News

American Gods Creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green on Adapting Neil Gaiman (Including That Bilquis Scene)

Is TV an evil god? Series showrunners reveal their truth, talk Lucy Ricardo, and the chances of more Hannibal

by | March 1, 2017 | Comments

Author Neil Gaiman paints a vivid scene when he writes in beloved fantasy novel American Gods that the half-demon Bilquis swallows men with her vagina or that new god Media manifests as Lucy Ricardo.

Showrunners Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan) are bringing those moments to the screen in the American Gods TV adaptation for Starz, the bold cable network that went full frontal with Spartacus and dumps more blood on Bruce Campbell each week in Ash vs. Evil Dead than three Evil Dead movies combined.

In American GodsRicky Whittle plays Shadow Moon, an ex-convict hired as a bodyguard by Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) and subsequently embroiled in a battle between the old gods and the new. The gods all came to America centuries ago, but Wednesday sees a threat in new gods like credit cards, technology, and the media.

Fuller and Green spoke with Rotten Tomatoes about how they would realize some of the book’s more outrageous scenes. Fuller also kept hope alive for more Hannibal and shared some parting thoughts on Star Trek: Discovery.


Fred Topel for Rotten Tomatoes: The book has time before it reveals the gods to Shadow. Are you able to get to the introduction of the gods in the pilot?

Fuller: There was an instinct for us to get some taste of magic into this show sooner rather than later. What we found, the further that we dug into the book, is that the more we pushed off the blatantly supernatural elements that Shadow would perceive, the more time that we had for him to feel like his perception of reality was slipping through his fingers.

RT: But in which episode do you get to the House on the Rocks scene where the gods appear to him?

Fuller: Season 2.

RT: Not until then?

Green: We’ve always taken the approach that everything that there is to love in the book will eventually be in the show. Not always in order and not always as quickly as the impatient might want.


RT: Can you do the sexual Bilquis visual effects on Starz?

Fuller: Well, it hasn’t aired yet, so we hope so, because we shot it that way.

RT: How do you go to visual effects artists with that request?

Fuller: I think you have to back up: How do you go to an actor for that? Finding an actor who could give that scene a dignity and a power that eclipsed the sort of baser sexual elements of it and made it the elegant piece that it was in the novel. I don’t think we would have pulled it off if it weren’t Yetide Badaki. That scene was Yetide’s audition scene, and it’s the strangest audition that I’ve ever sat in.

Green: We had some roles where literally hundreds of people were seen, like Shadow. This character, Bilquis, was more of a self-selecting, and smaller, group of people who were not only comfortable with that type of material, but knew the material wasn’t salacious but was rather a demonstration of power and ancient grace. Every single person we saw deserves some kind of compliment for putting themselves out there and bringing a measure of grace and dignity to it.


Ian McShane, Corbin Bernsen, Ricky Whittle in American Gods (Starz)

RT: The book has very specific song cues like “Iko Iko,” two Beatles songs and Patsy Cline. Are you able to use the songs Gaiman specified?

Green: We have a list from the book the music supervisor keeps and wants to parcel out. I don’t think it’s too big a spoiler to say that “Iko Iko” appears in the pilot in exactly the scene where it’s specified in the book. You couldn’t imagine beginning that scene without it.

Fuller: Brian Reitzell, our composer and music supervisor, has a wide vocabulary with music and musical styles. He picked up lyrics that are referenced without citing a specific song. He hunted them down, found the original song and then did a brand new version of that song. Only people who are hardcore fans of the book will be like, “Oh my God, they realized that those lyrics that were quoted were from a specific song!”


Lucille Ball (David McNew/Getty Images)

RT: How do you handle the Lucy Ricardo likeness?

Fuller: We don’t use it in any advertising.

RT: But it’s Gillian Anderson as Lucille Ball?

Fuller: Yes. She was dressed as Lucy and looked like Lucy and the set looked like their living room. She even said the last line that she says in the scene with a wink. It all kind of went down in a way that we felt on stage that a puzzle piece was snapping into place.


Emily Browning in American Gods (Starz)RT: Given that you both make TV, do you disagree that TV is an evil god?

Fuller: Well, it depends on how you define evil. I think we’ve got some new parameters in how evil is defined these days, in this particular political climate. It is a lesser evil certainly than the evil swirling about the world today.

