You’d better start praying to the gods because it looks like a storm is coming our way. As Bryan Fuller and Michael Green bring Neil Gaiman’s American Gods to our screens, prepare to be astounded. Premiering on Starz at the end of April, American Gods is a modern tale steeped in mythology.
The story centers on Shadow Moon, a man released from prison due to the untimely death of his wife. Looking to start again, Moon meets the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. While trying to turn his life around, Shadow is pulled into the middle of a battle between the Old Gods and the New Gods, two warring tribes of deities that threaten to pull the world apart.
With an all-star cast that includes Ian McShane, Cloris Leachman, and Gillian Anderson, Fuller looks set to bring his unique brand of visuals to our latest television addiction. So, if you’ve reached for your rosary beads and said seven Hail Mary's, let’s meet The 16 Biggest American Gods Stars.
16 Ricky Whittle
Some may know him as “Grounder” Lincoln from CW’s The 100, but for a certain group of people, Ricky Whittle will always be Ryan Naysmith from trashy UK show Dream Team. Actually starting out as a model for Reebok, Whittle came to the attention of Dream Team’s casting director and he soon landed the part as cheeky Naysmith.
Whittle stuck to the lighter side of acting and landed the role of Calvin Valentine in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks. Whittle played the part for four years before he was killed off in a dramatic “whodunnit” storyline. His Hollyoaks exit soon led to a trip stateside, where Whittle joined the first season of The 100 before being promoted to series regular in the second. Despite a knack for his characters getting killed off, Whittle’s role in American Gods looks slightly more secure.
As Shadow Moon, Whittle is the protagonist and audience vehicle of American Gods and forced into the battle by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. His work on The 100 showed us that he is more than up for the challenge of a more serious role by leaving his soapy days long behind him. Expect to get to hear the name Ricky Whittle a lot more in the future.
15 Omid Abtahi
Iranian- born Omid Abtahi is somewhat a traveler, moving to Paris at the age of five and Orange County when he was 10. After treading the boards, Abtahi turned his hand to a string of TV shows, appearing in everything from to FlashForward to Better Call Saul. He also portrayed blogger Justin Yates in The Ghost Whisperer, a character who was dying from a terminal brain aneurysm and needed help crossing over.
Abtahi had a brief role in just one episode of 24’s fourth season and then returned for a different part in “Day 7” in. As Jibraan Al-Zarian, Omid’s character became influential in helping Jack Bauer prevent a terror attack. However, Abtahi’s Hollywood roles are relatively limited, confined to the likes of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2. In the finale of the Hunger Games franchise, Abtahi played the District 13 soldier Homes. As one of the film’s numerous casualties, Homes fell victim to the tunnel-dwelling lizard muttations and the attack on the group.
As for American Gods, Abtahi will again play a relatively small part as a gay Muslim man named Salim.
14 Jonathan Tucker
34-year-old Jonathan Tucker first came to prominence thanks to his role in Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides. Tucker may only have played one of the neighborhood boys obsessed with the Lisbon Sisters, but it was enough to get him noticed by larger productions. After Virgin Suicides, Tucker played the lead in naughties comedy 100 Girls and went on to star in the much-anticipated Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2003. While hanging off a chandelier, the bespectacled Morgan met a grisly demise by way of a chainsaw through the genitals.
Tucker went on to star in supernatural horror The Ruins, where he practiced meditation to deal with the film’s isolation in Australia. However, most will remember Tucker as Mayor Bob Little from Ron Howard’s Parenthood from 2011-2014. He currently stars as Jay Kulina on Kingdom, an MMA drama. Previously working with Fuller on Hannibal, Tucker portrayed the psychotic Matthew Brown. Brown was an orderly at the Baltimore State Hospital For The Criminally Insane who had an obsession with Will Graham.
Reuniting with the showrunner, Tucker will play Low-Key Lyesmith, Shadow's cellmate in prison. As with all American Gods characters, there is more to Low-Key than meets the eye.
13 Corbin Bernsen
As a veteran of the big and small screen, Corbin Bernsen has literally been there and done that. On the TV scene, Bernsen earned Emmy and Golden Globe nominations for his time as hotshot lawyer Arnold Becker on L.A. Law. Becker and Bernsen became synonymous with each other and he appeared in the role until the show’s end in 1994.
As prima donna Roger Dorn, Bernsen was arguably the face of all three Major League films, a series of sports comedies which focussed on professional baseball teams. He has also had guest roles on Seinfeld, The West Wing, and a larger role on General Hospital, until his character John Durant was murdered.
