Neil Gaiman opened up Tuesday about the troubled production of Starz’s adaptation of his “American Gods,” which has experienced extensive delays in getting season 2 on the air, including showrunner changes.
“There was a certain amount of — hysteria is an unfair word — but there were definitely some reports that I thought were fairly hysterical,” Gaiman, who serves as an executive producer, told TheWrap Tuesday. “This is some of the stuff that happens.”
Michael Green and Bryan Fuller, who originally adapted Gaiman’s 2001 novel for Starz, left the series after the first season, with Jesse Alexander taking their place. Starz didn’t give a clear answer about why the duo left the series, with network chief Chris Albrecht saying at the Television Critics Association press tour a year ago, “They were not fired nor did they quit.”
“It would’ve been great if Bryan and Michael had stayed and finished,” Gaiman said, adding that the two had started outlining season 2 and had a few scripts at least partially done, “and then they left.” That’s when the show brought in Alexander, who had worked with Fuller on the first season. “We knew that the show would be in good hands.”
But then last fall, it was reported that Alexander was no longer working on the show. At the time, Starz and the show’s studio Fremantle declined to comment on Alexander’s status. On Tuesday, Gaiman argued that Alexander was brought in simply to be a bridge to make sure the season was finished.
“He showran and ran the writers room and then sort of faded away,” he said. “What Jesse was hired to do, was take a show that was an ongoing show, that had been commissioned that suddenly didn’t have two showrunners, and pick up that ball that was now dropped and get it over the finish line.”
Because he was so busy with Amazon’s “Good Omens,” where he serves as showrunner, Gaiman said he didn’t have as much time to spend with “American Gods” compared to the first season, though he was able to give Alexander “the macro plot” for season two. He admitted that Alexander was having trouble cracking the story, most notably with one of the main locales for season 2: The House on The Rock. This is where Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) takes Shadow (Ricky Whittle) to first meet with The Old Gods, a major plot point in the book that the Starz adaptation didn’t cover in the first season. It’s also the name of the first episode of season 2.
“It was obvious from [Alexander’s first draft] that he’d never actually been to the House on The Rock,” Gaiman said, adding that Alexander tried to visit the physical location in Wisconsin that the place is based off of, but snow canceled his flight. “He also hadn’t written the characters before.” That’s when Gaiman said he stepped in and took Alexander’s draft and spruced it up “just get the characters down a little bit more.”
Along with the showrunner shakeup, “American Gods” has seen casting changes going into its sophomore year, with Gillian Anderson (who played Media) replaced by Kahyun Kim (who will play New Media), and the additions of Dean Winters as Mr. Town, who works with Mr. World (Glover) to find out what Shadow knows about Mr. Wednesday’s plan, and Devery Jacobs as Sam Black Crow. Kristin Chenoweth, who played the god Easter in the first season, also departed the series.
Despite all the troubles and production delays — the show finally returns next month after a nearly two-year absence — Gaiman is pleased with the finished product for season two, and remains hopeful for season three.
“The proof is in the pudding. It still feels like ‘American Gods,'” he said, adding that “The Walking Dead” survived “just fine” following original showrunner Frank Darabont’s messy departure. “I’m very much looking forward to the point where we can announce who is showrunning season 3.”
“American Gods” will premiere season 2 on Sunday, March 10 at 10 p.m. ET/PT