‘American Gods’ EPs on Being ‘Very Consciously Aware of Color’ in Casting

TCA 2016: “In order to be true to the book, you had to cast the character that was written,” Bryan Fuller says of star Ricky Whittle and other cast members

American Gods

“American Gods” went the opposite way of “colorblind casting” for its diverse troupe of characters, according to showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.

“We’re not colorblind casting, we’re actually very consciously aware of color in the cast, and ethnic specificity,” said Fuller during the show’s panel at the Television Critics Association’s Summer Press tour Monday.

“The book is so culturally specific. There’s been times where a character is described as having very dark skin, and we make the suggestion to Neil [Gaiman], ‘That actor is black,’ but the character needs to be Indian even though they’re described as having very dark skin,” Fuller said, speaking of the author of the novel which the series is based upon. “The character is Indian and it absolutely needs to be an Indian actor. That’s been kind of a great relief because it’s a map that we just stick to.”

Fuller and Green revealed that lead actor Ricky Whittle, who plays Shadow Moon, auditioned 16 times for his role, and that female characters from the novel have been beefed up significantly for the show.

“In the novel, it’s very much a sausage party about two guys on a road trip,” said Fuller. “And we had such fantastic female characters in the piece that we wanted to expand those and let the narrative accordion out to accommodate them.”

Fuller continued, “Bilquist [played by Yetide Badaki], who’s in for a scene, then has something happen at the very end [in the novel]… She’s a fully fleshed out character with an arc just as exciting as any of the other characters. And Laura [played by Emily Browning] is one of our absolute favorites,” said Fuller.

“We went into that with a lot of conversations with Neil, who very deliberately wrote ‘American Gods’ as a book,” added Green. “He knew it resisted adaptation in some ways, and something he said early on stuck with me, about how the punctuation in the novel can be a guideline, because things can happen in between it. And every time we came to him and said, ‘What if this happened between this and this?’ he starts with ‘Thank you, love it,’ and we’ll just start pitching on it.”

“American Gods” premieres in 2017 on Starz.