Aside from acting, Bernsen is also an accomplished director and has recently focused on Christian films. The first was Rust in 2010, which he starred in and followed with the book Rust: the Novel. Not content with acting and writing, Bernsen is also one of the world’s largest collectors of snow globes and once traded a part in a film for a KISS snow globe.
Bernsen will play one of the show's most interesting characters, a new invention under the name of Vulcan. Gaiman specifically created this new addition for the show. As an old acquaintance of Mr. Wednesday and bound to a life of guns, it sounds like Vulcan is doing just fine for himself in America’s gun culture.
12 Kristin Chenoweth
Squeaky-voiced Kristin Chenoweth will surely brighten up American Gods with her girlish giggle and grinning smile. Chenoweth’s beauty made her runner-up in the Miss Oklahoma Pageant in 1991, but as an actress and singer, she isn’t just limited to good looks.
In 1999 she won a Tony Award for her part in the Broadway revival of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, however, Chenowith is better known for her stage performance of Glinda the Good Witch in Wicked. Off stage, Chenoweth has had parts in Ugly Betty, The West Wing, and Glee, with a larger part as Olive Snook in Fuller’s show Pushing Daisies.
In cinema, Chenoweth’s roles in Bewitched, The Pink Panther, and The Peanuts Movie have all stood out thanks to her unmistakable voice. It is this voice that brings Chenoweth to her next project, voicing Princess Skystar in My Little Pony: The Movie.
Starring in American Gods, Chenowith will play Easter (aka Eostre). The Old God living in San Francisco, Easter is the personification of springtime and fertility, so expect to see her playing with “daisies” alongside Fuller again.
11 Pablo Schreiber
Time to get out the handcuffs, because Orange is the New Black’s "Pornstache" is coming to American Gods. As corrupt corrections officer George Mendez, Schreiber was a little too hands-on with the women of Litchfield and found himself wrongly imprisoned as the father of Dayanara Diaz’s bouncing baby daughter. Losing his signature stache, Mendez was last seen when his mother visited him in a maximum security men’s prison.
With a knack for playing wayward characters, Schreiber first appeared as smuggler Nick Sobotka in The Wire, then had several parts in the Law & Order series. He also played drug baron “The Sarge” on the seventh season of Weeds and a similarly narcotic role in HBO’s The Brink. Interestingly, Schreiber also narrated the audiobook of American Psycho and was voted one of "TV's Sexiest Men of 2011" by BuddyTV.
Schreiber will portray Irish leprechaun Mad Sweeney on American Gods, a man who guarded a sacred rock for three thousand years and slowly went mad. Schreiber takes over from Sean Harris who was originally cast in the part.
10 Cloris Leachman
With seven decades of acting under her belt, 90-year-old Cloris Leachman is a beloved treasure and the most veteran cast member of American Gods. With the most Emmy Awards ever and an Academy Award for her role as Ruth Popper in The Last Picture Show, Leachman could certainly give the rest of the cast a lesson or two on acting.
Leachman’s longest-running role was as the nosey Phyllis Lindstrom on the CBS sitcom The Mary Tyler Moore Show, a role that she continued into her own spin-off, Phyllis. Nominated for six consecutive years, Leachman won yet more Emmy Awards for her role as the cantankerous Grandma Ida on Malcolm in the Middle. Appearing in three of Mel Brooks’ films, Leachman starred in Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety, and History of the World: Part I, as well as his NBC show The Nutt House.
Rightly inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011, Leachman returns to TV once more for American Gods. She will play Slavic “old god” Zorya Vechernyaya. As one-third of the Zorya Sisters, Leachman's character is described as an old woman with a thick Eastern European accent, so expect her to pull out her Ida voice once more.
9 Dane Cook
Actor-comedian Dane Cook is sure to add some merriment to the dark proceedings of Gaiman’s world. Credited as one of the first comedians to use MySpace to create a large following, Cook has also released five comedy albums. In 2006, his album Retaliation became the highest charting comedy album in 28 years and went platinum.
With an acting career that started in 1997, Cook starred alongside the likes of Eddie Izzard and William H. Macy in Mystery Men, as well as Chuck in Good Luck Chuck. Cook also voiced Dusty Crophopper in Planes and its 2014 sequel, and portrayed devious Mr. Smith in his first dramatic role for Mr. Brooks. As well as hosting Saturday Night Live, Cook’s controversial comedy style caused outrage when he made a joke about the 2012 Aurora shooting - a decision he later called “bad judgment.”
