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Jon Hamm on the Archangel Gabriel in ‘Good Omens,’ Faith in Humanity and Breaking Through the Noise

Jon Hamm was a longtime fan of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s novel “Good Omens” before Amazon and the BBC developed it into a series, and said he signed on for the show without even reading Gaiman’s scripts. Hamm stars as a nattily dressed Archangel Gabriel in the series, which he describes as part buddy-comedy and part thriller, with some horror thrown in.

Hamm talked to Variety about playing God’s messenger – and how he originally had the celestial character pegged as a posh Brit.

You’ve spoken about your admiration for the book. Can that add pressure – to live up to what is on the page?

I suppose it can; it didn’t necessarily for me. I was just pleased to be asked to be part of it. I haven’t had that experience before, to get an opportunity to work on something that I enjoyed in a completely different aspect. I really loved it. It would be like me getting the chance to work on a “Star Wars” thing because I have been a fan of “Star Wars” all my life.

The Archangel Gabriel character features much more in the series than the novel.

It doesn’t really exist in the book; he’s just mentioned in passing. I felt very confident in trusting Neil, because he co-wrote the book, to come up with a version of the Archangel Gabriel that would be compelling. Then it was working with [director] Douglas [Mackinnon], costume, and hair and makeup, and we all came down on the same side of who this guy is and what he looks like.

Did you have any input?

Neil had already pretty much adapted the six scripts. I hadn’t read them when I said yes to the part. I just said yes.

Once I started reading them, I said I think I know who this guy is: He is that over-officious boss. There’s a version of him from “Office Space,” Lumbergh, there’s a version who’s [Jack] Donaghy [in “30 Rock”] – the towering, confident person who is supremely certain of his own rectitude but is very often totally wrong.

What was your take on how to play the character?

I had thought originally that he was going to be British – this sort of posh upper-class person that would do one thing and tell you another. But Neil said, “No, he’s American, because there’s a certain confidence that American businessmen have.” Trump does it – it’s bulls—, it’s a firm handshake and all this other stuff.

Does the series say something about contemporary events and politics?

When they wrote the book in 1989, the [Berlin] Wall had just fallen. The Cold War had just ended. This existential threat to civilization and humanity and Western culture and the world was going because a couple of people went, “What are we doing? This is dumb….Let’s all back off.”

Because of the nature of TV, it’s harder to play satire. Neil and Terry are such wonderful writers – the prose of the novel provides that. That part is lessened in the show, but there is a satiric element.

What does the series say about faith?

If it’s promoting anything, its faith in your fellow man, faith in humanity, not in an indifferent god or an indifferent devil. They’re doing their own thing, whereas humanity, we’re the people that have to live here.

Neil Gaiman has talked about honoring Terry Pratchett’s legacy. What would he have made of the series?

I honestly think – and I never got to meet him – that he would be tremendously pleased. Neil tells the story that this was his dying request that he adapt this, and he did it, and what a wonderful legacy to pass onto a dear friend.

Is making a high-end series like “Good Omens” indistinguishable from making a movie?

We’re living in a time when the traditional definitions are out the window. You could call this a limited series, a six-hour movie, an adaptation, a million different things. And you are invited to consume it in whatever way you like.

Do you distinguish between broadcast, cable, linear, streaming and so forth when thinking about projects?

The interesting thing about where we are now in the media landscape is [that] the challenge isn’t getting things made. It’s getting them seen and recognized. It has to have something that will break through the noise and the clutter, whether that’s an award-winning author of a prize-winning book, or a movie star, or this or that. There’s got to be something.

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