NYCC 2018 Interview: ‘American Gods’ Neil Gaiman & Ricky Whittle
By Dr. Zaius
Sunday, October 7th, 2018 at 4:45 pm
One of the most anticipated panels at New York Comic-Con was Friday afternoon at the Hammerstein Ballroom with Neil Gaiman and the cast of STARZ’s American Gods. American Gods is based on the award-winning 2001 novel by Gaiman, who serves as both writer and executive producer for the show. With season 2 wrapped and all waiting patiently for an announcement of exactly when it will return to STARZ, the cast joined us at NYCC for a press roundtable at the Jacob Javits Convention Center to discuss their characters and the future of the series. We jumped in the deep end real fast for an interview with Neil Gaiman and Ricky Whittle.
Neil Gaiman and Ricky Whittle Interview
When asked them what was on tap for season 2 and it became apparent right away and with each group of actors we sat with that this is an incredibly tight-knit group. Whittle described Shadow as a “punching bag” in season 1 and promised that will continue in season 2.
Ricky Whittle: He was punched physically and emotionally, what with the loss of his wife. This first season really was spiraling into “˜is he going crazy?’. You start to see all these things developing around you, the logical answer is to look inside rather than believe there really are gods and demons and leprechauns out there. He was very much in the mind frame of “˜Am I going crazy?’ but in season 2, he believes. Now he has to figure his position in all of this and why all these gods are interested in him. Will he push back against them, we’ll have to wait and see.
Neil Gaiman: I am fascinated by watching who and what Shadow is in the book and then seeing what Shadow has to be in the TV series for the series to work. As the author of the book, Shadow was far and away the most frustrating character I have ever written. Most other characters let you know what they’re thinking or what’s going on, but Shadow is just ARGH. He plays everything very close to his chest. He doesn’t act until the time comes and then the time comes and he acts very decisively. One of the things I love about Ricky is his Shadow is just much more of a man of action. And that pushes me and the showrunners and the writers. Shadow actually has to do stuff and can’t just have stuff happen to him. Season 2 is really the start of that. And it puts him in a place by the end where he’s going to have to act and do more stuff.
Something that became apparent at each grouping was how beneficial the long form format of modern television is when telling long complex stories like American Gods. Gaiman mentions how in the book we’re looking through Shadow’s perspective and turning with him as he turns, whereas on the show we can follow other characters and dive into their stories more.
Neil Gaiman: We got to pull things back and learn. Like who knew if you put Laura and Mad Sweeney in a car together you make great television? Who the fuck knew? There is this great weird chemistry that we have that wasn’t planned, the wasn’t in any outline.
Geeks of Doom: Ricky, did you read the book, were you a fan before getting cast and if so, which character would you have wanted to play?
Ricky Whittle: Like a couple of shocking cast members I was introduced to, Neil when I was introduced to this book, and the show and the audition process. A huge fan of his met me at SDCC when I was talking to another journalist and they said I should audition because I’d be perfect for this guy Shadow Moon. I saw the synopsis and thought it looked great. Although it was a 5-month audition, it allowed me to work with [original showrunners] Bryan Fuller and Michael Green to really harness what we were trying to create here with Shadow Moon. So during that five-month process I was still doing my other show and it would take me 40 minutes to get to work, so I would listen to the audiobook with this man’s [Gaiman] beautiful voice for 40 minutes to and from work. That way I could get it done. I’d listen to the book on the way to work, listen on the way home, and then learn my lines in the evening. I kind of got the best of both worlds. I got halfway through and Bryan and Michael stopped me because they said my auditions were very similar to Shadow in the book and we need you to give it another level. And so I worked on it and Neil was there the very first episode where I meet Wednesday on the plane and he gave me a little guidance along with Bryan and Michael. After that though you start to grow and just become the character. It becomes its own animal and takes off.
Unfortunately Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday) was out sick with kidney stones, but 10 (!) members of the series were there. The incredible assortment of talent joining Gaiman was Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), Emily Browning (Laura Moon), Crispin Glover (Mr. World), Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney), Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy), Bruce Langley (Technical Boy), Yetide Badaki (Bilquis), Demore Barnes (Mr. Ibis), Omid Abtahi (Salim) and Mousa Kraish (The Jinn). Stay here at Geeks Of Doom for more interviews with the cast.
Neil Gaiman was well represented at NYCC. Along with American Gods, his other project Good Omens, based on his and Terry Pratchett’s novel, had a cast panel as well as live stage interviews, and we also conducted video interviews with the cast and creators.
Good Omens will debut on Amazon Prime Video in 2019 and stars David Tennant, Jon Hamm, Michael Sheen, and more. American Gods will return to STARZ for season 2 also in 2019. NYCC 2018 continues through Sunday, October 7th.