Cook will play Shadow Moon’s friend Robbie on American Gods, a part that he apparently got for his ability to play an “entertaining d*ck.” Robbie and Shadow share a complicated relationship and Cook is sure to play up to his character’s cocky persona with ease.
8 Peter Stormare
With his grisly features and gruff persona, Swedish-born Peter Stormare is made to play villains. While at acting college, he realized that he shared his name with another actor and changed it, toying with "Mrots Retep" (Peter Storm backward) before settling on Stormare.
After putting Steve Buscemi into the wood chipper in Fargo’s most iconic scene, Stormare continued his career in films as the doomed Dieter Stark in The Lost World: Jurassic Park and the sleazy “eye doctor” in Minority Report. Stormare was introduced to a whole new generation thanks to his part as mob boss John Abruzzi on Fox’s Prison Break. Sadly, his character's shock demise in Season 2 means that he (probably) won’t be returning for the show’s revival - stranger things have happened though.
After appearing in this year’s John Wick: Chapter 2, Stormare takes his American Gods role as the hammer-wielding Czernobog. He is known as the “Black God”, causing bad things to happen to those around him, which may have something to do with his job on the kill floor of an abattoir. Either way, we can’t wait for Stormare to swing that sledgehammer.
7 Orlando Jones
As one of the original MADtv cast members and the spokesman for 7 Up from 1999-2002, Orlando Jones sure has had an interesting career. His acting career actually started out like Titus Andromedon from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Jones used to dress as a werewolf for a local haunted house. Together with comedian Michael Fechter, Jones formed Homeboy's Productions and Advertising and teamed up with Michael Jordan to bring the McJordan to McDonald’s.
Jones left as MADtv in the second season but returned in 2004 for the 200th episode special. After MADtv, his movie roles took him to the likes of Bedazzled, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant, and alongside Julianne Moore in Evolution. Jones also had his own late-night talk show on FX which was aptly titled The Orlando Jones Show. He got some genre love for playing Frank Irving in Sleepy Hollow and being very active on social media.
You don’t get much bigger on American Gods than playing Mr. Nancy. As one of the old gods, Mr. Nancy even got his own spin-off novel, Anansi Boys. Jones will play a god who can also take the form of a spider, while the African trickster character is sure to be a huge part of the show.
6 Beth Grant
Forming a familiar face of television and cinema, Beth Grant is no stranger to playing a kook on our screens. With her distinctive Alabama accent, there are no prizes for guessing where the actress helms from. Since her first major film role in 1988's Rain Man, Grant has appeared virtually everywhere.
You may recognize her from Donnie Darko, Little Miss Sunshine, and No Country For Old Men, to name but a few, and only last year, she popped up as Lady Bird Johnson in the acclaimed Jackie.
As for her TV roles, Grant is best-known for playing the ruthless grocery store owner Gracie Leigh on CBS show Jericho, but she has worked with Fuller on three of his shows, always playing the same character. She portrayed the opinionated Marianne Marie Beetle in Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, and the short-lived Mockingbird Lane. More recently, she can be seen as series regular Beverly Janoszewski on The Mindy Project.
While Grant is only slated to appear in two episodes of American Gods as Jack, the owner of Jack's Crocodile Bar, she can still add it to her impressive CV of over 200 on-screen roles.
5 Ian McShane
Leading the talent of American Gods, Ian McShane is one man who certainly needs no introduction. The gruff Englishman is frequently outspoken about his roles, most notably slamming his time on Game of Thrones. He broke into the states as British film director Don Lockwood on Dallas, but everyone knows him better as Al Swearengen from HBO’s Deadwood. Although the show only lasted for three seasons, Swearengen became one of the most iconic television characters of our time and there are still hopes that McShane will reprise his role for the (eventual) feature film.
Elsewhere, McShane is knowing for portraying antique dealer Lovejoy on the British drama of the same name and Winston in John Wick films. Proving that piracy must be in his nature, the 74-year-old set sail as notorious pirate Blackbeard in the fourth Pirates of the Caribbean film and voiced Captain Hook in Shrek The Third. McShane also played King Silas in co-American Gods showrunner Michael Green's short-lived drama, Kings.
