“I feel that being British and an immigrant to the states myself, I have an advantage of two perspectives.”
When British actor Ricky Whittle (CW’s THE 100) landed the lead role of Shadow Moon in the Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s modern classic AMERICAN GODS, he was not yet familiar with the book or its mythology. However, it turned out that his cultural background made for the perfect perspective, as Gaiman himself originally wrote the fantasy novel after moving to America from England in the 1990s. Under the helm of acclaimed showrunner Bryan Fuller (HANNIBAL), AMERICAN GODS has delighted new and old fans, and FM correspondent Martin Aguilera reached out to Whittle recently for his thoughts on the first season and its greater implications.
Were you familiar with the books and stories of Neil Gaiman before AMERICAN GODS, or was this your first exposure to the works of his imagination?
I had no idea who Neil Gaiman was, or anything about AMERICAN GODS, until fans started hashtagging my name online in reference to Starz’ search for who book fans wanted to play the lead role of Shadow Moon! If it wasn’t for their passion and vision, I would never have sent my reps after it. I will thank them every day for the opportunity and gift they have given me, and I’m glad they enjoyed my portrayal this debut season.
What has working on the series taught you or made you think about regarding the fabric of America and American life, if anything?
I feel that being British and an immigrant to the states myself, I have an advantage of two perspectives. California has been my home for seven years, so I see how Americans view their country and also how the rest of the world sees it, which are two very different views. It also allows me to take stock of all and create an image that I feel is fair. The show features very current and sensitive themes that I feel America was unaware of, or were passed over. The show has opened my eyes to the many beautiful cultures and important topics, and I hope it has educated viewers about the beauty in and importance of all of them. This country is a wonderful place due to the diversity and melting pot it has become. I’m proud that the show will keep these important themes and topics relevant and in headlines.
How do you feel about new myths — like those being created in films, TV shows, and video games — replacing the older cultural myths for a new generation?
The world is evolving, and people can believe what they want to. That’s the key message in the show. Your gods and myths don’t make mine any less real for me or more weak, it’s about co-existing and everyone believing in something. We all have the same journey — to end the day in our beds, to beat the struggle of the day, to get through whatever life throws at us safely; and whatever it is that we believe in or need to give us that strength, then to each their own.
“Your gods and myths don’t make mine any less real for me.”
What kind of discussion did you have with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green about breathing life into your character and adding your own interpretation to what’s on the page?
We wanted to stay true to Neil’s work and respect the fans’ Shadow that has been with them for 16 years. We kept his essence, his quiet nature to be observant and strong, but added more realism. Fear, anxiety, sadness, loss, aggression, and frustration. He’s more vocal, as the book Shadow gave numerous internal monologues, which wouldn’t have worked on screen. I started him off at his lowest, and I look forward to growing his personality as he has now been awoken and started to understand the world he’s living in. He’s starting to challenge the gods as he takes his place in the upcoming war.
If you could create a mythical god to inhabit this world, who would that be and what would they be like?
The real life Kristen Chenoweth! Not [her character] Easter, but her! She is the tiniest bundle of sunshine who brings love, heart, happiness, and energy, and if she had powers to change the world as she thought fit, it would be a wonderful place indeed.