AUSTIN, TEXAS — The hotly-anticipated TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s best-seller “American Gods” made its world premiere Saturday at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, where the team behind the upcoming Starz series teased the fantasy drama, in anticipation of the April 30 premiere.
Creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were joined by a mega-sized panel, including cast members Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Crispin Glover, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Orlando Jones, Jonathan Tucker and Betty Gilpin.
“I’ve never seen any of the show before and I thought it was f—ing amazing!” McShane, who plays Mr. Wednesday, exclaimed at the premiere, after screening the episode for the first time, alongside the audience. “I was riveted and I’ve never seen anything like it.”
Here’s what we learned about “American Gods” at SXSW:
The TV series will please fans of the book because Bryan Fuller and Michael Green are major devotees themselves:
“Our first task of adapting is to make the show that we wanted to see as an audience member, and we’re both big fans of the book so it just felt like we needed to put on screen what was in our heads as we read it,” Fuller said on the panel.
But … fans of the book will still be plenty surprised:
“You’re really not going to know where we’re going, which way we’re going, or which way is up or down,” said Whittle, who plays Shadow Moon.
Female characters are much more present than in the book:
“We knew we wanted to start with Shadow meeting Wednesday, but we also knew about this character Laura Moon … and we knew she spent a lot of time off screen,” Green said, teasing much screen time for Browning’s character.
Fuller chimed in, “We’re very excited to expand on several of the female characters. The book tends to be a sausage party. We’re very excited to have these ladies on the show with these fine gentleman.”
With more female characters on screen, the women are given meaty roles:
“I’m playing a character who worships my husband. It’s a nightmare,” Browning said with a laugh. “I’ve never wanted to play a character where her main motivation was to love her husband. I think that she’s sort of her own kind of hero, but it just so happens that what she wants in the story is to get this guy back.”
“American Gods” could not be more timely — and the current political climate influenced the series:
“It celebrates a lot of things that we love about America that have recently become odd about America,” Green said about the show. Fuller added, “It’s definitely a different show that we set out to make because the political climate in American shat its pants … so we have a strange new platform to start a different conversation.”
The show serves as a platform to discuss race:
“It seems extremely poignant, while at the same time, extremely powerful to be the voice of a nation in some ways,” Jones said about playing Mr. Nancy, while mentioning the Black Lives Matter movement. “I think the conversation of race is one that we’ve avoided for quite some time,” he said, adding that the show serves as a “platform.”
Inclusive casting was deliberate, while also staying true to the book:
“One of the things that was exciting for us in casting the show … is that so much of the book is based on other cultures and other ethnicities, so it gave us the opportunity not to be color blind,” Fuller said. “It was great working with Neil because he was very, very adamant that every actor we cast must be very representative of the book … and gave us the opportunity for much more inclusive casting to represent America.”
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