RT: Scripted TV is OK then.

Green: It’s all in how you use it. Media is the medium.

Fuller: Scripted TV is a lesser. Reality TV is the black tar of Satan.

RT: If credit cards and internet were threats to the gods 15 years ago, are social media and reality-TV presidents even newer god-like things you can explore in 2017?

Green: The new gods have worshipers that don’t always know that they’re worshiping. They give them time and attention and resources and money and love, but they don’t feel that they’re on their knees worshiping. The old gods really liked to be worshiped deliberately. There’s something really insidious about some of the demagogues of today who really engender a sort of worship in their followers that may not realize is religious in fervor. It sometimes supplants the religion they think they’re worshiping.


RT: Why did you cast a skinnier guy like Bruce Langley as Technical Boy, the internet god, given his description in the book?

Fuller: It felt like there was an evolution of the technical savvy individual that was portrayed in the novel, which was written 15 years ago. The book sort of describes the quintessential overweight hacker that Donald Trump was shielding the Russians with. Now technology is much more socialized than it was 15 years ago. We see the integration of technology and all these other industries, particularly fashion. So we felt like it’d be an interesting evolution of the character if he was as fashion forward as he was tech savvy.

Green: Which means that you’re constantly chasing something new and reinventing yourself. Technology and being tech savvy now has a swagger that it didn’t have 15 years ago.


Hannibal: Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter (Brooke Palmer/NBC)

RT: We’re getting closer to August 2017, when you can think about the rights to Silence of the Lambs. Would you ever consider continuing Hannibal with different original stories should Silence of the Lambs not work out?

Fuller: Oh yeah. There is a fourth season that had nothing to do with Silence of the Lambs. The most creatively satisfying experience I’ve had thus far working with actors were with Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy on Hannibal. Both of those actors were so insightful with their characters and so helpful to me and helping me understand those characters. I would love to continue writing for those two gentlemen forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever. And ever.


Mads Mikkelsen as Hannibal Lecter (Brooke Palmer/NBC)

RT: Have you ever had a show that more people want to come back this much — like even more than Pushing Daisies?

Fuller: It seems that everything I’ve ever done has been canceled. Michael and I are both in that boat. We’re both kind of victims of the cancellation gods. I think when a show is canceled, you still have a lingering expression of story for that show that’s never satisfied. Do you still feel pangs of Kings stories kicking around in your belly, Michael?

Green: Oh, of course. When you develop voices, you can imagine them talking at each other, loving and hating each other for years and you don’t get those years. It’s sort of like the stars who are gone too soon. You wanted to see them evolve and you didn’t get the chance. People get angrier and you feel the same way. I want more Hannibal almost more than I want more Kings.


Star Trek: Discovery ship (Courtesy of CBS Television Studios)

RT: Can Star Trek: Discovery still be the show you described last summer even though you left to focus on American Gods?

Fuller: I am not involved in the production or the post of it so I can only say I hope so.

RT: No one’s guessed the historic Star Trek event you said it’s about yet, have they?

Fuller: I think it has come out though, but I shouldn’t say just in case it hasn’t. I don’t want to be the asshole who’s no longer working on the show giving spoilers.

American Gods will premiere at the SXSW Film Festival on Saturday, March 11 at 11 a.m., then debut April 30 on Starz


