This year Starz' adaptation of the Neil Gaiman classic American Gods took to the small screen and introduced the masses to the misadventures of Mad Sweeney, Laura Moon, Shadow Moon and the ever-clever, ever-enigmatic, Mr. Wednesday. The first season saw Wednesday enlist Shadow's services after the latter was released from prison to find his wife dead. The pair embarked on a mission across the U.S. to rally support for Wednesday's cause -- the restoration his power, and that of his brethren, gods of the old world, rendered powerless by those of the new. But a few of them took a break to stop by New York Comic Con to talk about what goes into making this modern take on ancient religion.
Scheduled to be in attendance, stars Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon), Pablo Schrieber (Mad Sweeney) and Yetide Badaki (Bilquis). There was no
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Moderator Abraham Reisman opened with a question about how all the actors came to be cast on the show, and Pablo Schreiber revealed that while he was the first choice, he initially wasn't cast. He refused to audition, so the producers cast someone else. But that gentleman apparently shot for one day before the producers called Schreiber and offered him the part.
But while Schreiber knew nothing of Neil Gaiman, Yetide Badaki had been a massive fan of both Neil Gaiman and Bryan Fuller for years. Understandably, she was excited when she got the chance to audition:
I see this character of Bilquis that I've now had 15 years to think about... It was actually a very emotional audition. Bryan did a couple of redirects in there and I was in tears by the end of it.
And when they called to offer her the part after two meetings total, she claimed that she,
broke some crockery or some pottery... I was doing dishes at the time.
Ricky Whittle, however, had to go through 16 rounds of auditions, one of which was a Skype interview. It took Whittle and Fuller five months to get Shadow Moon to the place where they wanted him (a little less subdued and blasé than the book's counterpart).
Asked about the first scenes they filmed, Whittle and Schreiber revealed that the fight scene at the crocodile bar was there first -- and it was BRUTAL. Both sustained actual injuries during shooting -- Whittle sliced his wrist very seriously and Pablo Schreiber literally split his head open when he slammed it into Whittle's. Whittle pointed out that the blood audiences see dripping out of Sweeney's nose and mouth is fake, the blood at the top of his head is very, very real. Schreiber didn't want to shoot the scene again the following day, so he went to the hospital, got patched up and returned to finish the shoot.
Badaki also went into detail about how she found Bilquis' sensuality without letting the character rely on the objectification of the male gaze.
That was the thing that hit me from the very beginning -- I remember having that moment of resonance where I sat up where I was and said, "Yes, THAT'S interesting." It was all from where she was coming from and being able to own all this. They're very much on that page of wanting me to explore that, this queen, this goddess, of owning the moment. As long as it came and was owned by the character, that wasn't relying on the male gaze... What being able to own my own sensuality meant and the more I started to explore that, the more I started to find Bilquis.
As for their co-stars, Whittle got the chance to say how he really feels about Ian MacShane (Wednesday):
I can't stand that guy, he's just so good... at everything... No, no, we hit it off straightaway, we're both from the same part of Manchester, we both root for Manchester United... [And] what better education could an actor have than [working with] that guy? ...We straight away had this great dynamic that was very important for the story to be pushed forward.
Whittle also had a lot to say about the harrowing hanging scene in the pilot, "The Bone Orchard." Shadow is strung up by faceless minions of Technical Boy (Bruce Langley) in what became one of the most controversial moments in the series:
It was just a powerful way of reminding the public that we seem think this kind of thing is over [and it's not]. Here you have a black man hanging from a tree surrounded by these faceless goons all dressed in white. It doesn't get more on the nose than that. At the time, I don't think I realized how powerful it was.
Then he stepped off the stage and gave a hug to an admiring fan who's probably still very, very shaken.