The mad man’s back as God’s smarmy right-hand man in Good Omens
There aren’t a lot of actors who can transition impeccably from enigmatically sophisticated to unabashedly goofy quite like Jon Hamm. While he was a relatively late bloomer, only gaining traction in his acting career when he turned 30, he’s gained devoted fans for roles as disparate as con man doomsday preacher Richard Wayne Gary Wayne in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt to his Emmy-winning turn as ad man Don Draper in Mad Men.
Now he’s having a go at playing both comedy and drama as the Archangel Gabriel in the upcoming television adaptation of Good Omens, the apocalyptic 1990 novel co-written by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. Overseeing Michael Sheen’s angelic Aziraphale, Hamm gets to embody the perfect “asshole” boss as he goads his underling to bring about Armageddon as God has instructed. As Hamm admits to SFX, the role has turned out to be quite, dare we say, heavenly.
How was it working with Neil Gaiman as your showrunner?
As you know his storytelling and world-building are so specific and detailed yet so imaginative and original that you feel very well taken care of. The map is laid out very specifically for you and it’s fun. And the good news is when you are creating something out of whole cloth and you have the creator there, you can ask him anything. Your character is really only mentioned in the book so how is he fleshed out in the series?
Yes, Gabriel is not in this book, even though he’s in another book. The book. But he’s mentioned in this book, so Neil decided to flesh him out and give him an arc. He’s God’s right-hand man, basically, and Aziraphale’s boss. He’s tasked with making sure Aziraphale does his job bringing about Armageddon. I pop in and pop out and keep poking Michael’s character on the back about this thing we’re meant to do. Is he a micro-manager then?
Well, he’s the boss we’ve all had in some capacity who you just hate because he is so confident and assured and certain that his way is the right way, and he’s completely wrong. He’s poorly informed. You have to do what they say but they’re so dumb and you wish you didn’t have to. I get a lot of joy out of playing handsome, misinformed idiots. But it’s all to the point of telling this incredibly detailed story that has been rendered with such great care by the team behind Good Omens.
He’s the angel we’re meant to hate?
Yes, and I think it works nicely off Michael’s sweetness and light. The idea that even in Heaven, which is supposed to be all good, that there’s not all good, was appealing. Were you familiar with the book before you were cast?
Yes, and I couldn’t believe they were making it. I read it back in the ’90s when I was a kid, and I thought – the same way I thought about American Gods – that it would be such a cool movie that they will never make because it’s impossible to do. But now we live in a world where you can make a six-hour movie and call it a limited series. You can do that. How we have grown as storytellers, and the tools at our disposal, and the tools to get it to people means it can be something else. I’m pleased as all hell to get to do it. Was it at all intimidating joining a very British cast?
There’s always the challenge of coming to anything, and the terror of the first day of school. But I’ve worked in the UK extensively and I really enjoy it. And to get to play against Miranda Richardson, Michael Sheen and Michael McKean wasn’t intimidating but it sure was exciting. You’ve worked on streaming TV projects before. Does Good Omens feel like a unique project in that space?
I’ve worked in pretty much every television capacity from network TV to basic cable and premium cable. When we started Mad Men everyone asked about working for AMC because we were so free to be able to do all this creative stuff and I was like, ‘Is it that different? I don’t think so.’ I think the necessity to appeal to an incredibly wide swathe of the marketplace is lessened at Amazon because only they know their metrics and it’s a hit if they say it’s a hit. And that’s a great place to be because we know if we like it, and if we want to do more. You’re not dependent on some nebulous third party who deems if you can go further. Does the limited series angle for this adaptation feel too close-ended? Audiences love sequels.
No, I’ve always been a fan of the British way of doing things, television wise, because all of their shows, with the exception on East Enders and Coronation Street, come to an end. They only made 12 Fawlty Towers and four seasons of Blackadder and they’re great and they stop. And for the actor doing the same thing over and over again seems particularly weird. Go get into making thimbles if you want to make things over and over again.
Good Omens starts streaming on Amazon Prime Video in the first half of 2019.