Bryan Fuller: American Gods “has a fantastic arc”

American Gods showrunner Bryan Fuller on what to expect from the TV series

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A new TV series from Bryan Fuller has always been a momentous occasion. Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, Wonderfalls, Hannibal – they’ve achieved varying levels of success, but they’ve always had their fans, us among them.

Up ahead, there’s going to be more Fuller than possibly anyone can handle. While he’s helming the latest continuations of Star Trek and Amazing Stories, perhaps his most eagerly anticipated series is the upcoming American Gods.

Written by Neil Gaiman, it explores the notions of the old guys of Norse Mythology living among us, who are being ‘squeezed out’ by the new gods of money and technology. The focus of the forthcoming Starz TV series will be on the mysterious Shadow (Ricky Whittle), a man who has been released from prison three days prior to his wife being killed in a car accident, and the enigmatic Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane).

Enthuses Fuller, “I loved the world it presented almost more than the book, because it was such a glorious toy box that Neil presented, and it felt like it was the first step in to many great stories. It was a gift that kept giving.

“The sophistication of the story appealed to me,” he adds. “It really was an immigration story above everything else. You remove the fantastical qualities of gods and what they can do, because so much of that is grounded in the book anyway.”

The 100 -- "Resurrection" -- Image: HU213B_0422 -- Pictured: Ricky Whittle as Lincoln -- Photo: Cate Cameron/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Ricky Whittle is on leading man duties as protagonist Shadow Moon

When he was first offered the show, Fuller was in the midst of production on Hannibal. At the close of Season 2, Gaiman flew to Toronto to personally ask him to take on the series.

“We had just finished filming at 6:30 that morning, and I was meeting Neil at noon,” he reflects. “I’d actually had my American Gods hardcover, and I brought it to the meeting with Neil. The first thing he said was, ‘My hands are so sore because I’ve been signing books one after the other.’ My hand was on the book in my bag, sort of raising it up, and I just kind of tucked it back inside. But we had a wonderful conversation about storytelling and the nature of the relationship between Wednesday and Shadow, and how this was really about an estranged father trying to connect with his son, and adverse circumstances that were going to be rich with betrayal and intimacy and romance… I ended up saying, ‘If Hannibal doesn’t get a Season 3, I will jump in immediately.’”

But it did get renewed for a third season. Surprisingly though, everyone was willing to wait, which was great news for Fuller, though it made him realise he needed to bring in a co-creator/writing partner if he hoped to get American Gods into development while Hannibal was still in production.

“As we were telling the stories of Hannibal Season 3, work was going to have to be done on American Gods in terms of writing the pilot and the first couple of episodes,” he says. “The first thing that occurred to me was that Michael Green, who I had worked with on the first season of Heroes, was someone I got along really well with. He understood storytelling and we understood each other’s take on storytelling, so he felt like someone I could work with.”

American Gods Ian McShane
Ian McShane has been cast as the enigmatic Mr Wednesday

As to the dramatic thrust of the series, Fuller believes it will gradually tell the tale of an atheist who becomes an agnostic, who becomes a believer, who becomes a zealot, who becomes a demi-god who becomes a god.

“That’s a fantastic arc for any protagonist to be taking,” says Fuller. “To break it down in real-world sensibilities, there is beauty and awe, and what we get to see is a character in Shadow who has gone through so much turmoil, pain and loss, and then to see him discover beauty and awe in the universe is a magical thing. We were writing the scene where he summons snow, and isn’t quite sure if he’s summoning the snow or if it’s something outside of him, or if it’s inside of him. But the possibility of magic in this world is such an exciting glimpse, that I feel that is the power of the series. The opportunity to believe.

“There’s a wonderful opportunity to arc this character over multiple seasons, and we’re taking our sweet time with the storytelling at the encouragement of Starz,” he closes.

“We’re executing a meticulous weave of characters and storylines. We’re not even a quarter of the way through the book with the finale of the first season. So it’s very exciting to be able to take our time, to be able to work with Neil Gaiman. We get on the phone with him and pitch what we’re doing, he gives us his thoughts… What you have in the book that Neil wrote is the Reader’s Digest version of the tale, because we’re getting into the nooks and crannies and blowing them out; making as much of them as we can.”

American Gods will air on Starz in the US in 2017. For more news about the latest TV shows, pick up the new issue of SciFiNow.