Ricky Whittle Exclusive Interview: ‘American Gods’ Season 2, His Co-Stars, and ‘The 100’ Fans

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

It’s been a long wait, almost two years, but American Gods is back for season two on Starz. Fans of the book know that American Gods is just getting started. Season one ended with Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) revealing himself at Easter’s gathering, and they haven’t even gotten to the House on the Rock yet.

Well, season two picks up there and Ricky Whittle couldn’t be more excited. He loved our questions so much he just kept talking to us. Whittle plays Shadow Moon, the human drawn into the battle between Old Gods and New Gods. He’s also got a personal interest as his wife Laura (played by Emily Browning) is back from the dead, thanks to a Leprechaun’s coin.

American Gods season two premieres on March 10, 2019 on Starz.

It was a different actor but was it informative to get to see Shadow as a child?

Ricky Whittle: “It helps us feel an empathy for him and what he’s been through and how much he’s lost because at the beginning of the first season, he really is this empty shell, never knowing his father growing up. He lost his mother very young and then to lose Laura, he kind of drifted through the first season with nothing to really live for. But he’s had this inner life, this hope and inner strength to keep standing up and moving forward.

Now we’re able to explain why and where that light came from. It was indeed his mother and you see how much love he did have in his life, how wonderful this person was and now you can kind of understand what he’s searching for. He’s searching for that love again. He’s searching for that light and that’s why maybe he was so attached to Laura because she showed the slightest bit of love towards him. He’s very quick to grab onto those things.”

I was surprised it took until season two to get to the House on the Rock. How far into the book does season two take us?

Ricky Whittle: “I still think we’re struggling to break halfway. The fantastic thing, and I feel why the adaptation to screen was so successful in the first season, is we bring you everything you like in the book but we’re able to expand upon it. I constantly say this because it’s so true, Pablo Schreiber is one of the best actors, if not the best actor, I’ve ever worked with. When you have talent like that, you want to use him and the rest of the cast as much as possible. So where Sweeney was only in the book twice, Laura was sporadic throughout the book, Bilquis, Tech Boy, you have these fantastic actors so why not use them? Why not use this opportunity to expand and delve into these characters and their past and where they came from and see their wants and needs?

We’re able to really delve into Mad Sweeney’s backstory. We saw a little bit of it in season one. We’re going to see an incredible story in season two. That just pads out the show to a point where we can really take our time and really enjoy every moment of that book and expand upon the little bits where fans of the book won’t know what’s going on.

We’re starting to with certain things, I like to call it Marty McFlying the timeline. Things have happened, people have met so certain parts of the book can’t now happen. Like Mad Sweeney and Laura never meeting in the book. Now they have so there’s various things that we now can’t do from the book. They’ve evolved. These characters have evolved and become their own thing.

Neil (Gaiman) said the book was going to last about five seasons. It has so much potential. There’s so much material. With the constant evolution of characters that were lightly written about, there really is no end to how much material we can put in.”

Even with a bigger role for Laura, she and Shadow haven’t gotten to spend much time together.

Ricky Whittle: “It’s about not giving the fans what they want I feel in TV. In movies it’s very quick. It’s 90 minutes, whatever it be, but you have your beginning, middle and end. You have to finish off that storyline pretty quickly. In TV, you’re able to tease that out.

I feel some of the best dynamics and relationships and ships as fans like to call them, it’s about not giving the fans what they want. You want the audience to want certain people to be together. When they want that, producers are very savvy and tend to string that out as long as possible. Shadow and Laura need to have a conversation. They have history. Things have happened. Things will be approached in this season. We’re not going to tease too much. We will get to that.”

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

You had a longer than usual gap between seasons. Was there a period of getting your sea legs back?

Ricky Whittle: “Yeah, it’s a monster show and everything needed to be right. I feel that if we came back too soon, the quality would have depreciated. I feel that with a monster show like this, you needed to take time to get the writing right, the stories right, the arcs right. Even in post, we have such a huge effects quality to the show, with our new fantastic effects team from The Shape of Water, you want everything to look great.

I feel like we set a bar in season one and if we came at season twi with anything less than that, we’d have been found out. It was about having patience and doing it the right way.”

Was there a scene you couldn’t wait to do in season two?

Ricky Whittle: “It’s not arrived yet. I think season three or four is where the scene will come. I can’t talk about it right not but of the scenes I have done, I enjoyed the Sam Crow stuff. The Sam Crow stuff was fun because a lot of the book lovers were really looking forward to seeing that character come about.

Devery (Jacobs) is such a little cutie, she’s great. We worked on that car quite a bit, which you’ll see later on in the story. That was the first time we saw two humans together in a car on the show. It’s always a human and a god or gods together. So finally Shadow’s not the dumbest man in the room, or least woke so to say.”

