Before the premiere this Sunday, here’s everything you need to know about the American Gods series on Starz, based on Neil Gaiman’s critically acclaimed 2001 novel of the same name. Before we deep dive, here’s the basics:
Ex-con Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), is released early from prison when his wife unexpectedly dies in a car accident. With nothing left in his life, he takes a job as a body guard for the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), an actual god, who ushers him into a fantastical world just beyond our own, populated with Old and New gods on the brink of war for the hearts and minds of believers every where.
So, from changes to characters’ looks, to future season plans, here’s your look inside the world of American Gods…
[***Potential spoilers below if you haven’t read the book!***]
Across the board, executive producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green agreed that the original novel was kind of “a sausage party.” So look for Shadow’s wife, Laura Moon, played by Emily Browning, to have a little more agency and activity. Gaiman himself noted her character needed some updates in terms of her career as well. In the book, she’s a small town travel agent, and he admits that’s not really a job in this day and age. No word on what her new job is before she becomes one of the walking dead, but she’s described as being more “ambitious” and that she and Shadow have problems earlier in their relationship. Her storyline will also be intersecting at some point with Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), the leprechaun whose coin seems to awaken her from the grave.
Bilquis infamous introduction in to the story, quite literally “devouring” her lover, is definitely in tact in the show. It was teased in the trailers and the character’s promotional posters (see above), but it’s been confirmed by multiple sources that perhaps one of the book’s most infamous scene will be on your television soon. It’s also confirmed that Media, in the guise of Lucile Ball, makes her special offer to Shadow (book fans know what I’m talking about).
The violence is also not shied away from in the series either, as evidenced by the trailer with blood practically raining down at certain points.
It’s been 16 years since American Gods was originally published, so some cosmetic changes were due. The most notable is Technical Boy, who in the book is a chubby, acne riddled “nerd” stereotype, wearing Matrix coats and trying to look cool. In the tv series, he’s super slick, and looks like a Mark Zuckerberg by way of Jesse Eisenberg type, with a tricked out limo, digital henchmen, and a vape pen.
Also getting a modern makeover is Mad Sweeney. According to an interview with Vanity Fair, Schreiber said his mohawk and sideburn sporting leprechaun is more hipster than trucker, as he was originally in the book. Perhaps he brews a craft version of Guinness?
The goddess Easter, as played by the always fantastic Kristin Chenoweth, has a different look too.
In the novel, she’s a plumper goddess of spring, but in the series looks more like a bubbly southern belle. It’s noted that even as an Old God, she’s doing all right for herself, sharing her spring festival with a certain popular deity…
You guessed it, Jesus, makes an appearance in the series, played by Lost alum Jeremy Davies. Jesus appeared in the “preferred text” version of American Gods, in a post-script scene with Shadow. So not exactly the original novel, but relevant nonetheless, and approved by Gaiman.
Gaiman was also inspired to add another Old God, Vulcan, played by Corbin Bernsen, to the series. Vulcan may be an Old God, but as he deals with weaponry and the forge, he’s doing pretty well in America (as you might imagine).
There’s also been mention of a New God named “Fandom.” I can only find one passing reference to the character, but I am very interested in how he/she will figure in to the storyline. And exactly which fandom they use for the character’s look.
American Gods is a dense novel, with multiple locations, road trips, characters, and side stories to fit into an eight episode TV series on a cable network. So it’s a good thing they’re already planning on breaking it up in to multiple seasons, especially since Gaiman has admitted to wanting to write an American Gods 2 for a while now. He’s said he’s dropped hints and made suggestions of what to keep and where to put certain things so that they can pay off in later seasons to show runners. Gaiman, Fuller, and Green seem very confident they’ll be getting multiple seasons. Here’s hoping that works out because there’s a lot worth keeping from the original book.
In a recent tweet, Gaiman confirmed that the first season will conclude just before the House on the Rock, a pivotal location in the book, and a real life roadside attraction in Wisconsin. He added that ” we have stolen some things from later in the book and moved them earlier too.” Things may be shifted, but show runners and Gaiman have confirmed that a lot of dialogue, especially when it comes to Mr. Wednesday, is taken verbatim from the novel.
So where do the “Coming to America” stories, those little side journey of immigrants brining their different beliefs and gods to the new world, fit in? Well, apparently Fuller and Green would have been just fine not including them (but this fan certainly wouldn’t have!). However, they’ve kept them in the series, and it seems that they’re more interwoven into the main story.
For example, there’s an episode with a heavy focus on Essie Tregowan (also played by Emily Browning), the Cornish woman who brought pixies and fairies (and leprechauns?) with her as a fugitive in America. With her casting, it seems like what had been a side story in the book will play into the plot somehow, especially, as noted above, the fact that Laura and Mad Sweeney’s plots intersect. Vanity Fair also notes that we briefly see a flame eyed character passing Shadow in the trailer, hinting that the story of a cab driver cursed by an ifrit (an Arabian djinn) will appear, even briefly, in the main story as well. Gaiman even wants to add more”Coming to America” stories, like one set in a Japanese internment camp he had originally planned on including in the novel, as the series continues.
But first, we have to get through season one.
That’s all the the gods have seen fit to reveal before the series premiere on April 30th, at 9pm on Starz. Tune in if you believe…
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