CS Interview: Ricky Whittle on the second season and future of American Gods
Ahead of the second season hitting shelves on Blu-Ray and DVD, Lionsgate TV and Starz gave ComingSoon.net a chance to catch up with American Gods star Ricky Whittle to discuss the fantasy epic series and the future of the project. Check out the full interview below!
We were forged in God’s image, but the Gods are also made in ours — and in Season Two the battle moves inexorably toward crisis point as the destinies of gods and men collide. While Mr. World plots revenge for the attack against him in Season One, Shadow throws in his lot with Wednesday’s attempt to convince the Old Gods of the case for full-out war, with Laura and Mad Sweeney in tow. A council at the House on the Rock explodes into chaos, sending deities both Old and New on quests across America that will converge on Cairo, Illinois forcing Shadow to carve out a place as a believer in this strange new world of living gods — a dark world where change demands commitment, and faith requires terrible sacrifice.
American Gods stars Ricky Whittle (The 100, Austenland) as Shadow Moon, Ian McShane (Deadwood, Ray Donovan) as Mr. Wednesday, Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Legend) as Laura Moon, and Pablo Schreiber (Orange is the New Black) as Mad Sweeney. Other cast members include Yetide Badaki (Aquarius, Masters of Sex) as Bilquis, Bruce Langley (Deadly Waters) as Technical Boy, Crispin Glover (Back to the Future) as Mr. World, and Orlando Jones (Madiba, Sleepy Hollow) as Mr. Nancy.
Based on Neil Gaiman’s novel of the same name, the series is expected to return sometime in 2020. The second season of American Gods is now available for purchase on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital!
Warning: Some Spoilers Lie Ahead For American Gods Season Two
ComingSoon.net: So with that first season, we see your character kind of trying to find his way as he’s hit with all the news of his wife passing away, cheating on him, being released in prison and not really know what to do. With this second season, how would you describe your character’s journey and mindset?
Ricky Whittle: The season’s beginning with Shadow coming out of prison, obviously, he was a lost soul, literally void of any personality, character, willpower. He’d lost everything in his life and his journey was from a non-believer, cynic, to believer. Season two, he kind of became a believer, but it didn’t mean just because he believed, it didn’t mean he could understand it. So he was searching for answers in season two. He wanted to know where he fit in this puzzle and what was actually going on. Now that he believes that there were gods and deities, what do they want? Who was on whose side? Who was on this side and that side? And where did he fit into this? Because obviously, he’s a human being that was kind of dragged into this by Mr. Wednesday. And he wanted answers and answers that weren’t going to be given by Mr. Wednesday. So as the season progressed, he kind of got more and more frustrated. So it really was a season full of frustration and searching for Shadow. And so, he got all those answers in abundance in the finale.
CS: So what were your thoughts or even your feelings that went through your head when you finally were receiving the scripts for the second season?
Whittle: It was very fascinating because season two was about to be very publicized in the turmoil and this and that. As in every show, there’s always changes to scripts and personalities like that. So it was just a process. It was exciting to kind of read and to collaborate with writers and the showrunner Jesse [Alexander] in just planning out how the season was going to go. So a few things kind of changed here and there, but as with the first season, we kind of changed things around about halfway through the season with Brian [Fuller] and Michael [Green], too, because it’s a nice fluid production. Obviously, we had the source material with Neil Gaiman, but Neil himself has kind of given his baby over to us to kind of mold and push through this process. So it’s very fluid and it’s very exciting that we can be a part of that process in kind of growing your characters and evolving your characters. Something that’s very much happening in season three before you even get to set. [Craig] Cegielski has been very kind in letting me into the writing room, and we’ve been discussing and I’ve been learning a lot behind the scenes as I kind of move behind the camera as well. It’s been fascinating to watch. So it’s been a lot of fun. This is a great project and the biggest thing I’ve ever been a part of. And so, it’s seeing a monster like this and seeing the scripts come out that are just fascinating and dark and deep and hilarious and sad all at the same time is really fun to kind of watch it evolve and watch this story be told because I know the story, and yet, the scripts continue to surprise me because we drift a little bit off the book and off text. So it’s always keeping those who know the story inside out on the edge of their seat.