Have you gotten to mix and match with the other gods more this season?

Ricky Whittle: “Yeah, yeah. I’ve always been the fortunate one that gets to play with everyone else. When we get together, I’d often have to introduce the various cast members because they work with me and then they leave, or they work with so and so and then they leave.

The dynamics have been mixed up a lot more this season, this season I got to work with Orlando (Jones) a bit more. I actually got to work with him a bit more [in season one] but that stuff didn’t make the show. We lost that in the edit so fans are going to get to see some fantastic scenes which involve Mr. Nancy, Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. It was a lot of fun.

You only saw him towards the end with Nancy but you’ll see a blossoming relationship between the two in season two and also finally with Bilquis. Shadow finally gets to meet Bilquis. Watching Yetide (Badaki) work is a joy. She’s a powerful actress and has a powerful presence.”

What did we miss in those deleted scenes with you and Mr. Nancy?

Ricky Whittle: “It was just a different way of saying the same thing that eventually was aired. It was an earlier version of Shadow realizing that Mr. Wednesday was Odin. There’s also a bit more history between Wednesday and Nancy where Shadow was able to passively listen to the two gods speaking with the impression that Shadow didn’t understand, and then Shadow just turned around and hit them with a very woke statement where he actually understood the whole thing. It was kind of the moment where Mr. Nancy and Wednesday were taken aback.

It’s a shame because it was a fun scene, but I agree more with the direction that we took now. You never know. It’s something that could happen again. I just enjoyed that dynamic. You had Mr. Wednesday and Nancy kind of irritating each other and Shadow found it amusing.

Working with those two is a joy for me because I grew up watching these two guys, Ian McShane and Orlando Jones’ films constantly growing up. Now I get to work alongside them. I still get excited when they text me. I’m not going to lie. I can’t even pretend I’m really cool. I got excited when Orlando Jones texted me last week and then Ian texted me yesterday morning. He said, ‘See you tomorrow, kid.’ I got excited like a little schoolgirl.”

That’s so Ian McShane.

Ricky Whittle: “Yeah, he’s a sweet man. He’s raised my level to another height because coming from a CW show with great actors and fun stuff to do, this is a monster show. It’s a monster production. Starz have thrown so much in there and I’m working with elite actors, the best ensemble on TV. To learn opposite these guys and to watch Ian McShane’s nuances and choices, the things he does only adds to my catalog of tricks of the trade that I can use in future episodes, shows, films, movies, whatever that may be.

Two eyes, two ears. I try to watch and listen twice as much as I speak.”

Have The 100 fans followed you to American Gods?

Ricky Whittle: “Yes, very much so. The thing about fantasy fans, sci-fi fans, they’re so passionate. If they do like someone and latch onto that someone’s performance, they tend to follow them everywhere and support that person no matter what. I’ve found them the most vocal and supportive group I’ve ever experienced.

The 100 doesn’t have a large audience. It has a loud audience. Those loud, supportive fans have come to American Gods. We’ve introduced them to the world of Neil Gaiman. It’s a similar genre so they’re gonna like it. Neil Gaiman was new to me before I started investing into the project with the audition process. It’s great that a whole new generation now is reading Neil Gaiman and following Neil Gaiman. I think there’s definitely a lot of love from The 100 fan base that I’ll always be grateful for.”

Have you kept up with The 100?

Ricky Whittle: “Never, not at all. Not to be horrible, but just because it’s painful. Not to sound dramatic, but it was a negative, horrible experience. If someone goes through something very horrible, you don’t really want to be reminded of it so you keep clear of it. I still keep in contact with Mike Beach, Devon Bostick, Chris Larkin, everyone who leaves the show basically because they’re free and we can talk freely. We can chat.

I don’t pay attention to that show anymore. It’s not my business anymore. I’m on American Gods. I’ve got incredible creatives. I’ve got incredible producers. Starz are crazy supportive. Half the directors this season are female and you’ve seen how diverse the cast is. It really is a joy to be on such a great show that really tries to include everyone and show the truth about America which is very versatile and diverse.

I’m in a happier place. Everything happens in your life for a reason and it’s always darkest before the dawn. I wouldn’t truly appreciate how great American Gods is without going through something tough. That’s just taught me how lucky I am to get on so well with this cast and the producers and with Starz and Amazon when we go international. They look after us and make sure that we’re okay.

It sounds silly but when you go through certain situations, you realize how important that is and how much we take it for granted. We’ve got a beautiful home here at Starz and they look out for their cast and make sure their cast is okay.”