What happens when mythology meets technology

New Amazon series "American Gods" : "What do you have if you don't believe in anything?"

The new Amazon series “American Gods” is about an imminent war between deities. On the one hand there is a pantheon of classical gods from mythology and the Bible, on the other hand there are the new gods who worship people in their fixation on money, technology, media and drugs. The central figure is the former inmate Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle). He becomes the bodyguard and travel companion of the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), a con artist and classic god. Together they set off on a journey through America to look for allies in their fight against the new deities.

The series "American Gods" is the adaptation of the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman from 2001. It starts on May 1st on Amazon Prime Video. The episodes are available in the German dubbed version and the English original version. A new episode is added every week.

Mister McShane, when you were asked what “Game of Thrones” was all about, you casually answered: “Tits and dragons”. What is your response to "American Gods"?
MCSHANE: "Gods and monsters". Seriously: this is not a normal TV series, not a medical story, not a fantasy, not a cop show. This series is bigger, mainly because of the special tone. There are prologues, special effects, animation, betrayal - and there was the luxury that the production could repeat certain opening scenes after two months of shooting, because only then was the sound for the series found. Post-production was also long, complicated, very expensive - and again it wasn't a question of money.

The novel "American Gods" describes the eternal or perhaps the last battle between the old and the new gods in America. Does the series follow this plot?

MCSHANE: The novel is like a blueprint for the series. So both come like great riddles. Who is Mr. Wednesday, what does he want from Shadow Moon? Shadow is really just a shadow. Wednesday keeps saying: "Believe", believe ", believe" in you. You shouldn't believe in me, you should believe in yourself. ”And the series cheats the viewer again and again. If you think it's going one way, then suddenly it's going the other. There is an unbalanced balance. Even the dead like Shadow Moon's wife are coming back. But why?

Happy with the role of Mr. Wednesday?

MCSHANE: Yes, but only because the role is very good in a very good show. You are always looking for this bonus.

The old gods have lost their power

Mister Whittle, your character Shadow Moon: is that an ordinary person in an unusual situation?

WHITTLE: Exactly. And the others, the gods, they are unusual people in an ordinary situation. Like Odin aka Mr. Wednesday, they have lost their faith, their power, their influence. And now start to fight for it. And Shadow Moon in the middle, we experience the story through him, see it through his eyes.

What the audience will not understand at first.

WHITTLE: And Shadow is only beginning to understand. The empty shell begins to fill up. There is this world of gods that he, the cynical non-believer, comes across. Is he going crazy or is the world going crazy? This is his fight in season one.

Difficult to understand at first.

WHITTLE: Right - and a good thing. "American Gods" is an intelligent series. We don't want the viewer to know all the answers right away. And that's how you get to know Shadow Moon, who doesn't know the answer either. Like all the other characters, he also moves very dynamically on the show.

Can one say about the characters: They are what they worship?

MCSHANE: What do you have if you don't believe in anything? You suffer from frustration. You are an empty, cynical shell. Life is viewed from a nihilistic point of view. And Mr. Wednesday is convinced: The new gods - media, technology - deceive people.

Which side are you on? On the side of the new gods or the old gods?

MCSHANE: I'm on the side of the old gods. I don't even have an iPhone yet.

Only a fifth of the novel was made into a film

How much of the novel is processed in the first season of "American Gods"?

MCSHANE: A fifth, if that. I'm sure the producers and Amazon are looking well beyond the first season. I'm really excited to see how the hardcore fans of the book will react. What did streaming television do with this fantastic template?

The adaptation will certainly not change the baseline of the novel. In America the old forces are looking to confront the new.

MCSHANE: The old gods who came to America today are ordinary people doing ordinary things. But Wednesday shakes her up. Perhaps more people need to be shaken up: the British after Brexit because there was no plan for the time after Brexit, the Americans after the election of Donald Trump, who also has no plan.

Is there a heading under which all of this happens?

WHITTLE: It's about religion. Immigration, sexism, racism, homophobia, all of these questions and issues are touched on. We want to initiate a discussion about it. And above all of this, the certainty hovers: Only belief in something will bring you forward.

But is immigration an issue, if not the main one?

WHITTLE: Of course, because every American is an immigrant, so is President Trump. We came with our dreams, our beliefs, our beliefs. Like the old gods who now have to fear that they will first be pushed aside and then forgotten.

The similarities with America today are coincidental, aren't they?

WHITTLE: Yeah, but they're a fantastic asset to us. The book is from 2001. But the series is much more than the book. There are other characters, there are extensions, so that the fans of the novel will be delighted too. Six or seven seasons are easy for us.

MCSHANE: We started filming a good year ago. What happened next: The world has moved towards the show - and not the show towards the world. Immigration, gender, all these questions are in the series and in the world. That's not bad PR for American Gods. But the series isn't a political show, it's a spiritual one. It is only political in a naive sense.

Which side of the god are you on, Mister Whittle?
WHITTLE: The modern gods. I believe in evolution.

Shadow Moon is an American everyone

Does that also apply to your character, to Shadow Moon?

WHITTLE: He's a shadow, a neutral person.

An American character.

WHITTLE: Anyone. And because he doesn't believe in anything or anyone, he's an open book. Like America itself. What is America? There are many, many Americas, but not one America.

What the heck is an American as a matter of all questions?

WHITTLE: Exactly.

But the story of Shadow Moon is also a love story.

WHITTLE: Absolutely. And the relationship, the love affair between Shadow Moon and his wife Laura brings all that human, the humanity into the story.

Can “American Gods” replace “Game of Thrones” in hearts and minds?

MCSHANE: No, these are really two different planets. I just hope that “American Gods” can make as deep an impression as “Game of Thrones”.

The interview was conducted by Joachim Huber.

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