‘Good Omens’: Neil Gaiman on How He Got Benedict Cumberbatch to Voice Satan

     February 15, 2019

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Benedict Cumberbatch has a wicked new role. He’s voicing Satan in Amazon’s upcoming series Good Omens, following a late request from author, Executive Producer and showrunner Neil Gaiman. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug star swept in following the producer’s last-minute need to find someone who could – as Gaiman put it on Wednesday’s Television Critics Association winter tour panel – give Frances McDormand, who voices God, “a run for her money.”

“Ben was just one of those lovely things of going, ‘we need somebody this good to make this scene work. Oh shit.’ … And it was that thing of going, OK, you know, it’s a small part, but if it doesn’t work, none of this sequence will work and just writing an email to Ben and saying, ‘Would you come and do this, please?'” Gaiman (who wrote 1990 fantasy novel Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch, with the late Terry Pratchett) told Collider following the Good Omens panel. “And the lovely thing, of course, is I can mention these guys and Frances and everything and he was there the next morning.”

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Image via Amazon

The “these guys” Gaiman referred to were his fellow panelists from Wednesday, including Benedict’s Sherlock – “The Abominable Bride” director Douglas Mackinnon (director and executive producer on this), and Good Omens stars Michael Sheen and David Tenant. In the series, which drops in its entirety on Amazon Prime on May 31, a white-haired Sheen plays the angel Aziraphale opposite Tenant (in various coifs) as the demon Crowley. The pair, who are rather fond of Earth, team up in the drama to try and halt Armageddon, if they could just locate a misplaced 11-year-old Antichrist.

Cumberbatch’s character appears in the sixth episode, Gaiman announced on the panel. Although the actor’s character is animated, he was recorded to help inform the animators, “who then made sure that the face of Satan is also Ben,” Gaiman explained. Asked by another reporter if the Satan character will resemble Benedict’s face, Gaiman added, “I think that’s for people viewing to decide.”

When describing what the show’s animation will look like, Gaiman offered a few hints. “We’ve gone for a kind of – except for the opening titles – we’ve gone for something that is fairly realistic all the way through. The kind of VFX where it is obviously VFX, but it’s not obviously VFX. So our Satan – essentially a 500-foot high multi-horned Satan from your nightmares – gets to turn up,” he teased.

Earlier this week, Amazon released the show’s opening titles. Benedict, is that you (at the 1 minute mark)?

Good Omens will also feature Jon Hamm, Miranda Richardson, Jack Whitehall, Nick Offerman (who, like Cumberbatch, joined last minute), Adria Arjona, Michael McKean, Mireille Enos, Anna Maxwell Martin.

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