CS: So you mentioned how Neil sort of gave over his baby to you and the creative team for this series. Have you had any interactions with him in helping to develop the character for your performance or for your work on the script at all?
Whittle: Neil is quite possibly one of the greatest humans I’ve ever met. He is absolutely fantastic and has been a part of this process since day one. And the network that he brought it to and the people that he brought to the show in production to the casting, you know? He saw all the takes and he had to okay myself and every other cast member that was brought on board. And then, telling the story, he’s very open and always available via phone, text, email and sometimes in person when he’s in town, to talk about as much as your character, other character’s storylines or ideas. He’s very open. He’s been working with Cegielski for season three now constantly about what directions they were going to go and how they were going to continue to tell their story. And so, he’s a very generous producer and someone that we hold dear to our hearts and we’re very grateful for this opportunity to work with such a fantastic author.
CS: So we’ve mentioned a few times the path moving forward into this third season. So at the end of the second season, we did see Shadow learn the truth about himself and his heritage in connection to Wednesday and sort of leaving on his own. What do you think is his path going forward? Or how do you think he’s going to react to this revelation?
Whittle: Well, it’s a lot of information. It’s a lot of information that Shadow has to sit and process now. Hence, why we see him just escape from it all. You know, for two seasons, he’s been a universal punch bag physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally. And so, now he’s been given all this information. He’s found out that he possibly has found out who his father is, and what does that mean for him? Does that mean he’s a demigod? Does that mean he too has powers, which we’ve touched upon in the first two seasons? So it’s a lot of information for him to process, and he’s had to escape all these gods and deities so that he can kind of go through this alone. And so, he’s tried to escape, but unfortunately, with Mr. Wednesday, he already looks for Mr. Wednesday. You don’t find him. He finds you, and there’s a lot of discussions that need to be had with him about his past and about the present and what’s going to happen in the future because this isn’t a case of finding out your dad worked at the local supermarket. Your dad was a god and could’ve intervened at any time. So has he been manipulating him his whole life or did he know what was going on with him? Because Shadow’s not had an easy life. Shadow’s kind of been surrounded by kind of negative dark, terrible things. And if your father is Odin, you would’ve thought he could’ve made life a little bit easier. So I feel that their first meeting is going to be very tense, and the tides have turned. Shadow is very much in the ascendency. He is getting more intelligent, more information, and no longer cares. That’s the main thing is he’s now not required to do anything for Wednesday and won’t do anything for Wednesday until he gets answers. So Shadow’s power is slowly growing as is his personality and his kind of quest for the truth.
CS: That would be a very interesting conversation when we finally get to see it. So with all of these events that have happened throughout both this season and the series as a whole, what would you say are some of your favorite parts, whether it be with your character or with the other characters involved?
Whittle: For me, my favorite parts of the show are the dynamics between the characters and the evolution of those. My favorite would have to be the evolution of Shadow and Sweeney, and the dynamic that they have from going from bitter enemies at the beginning when they first met, their first meet was a bar brawl. And how they ended the story, but in completely different emotions, they almost became warring brothers, and I don’t think if they ever kind of liked each other, but they kind of grew to this kind of mutual respect. And the eventual fight that led to Sweeney’s demise wasn’t actually them fighting each other, it was more about fighting for the sphere for different reasons. And it’s kind of sad that it ended the way it does because they were trying to fight for the same things to be honest, but they just didn’t realize it. But I love how I got to work with one of the best actors in the business in Pablo Schreiber and it was a pure honor to work alongside that guy and develop that chemistry with him.
I feel my chemistry with Mr. Wednesday, too, working with the great Ian McShane. That too was a lot of fun, and that dynamic has changed a lot, too, from mysterious old conman to kind of this guy who’s kind of fucking Shadow over, to be quite honest, and Shadow just kind of grew more and more frustrated and tense with him. And now he’s kind of learned this new information and season three is going to be kind of the volcano that’s slowly been brewing. It’s finally going to erupt. And he’s going to tell Mr. Wednesday exactly what he thinks. All the gloves are off and all of a sudden, Shadow’s in a very good position. So it’d be interesting to see how Wednesday battles that kind of dynamic now.
