In a changing world, with new focuses and new understandings of the universe, what becomes of the gods of old? It’s that premise explored by Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, the adaptation of which is currently under production for Starz and is set to air next year. The novel, considered by many to be the best of Gaiman’s literary efforts, is an interesting look at the fates of gods when their need is outgrown by their once faithful followers.
Fans of the novel have been delivered an onslaught of positive news regarding the adaptation, with Gaiman himself praising early footage from the Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Heroes)-led series. As if that weren’t enough, American Gods has an enviable cast that includes Ian McShane (Deadwood) as Mr. Wednesday, Gillian Anderson (The X-Files) as Media, and Ricky Whittle (The 100) as the protagonist, Shadow Moon. While impressive, fans have still been waiting with baited breath about the casting announcements for several other key characters, two more of which have now been released.
In a press release provided by Starz, the network announced the casting of Orlando Jones (Sleepy Hollow) in the role of Mr. Nancy and Demore Barnes (12 Monkeys) in the role of Mr. Ibis. Both of the characters are among the Old Gods, whom Mr. Wednesday attempts to rally in a battle for devotion against the New Gods.
Mr. Nancy, a.k.a. Anansi, is an ancient African trickster god, not unlike Loki, and one of Mr. Wednesday’s oldest allies among the Old Gods. Jones, with his background in both comedy and drama, seems perfectly suited for the role of Mr. Nancy, who can alternate between bitingly hilarious and intensely terrifying at a moment’s notice. Like Mr. Wednesday, Mr. Nancy is desperate to take on the New Gods and reclaim his proper place in the minds of humanity.
Fans of the novel are well familiar with Mr. Nancy, who was the subject of a sequel, of sorts, to American Gods, Anansi Boys. While not a direct sequel to the novel, per se, it serves as a kind of shared universe expansion of the world of American Gods. While there are not, as yet, plans to bring Anansi Boys to the screen, his portrayal there makes it easy to see Jones stepping into the irreverent, occasionally frightening, shoes of the spider trickster god.
Mr. Ibis, on the other hand, is a manifestation of an ancient Egyptian god. Contrasting to Mr. Nancy, Ibis is somewhat stern, serious character who functions as a story-keeper. He recounts tales to Shadow Moon and offers him and the audience, context to the struggles of the Old Gods as the world evolved and left them behind.
As a whole, the story of American Gods serves as an allegorical take on the way people interact with the world around them and the changing nature of their devotions. As humanity evolves, their need for the gods of old become less and new gods arise to take their place. It’s high concept, to be sure, but as a television series the potential for narrative depth is great, making the series one of the most highly anticipated shows for next year.
It’s important, then, that the cast be reflective of the story’s depth, and the additions of Jones and Barnes certainly adds to the already incredible pool of potential the series has. Both actors have proven to be quite versatile and capable of a variety of roles and each will bring something special to the upcoming series that only raises hopes for the greatness to come.
American Gods is expected to premiere on Starz sometime in 2017.