Everything we know about Starz network’s American Gods adaptation
First published in 2001, American Gods became an instant classic – an intellectual and artistic benchmark from the multiple-award-winning master of innovative fiction, Neil Gaiman. 15 years later the series is being adapted for the small screen by Starz network.
American Gods imagines a world where all gods and mythological creatures humans have ever worshiped do not reside in the heavens above, but in fact walk the earth among us. More specifically, in America. The power of these beings has diminished over time as people’s belief in them lessen, causing new gods to arise which reflect America’s obsessions with media, celebrity, technology, and drugs, among other things.
It’s been reported that Starz’s first season will focus on the first third of Gaiman’s novel, with the author providing more material to further flesh out the narrative, who felt Starz was the right network to take on the project: “They are the same kind of fanatics that American Gods has attracted from the start.”
Gaiman is heavily involved with the series, even serving as executive producer. He is reportedly working on a full-length sequel, and has also published a pair of short stories featuring Shadow Moon, all of which can be useful material for the series to adapt.
When Shadow Moon is released from prison, he meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday and a storm begins to brew. Little does Shadow know, this storm will change the course of his entire life. Left adrift by the recent, tragic death of his wife, and suddenly hired as Mr. Wednesday’s bodyguard, Shadow finds himself in the center of a world that he struggles to understand. It’s a world where magic is real, where the Old Gods fear both irrelevance and the growing power of the New Gods, like Technology and Media. Mr. Wednesday seeks to build a coalition of Old Gods to defend their existence in this new America, and reclaim some of the influence that they’ve lost. As Shadow travels across the country with Mr. Wednesday, he struggles to accept this new reality, and his place in it.
Watch the First Look trailer below:
CAST AND CHARACTERS
In an interview with Deadline, Bryan Fuller discussed the casting process: “For us, getting that caliber of actor in the show is a fun bit of fan casting because one of the things about this show and the following that the book holds is that people have been casting this show for 15 years in their minds. So, when we hit upon someone and announce Gillian Anderson is playing Media, and to see the reaction online of people saying perfect. Or when we announced Ricky, everybody breathed a huge sigh of relief because we didn’t whitewash the casting process.So there’s always a bit of fan casting, like professional fan casting, for ourselves as people who love the book and want the book to come to life in the most vivid way possible. And then we get to share that fan casting with the audience and the Internet and have a collective excitement about what these actors are going to bring to each of their respective roles.”
Please be advised that this section contains character descriptions from the source material, some of which can be considered spoilers. Likewise, the characters may be adapted differently for their television counterparts. This is by no means the full list and primarily includes character that are likely to play the largest roles.
- Shadow Moon – portrayed by Ricky Whittle (The 100, Mistresses) – An ex-convict who becomes the reluctant bodyguard and errand boy of Mr. Wednesday.
- Laura Moon – portrayed by Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Legend) – Shadow Moon’s wife who died in a car crash at the beginning of the novel a few days before Shadow is due to be released from prison.
- Robbie – portrayed by Dane Cook (Mr. Brooks, Dan in Real Life) – Shadow’s best friend. He owned the Muscle Farm and was holding a job for Shadow when he got out of prison. He died in a car accident with Shadow’s wife.
- Audrey – portrayed by Betty Gilpin (Ghost Town, Elementary) – married to Shadow’s best friend Robbie.
- Salim – portrayed by Omid Abtahi (Agro, Damien) – A young Muslim man from Oman who moved to New York City.
- Mr. Wednesday – portrayed by Ian McShane (Deadwood, John Wick, Hercules) – Odin, the Old Norse god of knowledge and wisdom, aspects which he uses to his advantage as a confidence artist. He spends most of the story trying to get other old gods to join him in the inevitable war.
- Mad Sweeney – portrayed by Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black, Lords of Dogtown) – Suibhne, a king from an old Irish story. Though not portrayed as such in his story, he calls himself a “Leprechaun,” perhaps referring to how Irishmen are seen in America: a foul-mouthed, frequent drinker, who is taller than expected.
- Czernobog – portrayed by Peter Stormare (Fargo, 22 Jump Street, The Big Lebowski) – The Slavic god of darkness, twin brother to Bielebog, the god of light.
- Zorya Vechernyaya – portrayed by Cloris Leachman (Malcolm in the Middle, The Comedian) – The Evening Star, in Slavic lore, a servant of Dažbog who guards and watches over the doomsday hound, Simargl, who is chained to the star Polaris in the constellation Ursa Minor, the “little bear”. If the chain ever breaks, the hound will devour the world.
