What We Know: American Gods
By Jaclyn Cascio (@jaclynator)
British author Neil Gaiman has brought fantasy readers exciting tales of magic and strange universes for years. Some of those fantastic tales have found their way onto the big screen, such as Stardust or Coraline. Other enthralling adventures have made their way into the homes of viewers through television, such as the BBC series Neverwhere. Now, the award-winning 2001 novel “American Gods” has been adapted for television and can be watched this spring!
Coming to Starz, American Gods was created by Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Hannibal) and Michael Green (Smallville producer). Fuller and Green wrote the first episode of the television show and will serve as show runners, along with Stefanie Berk, Thom Beers, and Neil Gaiman himself. Shooting in Toronto and various locations in the United States, the 8 episode season will take viewers through (approximately) the first one-third of Gaiman’s novel. Even the big “powers that be” reveal to the protagonist isn’t set to happen in the first season of the show, so it appears that the show-runners have high hopes for further seasons of American Gods. Initially, the show almost didn’t happen! Luckily for the fans, in 2014, Fuller and Green took on the project with Starz as Freemantle Media picked up the rights for the show after HBO dropped the project (as they felt that they couldn’t get the script right).
American Gods is a story that will take you on quite a journey in more ways than one. You’ll follow the main characters as they travel around the country, but you’ll also be on the winding and twisting road of mixed up mythology, so you might want to familiarize yourself with the characters (and cast) now. Even if you’ve read the book, beware that some minor characters from the book might play some major roles in the television show as the series will expand on the universe Gaiman created, delving deeper into the stories and mythology. (For example, episode 4 of American Gods will tell more of the backstory of Shadow and Laura.)
Here’s the 411 on the characters and cast of American Gods! Shadow Moon (played by Ricky Whittle), is an ex-con who finds himself working for Mr. Wednesday/Odin (Ian McShane), an old god trying to hold onto power. Shadow’s sort of deceased wife (you’ll understand when you watch), Laura Moon, is played by Emily Browning, and Shadow Moon’s best friend, Robbie, is played by comedian Dane Cook. Shadow Moon had a special cell mate during his time in prison, a man known as Low Key Lyesmith (Jonathan Tucker). If you haven’t figured his role out yet, just say his name out loud and see if it becomes a bit clearer.
There are plenty of “old gods” weaving their way in and out of the plot. You’ll meet Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), a leprechaun who is down on his luck, and Bilquis/Queen of Sheba (Yetide Badaki), working as a prostitute who has a special uh… appetite… for men. You’ll meet Zarya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), a Slavic goddess who acts as the Evening Star and watches over a winged doomsday hound chained in the sky, and her Slavic living companion, Czernobog (Peter Stormare), who really loves his hammer. At a funeral parlor in American Gods, Mr. Jacquel (Chris Obi) is the god Anubis, who works with his friend Mr. Ibis (Demore Barnes), the god Thoth. The fun doesn’t end there! Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones) is the African trickster spider god, Anansi, and Easter is played by Kristin Chenoweth, who shares a holiday with Jesus (Jeremy Davies). You’ll even experience a chance encounter with a jinn (Mousa Kraish) alongside Salim (Omid Abtahi), an immigrant from Oman. And for the die-hard book fans, a new character, Vulcan, (played by Corbin Bernsen) will burn his way into the story as an old god who has adapted and found a place in modern-day America. The god may be new to the American Gods universe, but have no fear – the character was still penned by the incredible Neil Gaiman himself!
You’ll also meet your fair share of “new gods” in America. Bruce Langley is set to play Technical Boy, the internet god, Gillian Anderson will show up on your screen as the goddess of media, and Mr. World is played by Crispin Glover. It turns out that if enough people believe in something, voila! You’ll find a new god taking root in America.
Really, this leads to the meat and potatoes of the story of American Gods. Shadow Moon finds himself released from prison early because he unexpectedly has a funeral to attend. On the way back to a life he once knew, Shadow meets Mr. Wednesday, a stranger who seems to know an uncomfortably significant amount of information about Shadow’s personal life. Fast forward a bit and Shadow takes on a job as a body guard for Mr. Wednesday. He travels the country with his new employer, meeting and recruiting old colleagues of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday, in preparation for a battle of epic proportions. Mr. Wednesday expects a war that America could have never seen coming – a terrible fight between the gods of old whose strength is fading and the new gods who seem to easily gain power.
To see what’s coming for yourself, watch a trailer for American Gods (posted by Starz on their YouTube channel) here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyoXURn9oK0. You can also follow development of the show on Twitter (@AmericanGodsSTZ).
American Gods will premiere on Starz on Sunday, April 30, 2017 at 9pm ET. If you don’t have Starz and are looking for an online viewing option, Amazon Prime will carry the series as well. If you simply can’t wait until the end of April and have some vacation days, the American Gods world debut will occur at 9am (local time) on March 11, 2017 at SXSW in Austin, TX (an annual music, film, and interactive media festival). The pilot episode, “The Bone Orchard,” (directed by David Slade) will be shown at the Vimeo Theater in the Austin Convention Center and will be followed by a Q&A with some of the show’s cast and crew.
Mark your calendars and get ready for an Americana fantasy drama with a unique mythological canon!