American Gods showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green discuss how they developed the series based on Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel. Season 1 of American Gods adapts the book by introducing viewers to Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), a man just released from prison who is offered a job by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). However, as the pair drive around the United States, Mr. Wednesday slowly introduces Shadow to a world in which new and old gods exist — and they’re at war with one another.
Fans who have read Gaiman’s American Gods novel know that the book isn’t quite linear since it features a number of stories and characters that are removed from the storyline following Shadow and Mr. Wednesday. Given this narrative style, many fans wondered how Fuller and Green would bring American Gods to life and do the source material justice. Now, they explain their process while Gaiman himself reveals how he came to trust American Gods in their hands.
Screen Rant had the chance to attend roundtable interviews with the cast and creative team of American Gods and when asked how they adapted the novel for television, Fuller and Green explained that the Starz series is essentially their fan-fiction of the novel:
Fuller: We started with the book. We sat down and had a conversation about, ‘What do you remember from the first read of the book, the things that stuck with you’. We both singled out Salim and the djinn and we were fascinated with the Laura character but wanted to do more with her – really it was lovely because we just got to fanboy out about the show and all those things that we liked we just made sure we were going to represent them as beautifully as we imagined when we read the book. It was really about being fan-fiction.
Green: It’s always that question of how do you give people who don’t know the book or don’t remember the book that experience we had reading it. We can only give them our experience of reading it, but that’s the advantage of being the one who’s allowed to adapt it. Someone else’s will be different and arguably better but ha-ha it’s ours.
Of course, Green and Fuller make good points that American Gods is told through their points of view and while they are fans themselves — and, as such, their perspectives come from a place of being fans — the Starz series may not be exactly what readers of Gaiman’s work envisioned. Certainly, every reader has their own interpretation of the novel and every creator has their own idea of what makes a good television adaptation. But, for Gaiman’s part, he reveals how he knew Fuller was a good match to adapt American Gods:
April 1st 2014, I flew to Toronto and met Bryan Fuller. We sat in the lobby of the Shangri-La hotel and just talked about American Gods. Bryan was great and also very, very human in that he was like, ‘I love American Gods, I bought it when it came out, I am a fan. I am a fan of yours, I am a fan of this book, I love it – I don’t know how we turn it into a TV series.’ And that, actually, I found weirdly more inspiring of confidence than I would a smart, slick person who’s saying, ‘OK well this is how we’re going to to do it.’ Because all I could tell was it resonated with Bryan just as much as it did for me and that he wanted to make it a real thing.
While Starz’s American Gods series may not be exactly what fans envisioned when they originally read the novel, and while there will undoubtedly be viewers who don’t enjoy the show, it seems the creative team approached the adaptation with care. So far, early buzz for American Gods has been positive, but the series will receive its true test once season 1 debuts on Starz.
American Gods premieres Sunday April 30 @9pm on Starz.
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