Alongside Shadow Moon, McShane’s Mr. Wednesday is arguably the second lead of the show. McShane is already a huge name in and out of Hollywood, so expect American Gods to continue his notoriety.
4 Jeremy Davies
For those who are feeling a little “lost” to where you might know Jeremy Davies, he portrayed the doomed Daniel Faraday on ABC’s Lost. Davies got his big break when he appeared in an infamous Subaru car commercial in 1993 and found himself being sent feature film scripts. There were small roles heading his way, but it wasn’t until 1998 that he was cast in a pivotal role in Saving Private Ryan.
Elsewhere, Davies appeared on FX’s Justified as Dickie Bennett and won a Primetime Emmy for the part in 2012. However, most will remember him as the physicist Faraday on Lost in season 4. Daniel came to the island on the ill-fated freighter and seemed to be connected to the mysterious goings-on. A highly-intelligent professor, Faraday tried to unravel the island but ultimately even he couldn’t rewrite history. Daniel tragically lost his life at the hands of his own mother when a time-traveling trip back to the ‘70s went awry.
While Kanye West may joke that he is Jesus, Davies will actually be playing the religious character on Gaiman's show. There will be several different actors of different races playing Jesus in American Gods, but Davies is the most well-known.
3 Emily Browning
Emily Browning is the de facto heroine of American Gods as Shadow’s girlfriend Laura. You may remember a much younger Emily appeared as the haunted girl in Steve Beck’s lackluster Ghost Ship. The role proved to be a breakout for Browning and she continued a stream of films in America and beyond.
Browning would later appear with Heath Ledger and Orlando Bloom in Ned Kelly and then played Violet, the oldest Baudelaire, in the film version of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Browning also replaced Amanda Seyfried as Babydoll in Sucker Punch and has starred in Sleeping Beauty and Pompeii as well. By the time another A Series of Unfortunate Events adaptation came round, Browning had obviously outgrown the chance to play the part in Netflix’s revival.
Laura Moon has a shadowy history and her apparent death is what sees Shadow released from prison on American Gods. It doesn’t take a genius to watch the trailers and deduce that the grave doesn’t seem to be too permanent for Laura. Gaiman's said he's been a fan of Browning since Events and that her casting was a coup for the show.
2 Crispin Glover
The gloves are off as Crispin Glover joins Starz’s show and the eccentric actor will bring the madness of his roles to our screens. Glover has a catalog of crazies, including The Thin Man in McG’s Charlie’s Angels films and the mentally ill Cousin Dell from Wild At Heart. However, most will remember Glover as George McFly in Back to the Future.
Ignoring his part as Willy Wonka in the dire Epic Movie, Glover is a critically-acclaimed actor and his part as goofy George McFly is still his best to date. Robert Zemeckis and Glover couldn’t come to terms over pay and so the role was greatly reduced and recast for Back to the Future Part II. Some old footage was used and Jeffrey Weissman played the part with a false chin, so, Glover sued the producers due to the use of his likeness. Aside from acting, Glover owns Volcanic Eruptions, the production company behind his films What Is It? and It Is Fine! Everything Is Fine.
Portraying the leader of the New Gods, Glover’s Mr. World promises big trouble for the likes of Mr. Wednesday. The sharp-suited antagonist looks like a suitably sinister performance from Glover, but as one of the most mysterious characters from the story, don’t expect to get many answers from Mr. World.
1 Gillian Anderson
Given all the supernatural goings on, American Gods could be a case for Mulder and Scully. Gillian Anderson is the powerhouse actress who will surely lead the show to glory. Since 1993 we have watched her portray the stoic Agent Dana Scully in Fox’s The X-Files, a role that has brought her worldwide fame.
Elsewhere, Anderson’s roles include BBC’s The Fall and the part of Blanche DuBois in London’s Young Vic performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. As well as having all of the above on her CV, Anderson holds a Golden Globe, an OBE, and was once voted FHM’s “Sexiest Woman in the World." She also has the dubious honor of (unofficially) being Mrs. Hannibal Lecter on Fuller’s show about the cannibalistic doctor.
It appears that Anderson’s role as the New God known as Media is all anyone can talk about at the moment. Media lives off the attention that people give her through the use of phones and the internet. Fuller shared a cryptic tweet which teased that Media will be taking the form of Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and David Bowie. Seeing Anderson pull off a Bowie impression could be the best thing since Jessica Lange played Joan Crawford. Either way, consider us hooked!
Who is your favorite actor from American Gods? Sound off in the comments below!