Agnes Nutter is not really a huge part of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s divine apocalyptic adventure Good Omens – she’s more important to the backstory and worldbuilding of Crowley and Aziraphale’s journey to stop the apocalypse, rather than being a major player herself. But when the upcoming adaptation nearly cut the character, Gaiman had to step in.
Spotted by the Radio Times in an interview for a new Good Omens companion book, Gaiman revealed that the scene of Agnes’ burning at the stake for witchcraft – witchcraft ultimately proved right when The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch becomes the only book of prophecy in human history to actually be correct, right down to the Avengers spoilers – was nearly scrapped during production of the new BBC/Amazon adaptation. Turns out setting up a faux 17th century British village filled with period-appropriate extras, and a stake at which to burn Josie Lawrence’s Agnes with (and the pyrotechnics involved with that) is expensive!
Concerns were raised to Gaiman about finding an alternate, budget-friendly way to address Agnes’ burning, but ultimately, the writer couldn’t bring himself to remove one of Terry Pratchett’s creations from an adaptation the latter is sadly not around to see unfold:
It was a huge, complicated and incredibly expensive shoot, with bonfires built and primed to explode as well as huge crowds in costumes. It had to feel just like an English village in the 1640s, and of course everyone asked if there was a cheap way of doing it. One suggestion was that we could tell the story using old-fashioned woodcuts and have the narrator take us through what happened, but I just thought, ‘No’. Because I had brought aspects of the story like Crowley and the baby swap along to the mix, and Terry created Agnes Nutter.
So, if I had cut out Agnes then I wouldn’t be doing right by the person who gave me this job. Terry would’ve rolled over in his grave.
Good Omens’ adaptation is a deeply personal one for Gaiman – the writer had a deal that any new Good Omens related works were only made if both he and Pratchett worked on it together, until he received a posthumous letter from Pratchett himself asking Gaiman to adapt it. It’s understandable why Gaiman would fight so hard to keep Agnes Nutter in the show. Plus, she may be a minor character all things considered, but can you imagine a Good Omens show where Agnes is only mentioned in passing!? Frankly, it’d be, well...
You know. Nuts.
Agnes’ burning remaining in the show isn’t the only nod to the dearly missed Pratchett Good Omens has, but knowing it’s in there because Gaiman fought so hard for it definitely makes it a loving one. Good Omens hits Amazon on May 31 – and for more, The AV Club has a new gallery of exclusive stills.