: I’ve got this beautiful mental image of you David at some point during the shoot going “my eyes are dry! Someone come and wet my eyes for me!” [laughter]
OJ: Have you shown this to any fans?
M: Oh at the premiere that we’re having, there’s going to be a lot of fans at the premiere, so if it goes badly, it was very nice knowing you [laughter] and arrivederci!
OJ: Are you gonna go in costume?
M: Well people do! So we’ve been doing publicity for this for quite a while now, and we went to an event in New York, a comic con event in New York, and this was a while ago, and people were already starting to dress up as my character
D: I’ve met quite a few Aziraphales and Crowleys now, yeah
OJ: I have to say watching it, and I’ve watched the first two episodes – that’s all I was given to watch – and I absolutely devoured them and I have to say, and I’m not just saying this, it is truly brilliant, as an adaptation I think it works, and it captures the book, it really captures the book
D: Yes, good, good. Well that’s a relief for us to hear
M: Yeah, yeah
OJ: It has a touch, it has a touch of the Douglas Adams about it, if you remember the old Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy it’s got that feel hasn’t it
D: You’re right
D: It’s got a very sort of unique Britishness, there is definitely some Douglas Adams flavours in there, Monty Python’s definitely in there somewhere, and also Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, they both have a very particular world view and it is very sort of it, it’s British
OJ: You say it’s British, I mean what sort of reaction do you think it’ll get from America, because I’m assuming its’ being released over there as well
D: Oh sure, it’s being released around the world in an instant as happens these days
M: Yeah, yeah
D: Neil and Terry both have huge followings over there already, so we shall see, but I suspect people will be seduced by it
M: And we’ve got lots of lovely American representatives in the show
D: That’s true
M: We have Frances McDormand, who is god
OJ: Perfect god as well!
M: We have Jon Hamm, Jon Hamm is my boss the Archangel Gabriel, Michael McKean, the great Michael McKean plays the Witchfinder Sergeant
OJ: Where will you watch it?
M: David and I will be in character, dressed as our characters, sitting next to each other in bed à la Morecambe and Wise
D: Oh yes!
M: and watching all the episodes, as the characters Aziraphale and Crowley, I think
OJ: Oh that is an image that is gonna live with me after this interview is gone
OJ: Please tell me, I mean I don’t know how it would happen, could there be a season two?
D: That’s not the intention
M: My favourite, my favourite Good Omens joke is not actually in Good Omens, so Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman came up with the title for a sequel, even without coming up with the sequel itself, and the title was “668: The Neighbour of the Beast”. Which I think is a genius title, and deserves to have something written for it. But no, one of the great things about this is that it’s six episodes, done.
D: We’re not asking you to commit to watching box set after box set
OJ: But would you do it if there was “668a: Neighbour of the Beast” would you do it?
M: Well, I personally had such a fantastic time working with David on this, these characters are fantastic characters, so I loved doing it, so I mean if there was something I’d would definitely not kick it out of bed
D: Yeah. But it’s definitely not, we’re not imagining we’re ever coming back
D: It’ll be a very happy memory
OJ: Well I’ve watched two, I’ve watched the first third, I can tell you it’s brilliant so far, it appears on Amazon Friday 31st of May, around the world, as we said, probably before Christmas it will be on BBC 2. Michael, David, thank you so much for you time!
D: Thank you so much for having us!
M: Thank you!
Announcer: BBC Radio 2