In a San Diego Comic-Con interview hosted by fab writer-director-actor Kevin Smith for IMDB, author Neil Gaiman sat down with British actor Ricky Whittle and show creator Michael Green to wholeheartedly give his approval to the new series based on his best-selling book coming to screens in 2017 – American Gods!
For those of you who are unaware of the genius of Gaiman, he is a wildly successful and prolific author, comic book creator, screenwriter (for film TV and animation), and voice actor. His novels are great fodder for film and TV – Stardust, Coraline, Neverwhere… His screenplays include Neverwhere (1996) and the fantastic Lucifer (2015-16) which has been renewed for a second series. He has also written his own graphic novels and comic book stories for Marvel.
Gaiman wrote American Gods the book, 15 years ago, and now has not only witnessed his work come to life in the realisation of the series, but agreed with Smith that we are living in the times he described in the book! It explores a war brewing between ‘old’ and ‘new’ gods, in which traditional gods with mythological roots gradually lose believers to a new, upstart breed who reflect society’s increasing love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Shadow Moon, one of the older gods, arrives on earth masquerading as an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and travelling companion to a conman. Moon’s mission is to gather forces to prepare to do battle with the new gods. The book is told from Moon’s perspective, other characters only entering the story when they are in his presence. The series explores what other characters are doing when Moon isn’t with them – an aspect of development which delighted the author and co-screenwriter.
In the TV show, Shadow Moon is a man with a past, who wants nothing more than to live a quiet life with his wife, until he is told that she’s been killed in a terrible accident. Flying home for the funeral, he is meets the strange Mr. Wednesday, and he knows more about Moon than he should. He warns Shadow that a far bigger storm is coming. And from that moment on, nothing in Moon’s life will ever be the same again.
Whittle, the Oldham native who left Hollyoaks (2006-11) to go on to eventually impress American audiences as Lincoln in The 100 (2014-16), has landed the lead role of Shadow Moon. He explained that he was familiar with a number of Gaiman’s other titles, but admitted that he was only introduced to American Gods by a journalist at SDCC 2015, which he attended with The 100 crew. Presumably due to his mixed heritage, she asked him what he thought about the then circulating hashtag Casting Shadow – a controversy surrounding the casting of the lead role of Shadow Moon in the climate of big studios white washing stories and characters.
Starz network optioned the series and then the Twittersphere exploded, as Gaiman consistently insisted that the casting remain true to the ethnic makeup of the novel, including Moon, the main protagonist. Whittle looked into it all, which led him to the book. He wasted no time in reading it, after which he asked his agent to look into the production and throw his hat into the ring. He went through 5 months of auditions and multiple tapings before being announced as the lead at the end of January 2016, along with major names like Orlando Jones as Mr Nancy, Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday, Dane Cook as Robbie, Gillian Anderson as Media, and emerging names like Yetide Badaki as Bliquis.
After the announcement, Gaiman stated, “I’m thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow. His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. ‘American Gods’ is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I’m delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts.”
The show’s creators got at least 10 episodes for the first series out of just over a third of the book. So, should it prove a hit, there’s plenty more source material to come. Gaiman shares writing credits with creator Michael Green (Smallville, Everwood, Heroes) Bryan Fuller (Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, Hannibal) and Robert Richardson (DOP on The Hateful Eight, World War Z, Django Unchained, Hugo, Eat Pray Love, Inglourious Basterds, Shutter Island, Kill Bill and many many more!).
American Gods airs in 2017.