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Good Omens 2: Behind the scenes with an infernal demon

Good Omens, the screen adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's much-loved novel is back. Let Laura Kelly give you a demon's eye view of the set

Good Omens. Image: Amazon Studios

It’s a damp November night, and in the bowels of an abandoned industrial building somewhere outside Shotts something strange is happening. The gates of hell have opened and demons are stalking Scotland. Clad mostly in black, they’re a ragtag bunch of strange, grubby creatures, shuffling through an eternity of torture that looks suspiciously like the worst office job ever.  

But it isn’t Satan who’s condemned these poor souls. They have found themselves imprisoned in the Good Omens-verse – a realm first dreamed up by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman in their 1990 novel, and now about to begin its second series as a TV show.  

For decades, Good Omens has been among my favourite comfort books. Set in the Earth as depicted in the Bible, it’s both very funny and a deceptively deep examination of good and evil, free will, and what it means to be human. Delightfully adapted for TV in 2019 – with Michael Sheen as the angel Aziraphale and David Tennant as his adversary-turned-friend Crowley, an “angel who did not so much fall as saunter vaguely downwards” – it shows humans stopping the apocalypse by being neither good nor evil but, oh, so very human. For obvious reasons, it only gained relevance during the pandemic.  

Unlikely allies: David Tennant as the louche demon Crowley and Michael Sheen as the nervy angel Aziraphale

And so, when a casting call went out for demon extras to populate Good Omens 2, I channelled my best evil face and bagged myself a place at the side of Beelzebub (in this case Shelley Conn, almost unrecognisable from her role as Lady Mary Sharma in Bridgerton).  

Descending into the abyss commences with a train journey to Bathgate, where this servant of Satan is fitted for an evil afterlife. From among an eye-popping selection of props and costumes, I emerge in black plastic leggings, biker boots, a cape and a bra covered in black-painted rubber gloves that I will later christen the “Harvey Weinstein top” for its disturbingly handsy appearance. Then to hair and makeup, where I acquire even more eyeliner than normal but discover that my hair is “already demonic enough”. 

A couple of weeks later, the hair and makeup crew have their work cut out for them with dozens of ordinary Scots to transform into hordes of the damned. To make everything more complicated, it’s 2021 and Covid protocols remain in force, with daily testing and masks to be worn at all times when not actually being filmed. 

Extra work is a strange mixture of long stretches of extreme boredom and flashes of huge excitement. Twenty months on, it’s the thrills that stick with me.

There’s David Tennant’s incredible presence on set – lean and intense, it’s an extraordinary experience to see him work up close. Miranda Richardson’s incredibly enunciated delivery as troublemaker demon Shax is electrifying (even if some of my younger compatriots are unsure who the legendary actress is. Note to BBC: more Blackadder re-runs please). Glimpses inside Aziraphale’s bookshop – so familiar from all the time I spent there in my head, now made paper and brick – sent actual shivers down my spine. Extras are strictly forbidden from speaking to the talent, but apparently no one told Jon Hamm, who happily stands and jokes around with the unwashed masses.  

The weeks I spent between hell and a London street recreated on a Scottish soundstage showed that so much more than you can possibly imagine goes into making the TV we love. Behind the Tennants and the Sheens there are hundreds of talented people working 12- and 13-hour days to make imaginary worlds real. As for my minor contribution… I may only be a creepy shadow in the background, but I’ll always be a part of Good Omens.  

Laura Kelly is The Big Issue’s Culture Editor. @laurakaykelly

Good Omens Season Two is released on Prime Video on 28 July

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy!

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