Showrunners on Starz upcoming series American Gods reveal their approach to sex scenes and how the network encouraged "equal opportunity" nudity in the series' debut season. Based on the 2001 novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, American Gods introduces Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) as he's about to be released from prison. However, when he's told his wife dies in a car accident, Shadow is released early and crosses paths with a man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). With the offer of a job, Mr. Wednesday subsequently pulls Shadow into a conflict between the new and old gods that exist in America.
The upcoming Starz series tackles themes of religion and belief in modern day America, as well as all the politics and emotions those beliefs are tied into. And, since one of the old gods in the show is Bilquis, the goddess of love, sex also comes into play over the course of season 1. But, while sex scenes aren't a new phenomenon - especially on premium cable networks like Starz, HBO, and Showtime - the American Gods creative team wanted to make sure their show's sex scenes were important to the progression of the story and offered "equal opportunity" nudity.
Screen Rant had the chance to attend a roundtable interview with showrunners Michael Green and Bryan Fuller, during which they were asked about the amount of male nudity shown throughout the first four episodes of American Gods. Fuller responded jokingly, "Starz loves cock," while Green went on to elaborate:
'Equal opportunity' was the actual term. They knew that there was going to be sexual content in this show, we were clear that our sexual content was always going to be uncuttable in the sense that it would be related to character and story and be presented as artfully as anything else. If there is a sex scene in a show or film that if you eliminated it, someone can still appreciate the emotional journeys of the characters, then it probably wasn’t done right - or at least that’s how we went about it.
In terms of the nudity shown in American Gods, Green and Fuller were encouraged by Starz to include both men and women since premium cable shows have drawn criticism in the past for only focusing on female nudity - most notable being HBO's Game of Thrones. Though other series have tried to even the scales a bit - such as True Blood's season 6 finale featuring Alexander Skarsgard's brief nude scene - the American Gods creative team thought about equal opportunity nudity from the beginning, and they received Starz's blessing from the start:
Fuller: Starz said upfront that they encouraged the male nudity because they didn’t want to take a hit on this show having female nudity but not male nudity. They were encouraging, [saying], ‘If you want to do more male nudity, we have no problem with it.’
Green: Just the same, they said, ‘We are perfectly fine with episodes without any [nudity].’ It wasn’t so much one way or the other, it was, ‘Do what you want, do it artfully, do it with our support.’
Fuller: ‘And if you’re going to do nudity, do everybody - not just the ladies.’
Of course, those who have read Gaiman's novel will know that the source material lends itself to showing a variety of sex scenes. The original book includes scenes involving Bilquis - though hers isn't a typical sex scene - and one between a man named Salim and a djinn. Still, whether or not the American Gods showrunners were successful in portraying the show's sex scenes artfully and with an equal amount of nudity between the actors and actresses, viewers will get the chance to see for themselves when season 1 debuts.
American Gods premieres Sunday April 30 @9pm on Starz.