CS: Very interesting. So you just mentioned the evolution between Shadow and Wednesday as well as Shadow and Sweeney. Do you have any other character developments in the show that you find to be very fascinating, such as the Jinn or your wife Laura or anything of those sorts?
Whittle: I mean, for me, that’s one of the big strengths of this show is the characters and development of these stories. For me, the best and most fascinating stories is Salim’s story as a human in the show. And Shadow was very much kind of manipulated and dragged into this story by Mr. Wednesday, but Salim stumbled upon it by falling for the wrong person, who happened to be a deity, which goes against everything that he believes in. And I find it fascinating as he will struggle to come to terms with the fact that he’s worshiping a god who is supposed to be his only god, but yet, he’s in love with another, who is supposed to exist and is completely against his religion. So it’s something that he’s going to have to really struggle with moving forward, and it really is a beautiful, powerful story that is really hopefully going to shed some fantastic lights on such a struggle on Omid [Abtahi] and Mousa [Kraish], who play the two characters, have been fantastic from day one and I’ve loved watching that relationship evolve.
CS: So now looking towards the villainous side, who would you say is probably your more fearsome or the most intimidating to watch on screen of the three new gods?
Whittle: I mean, you have always got to fear Mr. World, because he can be anything and anyone. He is the world. He is everything. And Crispin [Glover]’s portrayal is hounding, how his slow and precise delivery, slow movements are a very unique take on a character that I didn’t see like that in the book. But the way he kind of enters the story, even in season one, the first time I saw him come down that corridor, I had a perfect view of him walking towards me as Shadow. And it almost gave me chills. In fact, I think it did give me chills because he just had his hat on. I saw his silhouette kind of glide down the corridor. And that wasn’t special effects. That’s just Crispin. He does not move when he walks. He glides across the floor, and it’s terrifying. So his portrayal of World on screen is really fascinating, and like I say, his ability to morph into anything and anyone would be quite a terrifying adversary to be against.
CS: With all of the sets that you visited or the locations you visited throughout this season, did you have any favorite smaller stories that you got to see, whether it be the Thor storyline or the dwarves or even the diner?
Whittle: For me, my favorite part was telling episode five, kind of the Will James storyline, because we actually got to film that at Niagara Falls, which is a beautiful, beautiful part of the world, one of the wonders of the world and obviously Canada, and it splits with Buffalo. But it was a night shoot, so I got to spend all day at the falls and taking in the sights, which was just absolutely incredible, to the point where I forgot to sleep, so when it came to the night shoot, I was absolutely exhausted as we shot through the night. That was a school boy error that I will not make again. But yeah, it was a great storyline and they really did change a whole street, a normal working, everyday street into the wild west. They covered the streets in sand. They built out shop fronts with wooden platforms and it really did look fantastic. It is like you turn the corner and you turn back in time. Our production did a fantastic job building all those sets, and it’s very easy for an actor to get into a mindset and into a head space where you kind of see that kind of incredible craftsmanship around you. It really puts you in the place. So big props to our whole team for all that they did this season.
CS: So with the next season coming up, Neil Gaiman had previously talked about wanting to make this a five-season run. What do you see for the future of this show?
Whittle: I see it just constantly growing and evolving each season. It really is fantastic because the beginning was obviously very confusing by design and a lot of people didn’t quite understand what we were doing. And I don’t think the true beauty of this show will really be apparent until the show is actually finished and we’ve completed the book and you can see how we’ve manipulated an audience into feeling things that they didn’t know that they were supposed to feel. So we start with the confusion and the kind of sleight of hand, even though you don’t know what’s going on, you follow this story and you’re intrigued. And as the show kind of progressed through season two, we got quicker because now we’ve introduced you to all the characters. You know the characters. You know the teams and who’s on who’s side. And now, as you move onto season three, the story’s able to progress and we’re able to push this story. So as we tell the story, we’re getting faster with it. We’re able to kind of move faster with that storyline, and that thread and the relationship. And now, we’re able to kind of play with the audience a bit more, with regard to those relationships, because now you’re tied to these characters and these relationships, we can do the age-old TV trick of never giving the audience what they want and then toying with them. So it’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward and we’re going to finish the book. And if Neil thinks it’s going to be four or five seasons, then that’s what it’s going to take and I’m going to be there every step of the way just loving every minute of it.