The gods, both new and old, converged at New York Comic Con Friday afternoon. The big panel with executive producer Neil Gaiman and his cast from American Gods was the moment Starz had been asking fans to wait for, in light of reports suggesting the two showrunner changes were just the tip of a crumbling iceberg.
This wasn’t the subject of the panel, however. Gaiman, Ricky Whittle, Pablo Schreiber, Emily Browning, Orlando Jones, Yetedi Badaki, Bruce Langley, Crispin Glover, Omid Abtahi, Mousa Kraish, and Demore Barnes cracked jokes about season 1 and emphasized that season 2 is going to be harder for everyone involved.
Ian McShane didn’t make it. As Gaiman divulged, “He will be zapping kidney stones, which he will then be pissing out.” An appropriately NSFW tidbit to kickoff a jaw-droppingly provocative show.
“Shadow has discovered exactly who he is working for and now season 2 is gonna begin just a few short hours later and everything is going to get both better and worse,” Gaiman prefaced. “The first place we are all headed is The House On the Rock, and they closed down the real House On the Rock for us for several days and let us film there.”
As an added tease for book fans, Gaiman said “the most useful piece of advice” he could give was this: “We do not get to Lakeside in this season. However, we do get to Cairo [Illinois], we do get to a funeral home, Laura and Mad Sweeney get to go on their own journey, which takes them to some hot and exotic places, and other than that I think it’s fair to say things get worse for everybody in dramatically interesting ways.”
Prior to the panel, Whittle told EW that, where season 1 ended with the arrival at The House on the Rock, the story of season 2 will take up the next third of Gaiman’s book. The last third, his “favorite,” will be kept for season 3.
“Season 1 had a lot to do with belief,” Jones elaborates more in a separate interview with EW. “I think season 2 probably has a lot more to do with forgiveness — some people are looking to be forgiven and others are not — and the disproportionate ways people behave when they feel they’re in a confrontation. And I think that’s an interesting thing to pick at when you have New Gods who behave this way and Old Gods who behave this way, but these two entities playing chess with one another.”
Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who were at the showrunning helm of American Gods season 1, parted ways with the production, prompting delays. Then Jesse Alexander, who came on to keep the show going, was reportedly asked to leave the production earlier this year, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Gaiman, who also acts as showrunner on Amazon’s Good Omens, told the audience gathered for the panel that he wasn’t on set for season 2 day-to-day. “One of the things that really was inspiring from where I was on this, which was mostly across an ocean in a categorically different series, was how much all of the cast were invested in their characters, understood their characters this season. The writers were a whole new set of writers and the cast made sure that the integrity of their characters was never compromised and that, I think, says a lot for both the series itself and also for the fact that we have world-class actors who love and understand what they’re playing and are not prepared to compromise.”
New additions to season 2 include Kahyun Kim as New Media. Gillian Anderson won’t return as Media, the New God of entertainment and Hollywood, but New Media was glimpsed in the trailer as a New God of social media. In addition, Sakina Jaffrey has been cast as Mama-Ji (a.k.a. the Indian goddess Kali) and Whittle confirmed to EW that Devery Jacobs will play a prominent character from the books, Sam Black Crow.
With regards to Mama-Ji, Jones tells EW that, while Wednesday goes to visit Easter (Kristin Chenoweth), Mr. Nancy knows to go to Mama-Ji. “An Indian woman is more powerful than Easter,” he says. “She has nine days of worship, they still have churches in her name, she is female, she is Kali, look at the times. And to have that character enter into our world, played by Sakina Jaffrey, that to me is what I hoped it would do in season 1. I hoped that was the kind of places it would go. There are a lot of characters to service, but it really has done a good job of that.”
With Sam Black Crow, Whittle says backstage, “She’s a First Nations lesbian. The actress, Devery, is a First Nations lesbian. So that’s how tight we are to the book and telling people’s stories. Myself, who didn’t know much about the different cultures and religions and faiths, I hope everyone else takes the opportunity, like I did filming it, to learn about how beautiful everyone else’s cultures and faiths are.”
As for the returning deities, Gaiman teased during the panel “different incarnations of the Technical Boy,” played by Langley.
“In episode 6, which is mostly set in the 1930s, we get to meet the Telephone Boy, who had recently taken over from the Telegraph Boy, and Bruce gets to be all of these things,” the producer and author said. “With any luck, we may even find out where he’s going next.”
There will be more backstory for Schreiber’s Mad Sweeney — Gaiman mentioned laying out “6,000 years of Mad Sweeney’s story” for the writers in episodes six and seven for potential use — and Barnes (returning as Thoth) teased an exploration of “adaptability and evolving” when it comes to the Old Gods. “There’s a reason why they were not only established but why they continue to endure.”
Jones’ Mr. Nancy will have more to do, as well. After his show-stealing monologue aboard a slave ship, this time he’s honing his attention to modern slavery, which he says is “mass incarceration and human trafficking. So it’s really focused on women.”
“Nancy was only in two scenes last year. Now he’s out recruiting for the Old Gods and now you’re seeing him at the hall of the gods in Odin’s mind,” the actor tells EW. “So there’s a lot going on. You’re seeing Salim and the Jinn come back together now, two characters in any other show that’ve been left off and forgotten about.”
Omid Abtahi confirmed to EW separately that Salim’s reunion with the Jinn, after their (quite literally) hot love scene, will happen this season. “The Jinn really is a lot closer to what’s at hand and Salim is the Robin to his Batman,” the actor teased. “What I can say is any two people can have one magical night, they can have a wonderul connection, but to come up with something more meaningful and more magical, it’s going to take hard work and compromise, and that’s essentially the story arc for Salim and the Jinn.”
It doesn’t seem like Chenoweth will be returning to American Gods — at least, not yet — nor will Jonathan Tucker, who previously stated his character would return if the show were to be green lit for another season. (That alone brought certain implications to light for book readers.) “Some things just didn’t align,” Whittle explained. “We tried certain actors, like Kristin Chenoweth and Jonathan Tucker, they are all so busy. That’s the problem with having a hugely talented cast.”
American Gods season 2 will premiere in 2019.
Updated with information from EW’s cast interviews.