Tag Cloud

Walt Disney Pictures all-time Turner children's TV Nominations The Witch Fall TV Peacock Schedule Vudu 007 RT21 cats YouTube Premium Film sports HBO Go richard e. Grant Awards Tour documentary The Arrangement adventure Holiday Comedy harry potter Travel Channel PaleyFest NYCC serial killer A&E Dark Horse Comics Shudder psycho Christmas Disney Plus Classic Film BBC One zero dark thirty Cartoon Network video on demand Valentine's Day Mudbound based on movie Stephen King strong female leads Sony Pictures Brie Larson AMC TNT YouTube Chernobyl Election 2020 documentaries Drama kids what to watch game show DC Universe Western cartoon foreign BBC America theme song ABC festivals Apple TV Plus Mary Tyler Moore NBC Musical MCU thriller History Marvel ITV witnail X-Men Apple TV+ Lionsgate canceled TV shows Star Wars biography Toys parents Creative Arts Emmys video Summer Thanksgiving USA halloween discovery Pixar Super Bowl comedies comics casting Calendar Film Festival First Reviews ratings mockumentary hist Sundance Now Rocketman New York Comic Con police drama latino Spectrum Originals TCM Heroines reboot Pride Month Country ghosts Rock disaster Sci-Fi Watching Series Grammys DC streaming service Marathons Netflix Christmas movies Emmys Winners spain Baby Yoda politics Podcast Martial Arts Apple directors Television Critics Association MSNBC asian-american Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Disney streaming service Showtime FX on Hulu VOD IFC Films Ovation FX series war Sneak Peek Year in Review GoT transformers unscripted die hard Superheroe Hear Us Out Sundance doctor who Rom-Com Elton John christmas movies Video Games vampires Holidays concert Lifetime chucky sag awards south america Spring TV batman 21st Century Fox Ellie Kemper 4/20 Hulu aliens BAFTA TCA Winter 2020 dragons RT History medical drama Amazon Prime Video YouTube Red Infographic Warner Bros. Comics on TV cars ABC Family YA dark 45 Trivia Black History Month Biopics Universal book Set visit CMT composers Food Network best psychological thriller Paramount Pop award winner BET Awards 71st Emmy Awards boxoffice criterion green book diversity Freeform scary movies screenings OWN renewed TV shows golden globes Amazon Studios Amazon Prime BET APB anthology FOX canceled PBS Certified Fresh Fox News Crunchyroll Binge Guide National Geographic Arrowverse natural history Kids & Family robots CNN Red Carpet 2017 zombies Quiz Shondaland Writers Guild of America cinemax Britbox 2015 satire movie DirecTV Mystery crossover zombie Lifetime Christmas movies cults Cosplay HBO 2016 justice league sequel Spike crime TV Land streaming HBO Max nature LGBT Academy Awards WarnerMedia Discovery Channel TIFF historical drama game of thrones Family Polls and Games anime Mary Poppins Returns The Walking Dead Bravo Action Reality Superheroes tv talk toy story Funimation Netflix Syfy sitcom Box Office television spy thriller Best and Worst LGBTQ Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt President adaptation Starz name the review Turner Classic Movies Marvel Studios hispanic Cannes comic comiccon Premiere Dates WGN Oscars mutant true crime Character Guide cancelled TV shows stoner GIFs Interview dceu CBS All Access Rocky Disney screen actors guild Hallmark Christmas movies singing competition VICE GLAAD 2018 Photos spanish language universal monsters Extras jamie lee curtis 24 frames Teen movies Music space OneApp TBS Hallmark spinoff Endgame talk show supernatural Marvel Television quibi news dc MTV Adult Swim Tubi Nickelodeon dogs Crackle rotten movies we love Disney Channel Epix TV renewals Amazon critics slashers blaxploitation Paramount Network stand-up comedy Lucasfilm Acorn TV DGA a nightmare on elm street Mary poppins DC Comics films Pet Sematary romantic comedy binge IFC First Look E! Anna Paquin SundanceTV child's play Countdown San Diego Comic-Con joker SDCC Animation Horror versus USA Network Comedy Central science fiction Masterpiece Tarantino VH1 dramedy SXSW spider-man Logo technology Musicals Avengers TCA 2017 political drama cancelled TV series Columbia Pictures The Purge animated Black Mirror Disney+ Disney Plus A24 cops FXX teaser indie cooking CBS Captain marvel TCA Awards romance free movies BBC CW Seed independent docudrama American Society of Cinematographers facebook Song of Ice and Fire indiana jones Sundance TV Tumblr 20th Century Fox Winter TV Tomatazos PlayStation miniseries E3 social media travel Nat Geo elevated horror TLC period drama Women's History Month werewolf ESPN finale franchise Comic Book Pirates TruTV crime drama Opinion Trophy Talk Television Academy TCA cancelled television Fantasy blockbuster breaking bad 2019 reviews Mindy Kaling Ghostbusters TV Pop TV mission: impossible Star Trek Trailer twilight Reality Competition Esquire Awards See It Skip It Emmy Nominations The CW cancelled crime thriller El Rey revenge