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AMERICAN GODS Showrunners Discuss ‘Culturally Literate’ Casting, Dane Cook’s Surprise Addition, and More

American Gods is slowly shaping up to be the adaptation we all deserve. The Starz series based on Neil Gaiman’s novel comes from the minds of TV gurus Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who revealed to reporters at the 2016 Summer TCA press tour that they couldn’t wait to team up on this highly-anticipated project.

“We both do a little bit of everything and support each other as we need,” Fuller said of their collaboration practices. “It’s great to have two entities. We worked very well together on the first season of Heroes. That’s how we met. We’ve been talking for the past 10 years on how we’d get back into working together.”

When they first began the process of casting the Starz adaptation, they made sure to stay as close to Gaiman’s written words as possible.

“In order to be true to the book, you had to cast the character that was written which is somebody who is not white,” Fuller says of Shadow Moon (The 100‘s Ricky Whittle).

Green agreed, adding, “When you’re doing a show like this which is so much about people’s cultures then you need to be culturally literate in all respects. We’re dealing with nascent mythologies and gods and those come from places and look a certain way and that just sets the tone for the whole thing.”

In addition to Whittle, American Gods also stars Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Jonathan Tucker, Crispin Glover, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare and Kristin Chenoweth. When it came time to picking a well-known celebrity for a role or casting a lesser-known actor, Fuller explained that “sometimes in that process it makes a determination for us.”

“We’ll try for a bigger name and then realize that there are so many great actors who we got out of the audition process,” Fuller said. “Like Ricky Whittle, actually, who auditioned for the role 16 times. He counted. It really is about the flavor of the piece and having as many as stars recognizable in their roles to the point where they are additive and not distracting.”

American Gods Season 1 Air Date: 2016 or 2017 Pictured: Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Laura Moon (Emily Browning)

But Dane Cook was definitely a name that no one expected to see attached to this high-profile adaptation.

“Yeah, he was a fun one,” Green said with a laugh. “He’s really fun. It was, how do you get someone to be a really entertaining dick? And he said yes. It was really simple. When his name came up, it was really hard to see the character in a different way.”

“We’re not color-blind casting,” Green added. “We’re actually very consciously aware of color in the cast and ethnicity because the book is so culturally specific. There have been times where a character has been described as having very dark skin and we made the suggestion to Neil that oh, that character needs to be Indian even though it’s written that way. That’s been a great relief because it’s a map that we just stick to.”

Green and Fuller knew they had a gargantuan task when they set out to bring Gaiman’s massively loved novel to life.

“This project, in addition to being a dream project, has been one that I’ve heard, ‘Don’t f–k it up,’ more than any other time because it’s so beloved,” Green said with a laugh. “It’s a constant process of rising to the challenge. It’s rare to come into something that is so passionately loved by so many people. But we were two of those people so that definitely helped.”

American Gods follows Shadow Moon, an ex-con who is thrust into a gathering conflict between the Old gods and the so-called “New gods,” the gods of money and technology who believe there is no longer room on Earth for the old gods. But the most popular religions aren’t included in the story.

“Neil, by his own admission, went into this thinking that the big three religions were well-serviced enough,” Green said. “This was about the gods that weren’t doing nearly as well. Largely it’s about forgotten myths, forgotten cultures and things prayed to quietly.”

Fuller promised that he and Green went into this with the intention of respecting religion.

“Michael and I were both raised with religion,” Fuller said. “I was raised Catholic, Michael was raised Jewish. We both have an affection for religion and a respect for religion. It’s hard not to recognize the power that religion gives to people and inspiration in their daily lives. We want to continue to reinforce the positive aspects of it.”

Don’t miss our interview with the American Gods team from Conival:

Image: Starz

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