Coming to America inspired Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’

Rick's Reviews

The third season of “American Gods” starts Jan. 10 on STARZ. (Photo courtesy of STARZ)

(KGET) — Neil Gaiman has seen a large number of his books turned into TV shows or films such as “Stardust” and “Coraline.” The latest adaptation of his writing is the much-heralded STARZ series “American Gods” based on his 2001 novel of the same name. The third season launches at 8 p.m. Jan. 10.

The series chronicles a war brewing between the Old Gods of ancient mythology and the New Gods of modern technology. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) spent two seasons accompanying his boss, Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), around the country, only to discover the Old God is actually his father.

What unfolds in this season is that Shadow attempts to break away and assert himself as his own man. That starts with putting down roots in Lakeside, WI, where he uncovers a dark secret while exploring questions of his own divinity.

Gaiman has had a very mixed reaction when it comes to adaptations of his writing. Some have wandered away from his original vision while others – “American Gods” being one of the best examples – has gone from printed word to the small screen exactly as he envisioned the story. It has helped that Gaiman is an executive producer on the series.

As for adaptations of his work in general, Gaiman says, “Sometimes you look at something and you go ‘the thing in my head was nothing like this.’ And sometimes, you look at things, and it is like I am walking around in my own head. With season three of ‘American Gods,’ it feels very much like I am back in my own head.

Gaiman and the rest of the creative team – that includes series creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green – had no idea when they started working on the third season of “American Gods” that it would be as timely as it turned out to be. All they wanted to do was continue to make the show reflect what was going on in America with an emphasis on what it means to be an immigrant.

As Gaiman puts it, the new gods of phone and app and glitter demand our attention and our love, and the old gods want to mean something again. The idea is that the show deals with how America must be for everyone. Gaiman explains that the struggles of the gods and the people in the next season of “American Gods” reflect the struggles of America.

The inspiration for writing the original “American Gods” novel started when Gaiman moved from England to the United States in 1991.

“I realized I didn’t understand it. I was living in small-town America and the America I was living in was so much more complicated and interesting than the one I had seen on the television,” Gaiman says. “I wanted to understand THAT America, the one in which people would park cars on the ice and then take bets of when they were going to go through for charity.

“Understanding that America was huge for me and finding the idea of gods as a way of talking about the immigrant experience. ‘Gods’ is a way of trying to talk the way America is both looking forward to its future and awkwardly looking back at a past it does not understand. Does not want to talk about.”

American Gods is just one book in a long list of works written for children and adults by Gaiman. His other works include Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, Norse Mythology and Good Omens. He has been a major contributor in the comic book world working for DC, Marvel and assorted independent comic book companies.

One aspect of having his work adapted is that actors become the voices of his characters. Gaiman is not certain that if he were to write another American Gods book whether it would be his own voice he would hear with Shadow or if Whittle has become so connected with the character that is the voice he would hear.

For everyone other than Gaiman, Whittle is the voice for the central player in the “American Gods” drama.

If you want to get caught up on “American Gods” or need a refresher, STARZ will air the first season starting at noon Jan. 9 and season two starting at 12:20 p.m. Jan. 10.

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