- Low Key Lyesmith – portrayed by Jonathan Tucker (Kingdom, Justified, The Ruins) – Loki, the Old Norse god of mischief and trickery.
- Bilquis – portrayed by Yetide Badaki (Aquarius, Masters of Sex) – Queen of Sheba, as mentioned in the Bible. Also, believed to be half-jinn. She plays a prostitute who devours men via her vagina.
- Mr. Nancy – portrayed by Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow) – Anansi, a trickster spider-man from African folklore. He often makes fun of people for their stupidity, a recurring aspect of his personality in his old stories.
- Mr. Ibis – portrayed by Demore Barnes (Hannibal, 12 Monkeys) – Thoth, the Ancient Egyptian god of knowledge and writing. He runs a funeral parlor with Mr. Jacquel in Cairo, Illinois. He often writes short biographies of people who brought folkloric beings with them to America.
- The Jinn – portrayed by Mousa Kraish (Feed the Beast, Superbad) – an ifrit from the Middle East.
- Mr. Jacquel – portrayed by Chris Obi (Roots, Snow White and the Huntsman) – Anubis, the Ancient Egyptian god of the dead and mummification. He is an expert at preparing bodies for the wake at funerals.
- Mr. World – portrayed by Crispin Glover (Alice in Wonderland, Willard) – the leader of the New Gods. He is also Loki, the Norse trickster god and one of the Old Gods, posing as Low Key Lyesmith.
- Media – portrayed by Gillian Anderson (The X-Files, Hannibal, The Fall) – A personification of television.
- Vulcan – portrayed by Corbin Bernsen (L.A. Law, Psyche) – The unofficial God of Guns (this is a new character created by Gaiman specifically for the television series).
- Technical Boy – portrayed by Bruce Langley (Deadly Waters) – A personification of the Internet.
In addition to author Neil Gaiman serving as collaborator and executive producer, the series has Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Star Trek: Voyager, Pushing Daisies) serving as co-showrunner along with Michael Green (Heroes, Kings). Tasked with bringing the world of living, breathing deities to viewers, they also face the challenge of exploring religions beliefs and cultural points of view in a unique and refreshing way.
Fuller recently told Crave: “American Gods is cruising along very nicely. It’s very exciting. There’s conversations in the writer’s room that we are having on this show that I’ve never had in a writer’s room before, because we’re actually given the ability to talk about fate and belief, and the rules which we use to navigate society being challenged in a fashion that is not anti-religion, but not necessarily letting religion off the hook entirely. So it’s very important to us in the show to not be making fun of anybody for their religious beliefs because we all have some sort of belief-like thing in our brain that could arguably be delusional, whether it’s ghosts or gods or whatever superstition, black cats, walking under ladders, et cetera. So every one of us is prone to a delusion-like belief and that feels like it’s an exciting arena to talk about humanity in a way that I haven’t been able to do before on a show. Not since Star-Trek.”
“There are things that are happening in America right now with the political climate and the sociological climate where we have episodes that focus on the black person’s perspective of being an American, that focus on a woman’s perspective of being an American, focus on a gun owner’s perspective of being an American, and using those sort of hot-topic issues as a platform to have a conversation about faith and our role in the universe.” he told Deadline.
PREMIERE DATE AND SUBSEQUENT EPISODES
American Gods will consist of 10 episodes which will premiere in April of 2017 on Starz in America. The exact date has yet to be announced, though future episodes are expected to air weekly. UK viewers will be able to watch the series exclusively on Amazon Prime on a weekly basis.
Directed by David Slade (Hannibal), the premiere is titled “The Bone Orchard” with a synopsis as follows: A man, broken and alone, wishes only to survive his time in prison long enough to see his wife again. Although unexpected news releases him from prison early, it is hardly the news he wishes. Left feeling like he is looking at the world from the bottom of a well, he must literally walk the heroes’ path back to a time where he even resembles sanity.
Fuller also made mention that the book could span three to four seasons, with the potential for spin-offs. With any luck this could be a satisfying and long running series with it’s own unique mythology for fans to delve into thoroughly.
From the legendary mind of Neil Gaiman and the combined imaginations of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, American Gods is sure to be an extraordinary and visually sumptuous journey that you won’t want to miss.
Check back for more updates on American Gods as they’re unveiled in the coming weeks!
Image credits: STARZ
H/T: Crave, THR, Deadline