The constantly expanding cast of surreal fantasy drama American Gods has added rock star Marilyn Manson to its ranks. The Starz series, based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, follows ex-con Shadow as he is recruited by the enigmatic Mr Wednesday – in reality the Norse god Odin – and the pair travel across the country as Wednesday seeks to gather support in the looming conflict between the old gods of faith and tradition clinging to life by the few who still believe in them, and the new gods of technology, media and globalization drawing strength from humanity’s increasing reliance on them.
Although Gaiman’s novel is a lengthy and detailed one, the TV show has made a number of changes and taken it even further by extending the presence of supporting characters and lengthening sub-plots in which they feature, while also introducing whole new storylines and numerous original characters, each expanding the already vast scope of the setting. With scores of gods from dozens of pantheons to choose from, the possibilities of exploring historical cultures as modern fantasy are almost endless.
The new of Manson’s casting came from Deadline, and his four-episode run in the show will see him play another new character Johan Wengren, the lead singer of Viking metal band Blood Death. While Viking metal is a genuine musical genre, the twist will come from Johan actually having been a Viking. He is immortal like many of American Gods’ characters, and as a former berserker he worshipped Odin, with his band and its music now acting as one of the old god’s sources of power.
Although most famous as a musician with a controversial stage persona, Manson is certainly no stranger to the world of acting. Beginning with a cameo alongside band mate Twiggy Ramirez as a pair of porn performers in David Lynch’s Lost Highway, he has appeared in small roles in the likes of black comedy Jawbreaker, crime biopic Party Monster, and drama The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. More recently, he had recurring TV roles in crime drama Sons of Anarchy and historical horror Salem, and will appear in upcoming drama series The New Pope, expected later this year
Manson is most notorious for the dark flamboyance of his performance – to the extent that it often eclipses the man he actually is – which should easily translate to howling metal music retellings of mythological epics in costume as the warrior berserker that his character once was. The songs of Viking metal are heavily themed towards Norse mythology, so it’s pretty much a given several of Blood Death’s songs will be about Odin and his exploits, possibly glorified to greater significance than he actually achieved, as the myths often portray him as a meddling con man rather than a mighty warrior. However the musical side of it is achieved, it will almost certainly be another example of how American Gods is taking full advantage of its central concept.