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Neil Gaiman on ‘American Gods’ Season 2: ‘We’d All Rather Have It Good Than Have It Quicker’

Almost two years and showrunner changes since the first season of “American Gods” wrapped up on Starz, the second season is set to debut in a way that is a “really great way back to the book,” according to series star and executive producer Ian McShane.

“We needed to get back to the line in the book,” he said at the Television Critics Assn. press tour panel for the drama Tuesday. “The characters you were invested in needed exploring more. … Gaiman wrote a great blueprint for a TV series that can go wherever it wants as long as it remains true to the roots of faith.”

Neil Gaiman, who wrote the book on which the show is based and serves as executive producer on the show, noted that he was on-board with the show from before original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were attached, so he got to watch them lead and then watch new showrunner Jesse Alexander take the reins in the second season. From his perspective, “it feels like the same show that we had for Season 1. Part of that is because we had amazing actors; part of that is because a lot of the people didn’t change,” he said. Specifically, Gaiman noted their second unit director, Chris Byrne, who was responsible for a lot, stayed consistent season over season, which lent itself to feeling like one cohesive show.

“It’s definitely taken awhile to get Season 2 out but it takes awhile to get good [episodes]. I think we’d all rather have it good than have it quicker,” Gaiman said.

In the second season, there will be the introduction of new Gods, as well, some of which are in Gaiman’s book and some that are not. One notable change from the book, Gaiman himself noted, was that “the new gods of 20 years ago already feel very dated.” New Media was a God that Gaiman called one of the “coolest.”

He also said that there were never plans to have Easter (Kristin Chenoweth) in the second season. “We actually plucked her early,” he said, noting that the character showed up later in the book than appeared in the show. “Somewhere up the line we’re going to meet Easter again. Whether or not we get Kristin or someone else remains to be seen.”

But when examining Media (Gillian Anderson), it became about expanding and modernizing for today’s world. Although she acknowledged that Anderson got to play Lucille Ball and Judy Garland so well in the first season, it wasn’t necessarily “relevant” to any under the age of 25 because “you have to explain” who those people are. Instead, when looking at New Media for today’s world and audience, he wanted to bring in some more “irritating” qualities in a “Mark Zuckerberg-like” way.

The second season of “American Gods” picks up about “30 minutes after Season 1 ended,” Emily Browning revealed. What that means for her character is that “Laura finally has Shadow there in front of her and, I think as is probably to be expected of Laura, she realizes that maybe now she has what she wants she’s not entirely sure it’s what she wants.”

In the first season, Browning explained, Laura didn’t have much of a plan behind getting back to Shadow (Ricky Whittle). “There was just a lot of blind rage, really. It was the realization that he was her North Star and she kind of wasted her time with him when she was alive,” she said. In Season 2, Shadow is “not her puppy anymore,” she continued, so a big part of her arc is “about finding some new things to fight for.”

Similarly, Yetide Badaki said there will be a further exploration of agency for Bilquis. “We get to look back into herstory…and we get to see why old gods are old for a reason.”

With the impending war between the new and old gods, the fight is a big part of the season for all of the characters, just in slightly different ways. Shadow, Whittle, said has “no real option but to follow Mr. Wednesday and his promise of money,” but he will be looking for more information, which will put him at odds with the other god. “Knowledge of information is power on this show, so the two are going to be tense this season,” he explained.

Nancy (Orlando Jones), meanwhile, is very focused on the war, even though an episode will also be dedicated to going “back in time” with him as he tells about running a burlesque house in the 1930s.

“His worshippers in modern-day America are dying and he’s looking for a way to keep them alive because that’s what empowers Nancy. In some ways the war is important to Nancy,” Jones said, noting that a big part of his story is getting a queen “because you can’t have a war without a queen.” Getting Bilquis over to his side “is very much Nancy’s drive throughout the season.”

“American Gods” Season 2 premieres Mar. 10 on Starz.

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