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Friday, January 24, 2020

Good Omens actor Jon Hamm: We are all flawed, and we need to find the middle ground

Actors Jon Hamm and Adria Arjona on their recent web show Good Omens and reading writers Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett for the same

Written by Ektaa Malik | Updated: June 4, 2019 9:39:22 am
Good Omens, jon hamm, amazon, amazon web series, digital space, entertainment on digital space, indian express Still from Good Omens: Jon Hamm (left) with Paul Chahidi

Jon Hamm single-handedly made drinking in office look cool all this while, wearing dapper suits and writing fabulous advertising copy in the famous TV show Mad Men. Now, he is back as archangel Gabriel in Good Omens and he is sporting lavender-hued eyes and suits, not the dapper kinds in Mad Men. In the fantasy-comedy series, based on the 1990 novel of the same name by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Hamm, 48, is joined by Adria Arjona, 27, who plays Anathema Device, a witch determined to stop Armageddon on earth at any cost. Good Omens is the latest offering from Amazon, and deals with the friendship of a demon named Crowley and an angel Aziraphale as they join forces to stop the antichrist from ending the earth and all the civilisation on it. We speak to Hamm and Arjona as they elaborate on the ever-expanding digital space and their respective roles. Excerpts:

Have you read the book Good Omens?

Hamm: I have been a fan of the books for some time now, and read them when they came out in the ’90s. I really appreciate this fantastic universe that Neil and Terry create and this has been wonderfully adapted to the screen by Douglas Mackinnon.

Arjona: I grew up on a tour bus in Northern America and was kind of secluded from the society. I hadn’t read the books. I read the script first and then I read the books in Spanish. As the filming progressed, I became quite hooked to them. I am glad I read them now, at this age.

Still from Good Omens: Michael Sheen (left) and David Tennant

Good Omens is your return to comedy after your earlier stints like Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (2015) and 30 Rock (2006).

Hamm: I am very fortunate that way. I got an opportunity to do both comedy and drama, and all the credit needs to be given to people like Tina Fey and Lorne Michaels. They believed in me even though I wasn’t known for being funny, especially after the job that made me famous was a dramatic one. I love watching comedy, and I like being part of them. It allows me to associate with very fun and clever people. And with Good Omens we can add Neil Gaiman and Terry (Pratchett) to that list. I am fortunate that I am not pigeon-holed into one thing alone.

The book is a very tongue-in-cheek take on god.

Hamm: I think there are obvious themes that the book and the show recognise. Humanity and what is to be human are central to the narrative. We are all flawed, and we need to get along, cooperate and find the middle ground. Those themes have been universal throughout time. That’s why the books are so popular. They reach across nationality, culture, and religion and get at what is uniquely human about all of us.

Arjona: I think if you go to extremes, then the world would always be a hard place. If you have a harsh opinion, and you stop listening, you stop communicating; and when we do find the time and patience to communicate and find the middle ground good things happen. We can maybe then fix things.

Tell us about the witch Anathema Device.

Arjona: I am the descendant of Agnes Mcnutter, a witch who wrote these prophecies and it’s my job to use them to save the world. She takes her job very seriously, though she might not be very good at it, and fumbles through it. But she is consistent and determined on her path to save the world. She just doesn’t know how, or when.

You have been part of the golden age of television with a series like Mad Men, and you have now done a number of web shows and dabbled in cinema. Do you find a difference between the three mediums?

Hamm: There is no difference anymore. There used to be a bit of a stigma, and judgment was cast on the method that your content was distributed through. I don’t think that’s the case anymore. Places like Amazon, and other platforms are providing substance at an increasingly high level. People know that this is where you go for the quality stuff. I think the flexibility of the digital space allows one to be much more daring, and do interesting things. Do a Good Omens like a six-hour movie and chop it up in a six-part series. It frees up creators and artistes, and I think if there is a new golden age of television we are already in it. There’s so much happening that it’s impossible to catch up.

Adria Arjona

Adria, you started out by being a model and later graduated to television and the web. How has your experience been?

Arjona: I have been fortunate enough to dabble across platforms. In the digital space, we artistes have more control. There were no Amazon executives on the sets, and they trusted Neil and Douglas with this. That’s how we ensure that there is more quality.

Jon Hamm

Jon, do you like playing the broody silent guy, or the outgoing, loud ones?

Hamm: Fortunately I get to do both. I look back at my time at Mad Men, where I was playing this broody guy, and I had this great time in my life and career. That’s the best thing about being an actor, donning different colours, and not repeat yourself over and over again.

Good Omens streams on Amazon Prime Video.

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