‘American Gods’ – Ricky Whittle and Neil Gaiman Season 2 Interview

American Gods Season 2
Poster for ‘American Gods’ season 2 (Photo Credit: Starz)

Author/executive producer Neil Gaiman and American Gods star Ricky Whittle were paired up for roundtable interviews at the New York Comic Con. Gaiman and Whittle are Comic Con veterans and when asked to compare their experience at the San Diego Comic Con prior to season one to the New York reception, Gaiman said it’s obvious the excitement level of fans has dramatically increased since the first season aired. He also joked that what fans have said they really want during the season two promotional tour is more shirtless Ricky Whittle, preferably covered in blood.

“I do bleeding and topless well,” joked Ricky Whittle. “I appreciate that.”

“It is a different kind of feeling. Now the first question you ask yourself is will they come? The next question is will they stay? And what I love is I don’t get the sense that anybody’s going away. I barely get the sense that anyone’s checking their watches. Everybody now is going, ‘Yeah, there’s an awful lot of TV to watch. It’s fine. We are looking forward to American Gods arriving,’” explained Neil Gaiman about the wait for season two.

He added, “We have an audience now around the world. This is Amazon’s biggest international hit around the world and is a huge hit for Starz in the U.S. So, it’s a lot to live up to and a lot to get right. There’s a lot of moving parts.”

Season two of American Gods premieres on Starz on March 10, 2019.

Do you feel that pressure to live up to expectations, given the first season?

Neil Gaiman: “You know the great thing about being me is…”

Ricky Whittle: (Laughing) “There’s so many, by the way.”

Neil Gaiman: “My role, I describe it occasionally on American Gods as being parental, but it’s much more like being a father in that I get to have intense moments of pleasure and then I disappear off and everybody else gets to do all the work for many, many months. And then they show me what they brought forth and I go, ‘Yes, I am proud of this thing.’”

Ricky Whittle: “We refer to him as the ‘Gods’father. And it is like, ‘Look what we did, daddy,’ and he goes, ‘That’s okay. Do better than that. That’s fantastic. Well done, do it again.’”

Neil Gaiman: “There’s a lot of that. With the last season there was just the madness of the fact that I was really trying to work on Good Omens, working six or occasionally seven-day weeks, 10 to 15-hour days meant that there were only chunks of time I could devote to American Gods. I got together with Jesse (Alexander), the last showrunner, and just briefed him, downloaded, talked him through the season and where things needed to go. Then helped him with episode one and helped him get things rolling before disappearing back into Good Omens. Then it started easing up a bit in April (2018). I got to start working with the writers on episode six and seven and eight, on getting those right. I’m looking forward in future seasons to being there a lot more. But then again, I’m not going to be a full-time showrunner on anything so it should be a lot easier.

But it’s a huge responsibility. It’s a big responsibility to the book, it’s a responsibility to the actors, and it’s a responsibility to the audience. But if you let yourself think about the audience, you go mad. You just think about your responsibility to the cast and to the crew, and to the story.”

You’re working on the American Gods sequel. Is that something you plan on adapting and will it have something to do with the series?

Neil Gaiman: “I figure that what I’m hoping to do with American Gods the sequel is that there are hooks built into American Gods that the sequel clips onto. Some of them are big and obvious and some of them are almost invisible and only I know where they are. So, when we started the process with Bryan (Fuller) and Michael (Green), I explained to them where the clips were and the shape of the sequel and how it was going to begin and where things needed to hook onto.

Sitting down with Jesse, again, there was an, ‘Okay, these are the things we need to make sure. You can’t lose this thing. You can’t lose this thing. This thing may seem tiny but it’s going to have important events down the line.’

So, hopefully, at the point where we get to…if we make it through five seasons and we get to finish the book and then we’ve done the stories of Shadow in the UK, I can get to roll up my sleeves and get to the story of Shadow’s return to the U.S. That’s a long way down the line.”

Is that something you’re looking forward to doing?

Ricky Whittle: (Laughing) “Shadow will be 55. No, I’m massively looking forward to it. I’ve sat around the table at meetings and I’ve four days left of season two to shoot and I’m already looking forward to season three. It’s my favorite part of the book and I don’t want to just brush season two under the table, but I’ve lived it for the last so many months and I’m excited for the audience to catch up with me and see what we’ve done. But this is coming up to my favorite part of the book, and then moving on Neil has come up with so many other prophesies that we can delve into.

The way that the stories have all kind of evolved, we can progress this story too. So, the book was set to be four or five seasons long, we can do six, seven…because I love working with Neil. I love working with this cast. The crew in Toronto’s amazing. It’s a lot of fun.

The great thing about Shadow Moon is I work backwards. I know where I want him to go and what I want him to become, so I worked backwards to this empty shell void of feeling and emotions. So now I just get to just to layer him. Every season I get to add more colors until he becomes whatever we decide to do in the future.

Long may this show continue and I get to show the many colors of Shadow Moon.”

American Gods Season 2 Ricky Whittle
Ricky Whittle stars in ‘American Gods’ season 2 (Photo Credit: Starz)

What are fans telling you that they connect to most with Shadow Moon?

Ricky Whittle: “With Shadow? They love his hope, for some reason. A lot happens to Shadow Moon in a negative aspect and he continues to get up and keep moving forward.

Something that fans really reached out to me with was how it inspired them, which I felt was really heartwarming that they felt if Shadow Moon can get up after a night like he’s just had, I can get on with my day. It’s fine. I’ll go to work and deal with whatever I have to deal with or whatever space they’d be – be it a work space, be it the playground, be it at home. Wherever it is. Because he does constantly get beat down and he constantly gets back up. He constantly believes it will be okay. Even the troubles with Laura – he doesn’t just shun that. He wants answers. He wants to talk things out. He wants to find out what’s going on. He wants to find out what’s going on with Wednesday and all these gods.

It’s really inspirational that a character where so much negative stuff happens to him can actually provide hope for people. They see that inner strength that he has, that light that he kind of carries within him, and hopefully that light can kind of be passed on to the audience. That’s what you want to do. You want to inspire audiences to better themselves, become better versions of themselves, and to enjoy their own lives and see that it could be worse. You could be strung up into a tree by several faceless goons and a crazy vape-smoking teenager.”

Isn’t that just a normal Saturday for you?

Ricky Whittle: “It’s a Tuesday in California, basically.”

How has life changed for you since American Gods began?

Ricky Whittle: “Life hasn’t changed much because I’m always positive and I love life. The only thing that’s changed is I now get to work with my idols that I watched on TV. Neil called me up one day and (talking to Neil) you don’t know this. I’m geeking out. He called me up and I was speechless. I pointed at the phone as if to say, ‘It’s Neil,’ but no one’s here to see this. Damn it! So, yeah, I get to work with him and Orlando Jones, various people that I grew up with. Ian McShane. He’s Lovejoy to me. I grew up and my grandma, bless her soul, she would have lost her mind. If she would have known I was working with Ian McShane, oh my goodness. She loves him way more than me.

The only thing that’s changed is I get to work with my idols that I grew up with.”