Depending on who you ask, Neil Gaiman’s sprawling fantasy novel American Gods is either the perfect source material for a TV show or movie, or completely unfilmable. Those on the former side are in luck, however, as American Gods is heading to Starz with Gaiman himself writing multiple episodes of the adaptation, and Hannibal‘s Bryan Fuller serving as co-showrunner with Michael Green (Heroes).
The first major piece of casting news came earlier this year, when it was announced that Ricky Whittle (The 100) will be playing the show’s protagonist, Shadow Moon. In Gaiman’s novel, Shadow’s wife Laura is killed just days before his release from prison. To make matters worse, she died in a car accident with Shadow’s best friend, with whom she’d been having an affair. With his post-prison plans scuppered, Shadow agrees to work for an eccentric stranger called Mr. Wednesday, and the two of them embark on a road trip across America. Along the way, Shadow becomes embroiled in a civil war between the country’s old and new gods.
Next to Shadow, Mr. Wednesday is the second most prominent character in the story, so Gaiman fans will be pleased to hear that the show has landed a stellar cast member for the role. British actor Ian McShane, whose career dates back to the 1960s but who gained widespread attention for his role as Al Swearengen in the TV show Deadwood, has been cast as Shadow’s strange new boss. In a statement accompanying the announcement, the showrunners had this to say:
“Actor. Icon. And now god. It is a goddamn delight to be collaborating with the incomparable Ian McShane — again and for the first time — on a story about faith and belief, with the utmost faith and belief in Mr. McShane as our Mr. Wednesday. A wonderful Wednesday indeed.”
Gaiman also offered his enthusiastic endorsement of the casting, saying, “When you write a beloved character… like Mr. Wednesday, you get to watch the internet trying to cast the role. I’ve seen a hundred names suggested, but few make me grin like Ian McShane does.” McShane has certainly been keeping busy of late, appearing in crime drama Ray Donovan and spy comedy The Brothers Grimsby, and also joining the cast of Game of Thrones in the upcoming sixth season. American Gods is set to begin filming in April.
McShane’s character, Mr. Wednesday, is the leader of the Old Gods – a collection of ancient deities who were transported to the shores of America hundreds of years previously, when the people who worshipped them first explored the new world. In the modern setting of the story, there aren’t many people left who still actively worship the old pantheons, and as such they are forced to lead rather humble lives.
We hope to bring you more casting news soon, as American Gods moves towards its production start date, but let us know in the comments which actors you think would be ideal to play the other characters in Gaiman’s story.
American Gods is expected to premiere on Starz in late 2016.