News

American Gods Producers Reveal How Series Creates Those Graphic Sex Scenes

Bryan Fuller and Michael Green talk sex scene reshoots, giggling VFX artists, and treating the story respectfully.

by | May 14, 2017 | Comments

Omid Abtahi and Mousa Kraish in American Gods (Photo by Starz)

Outside of clearly identified adult entertainment of both the hard- and soft-core varieties — “porn,” for the less timid — full-frontal male nudity is still something of a taboo on TV. Even on pay cable. Game of Thrones gets away with flaunting the occasional flaccid member, but when American Gods producers Bryan Fuller and Michael Green translated the Neil Gaiman fantasy novel to screen, they took a go-big-or-go-home approach.


Spoiler warning: The following includes plot details from season 1, episode 3 of American Gods, as well as a discussion of adult themes.


The first penises appeared at full mast in episode 2, “The Secret of Spoons”: the first, in a sext that Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) finds on the phone of his cheating wife, Laura (Emily Browning) — an image that he subsequently has trouble shaking. The second  shows up on Joel Murray as Paunch, who floats, ecstatic, in the celestial womb of love goddess Bilquis, a visual preceded by twinkling strains of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall.”


Omid Abtahi in American Gods Season 1 2017 (Starz)

Omid Abtahi in American Gods (Photo by Starz)

Fans this week met Salim (Omid Abtahi), a salesman having no luck getting meetings in America. He hails a fortuitous cab driven by a Jinn (Mousa Karish), a misunderstood supernatural creature  who feels just as invisible because modern humans — particularly those jaded New Yorkers — have little interest in the brand of mythology he’s selling.


Salim and the Jinn share a passionate sexual encounter, which expands on a scene in the book in which Gaiman describes oral sex between the two. In its Starz incarnation, American Gods shows a gay love scene the likes of which audiences rarely get to see.

Fuller and Green reviewed the landmark scene with Rotten Tomatoes at their downtown Los Angeles post-production office.

“We started talking about who Salim is and what his life as a gay man in the Middle East would be, particularly coming from a place where you’re thrown off rooftops for being homosexual,” Fuller said, elaborating that the character’s experiences were probably limited to oral sex in back alleys.


“The Jinn is giving him a different kind of sexual experience: pulls him up from his knees,” Fuller continued, “and starts kissing him, because he wants him to have a happy, healthy sexual experience that he, at this point in his life, has been denied.”

The scene had to be filmed twice, but not because it was too explicit the first time. Getting the sex right was vital, because without that, the Jinn effects would be meaningless.

“We had two straight actors and a straight director and positions that were unlikely to have successful penetration,” Fuller said.

The final scene shows the Jinn on top of Salim, and the couple lying side by side. The first go-round apparently was too ambitious.

“Watching it the first time, I think [Fuller] said, ‘Unless he has a 12-inch candy cane c—, that’s not going to work,’” Green said. “For me as a straight man trying to help produce it, it was learning that there are a lot of specific things that straight directors, producers, writers might think they know that they just don’t. To portray something correctly for an audience that doesn’t get to see as much for them done well, it’s important to get it right, so we made the effort.”


via GIPHY

American Gods shows Karish dropping his towel, as well as the Jinn’s true naked form, which was a computer generated visual effect. When it came to the CGI, it turned out size did matter.

“There were some fun adventures in terms of selecting penis sizes,” Fuller shared. “The more potty humor biofunction comedy of a post-production process was definitely getting its fill of suppressed giggles because we were looking at giant penises and trying to calibrate what the Jinn’s penis would look like. What’s too big? What’s not too big. If you start to giggle when he drops the towel then that’s too big.”

Or as Green put it: “What is majestic and still plausible?”

Hopefully, viewers were wrapped up in the drama of Salim’s romance, not giggling at the naked Jinn. Starz was supportive about presenting the Jinn scene authentically, even if it meant graphically.

“At no point was there ever any creative limitation on it,” Green said. “Network, studio, internally, everyone treated it respectfully and didn’t want to pull any punches. I think the only restriction we were given was we were asked to not show a full mast erection on the way to a sexual encounter, and that’s not gay or straight.”

Salim will appear again on American Gods. He’s not only a gay man of color, but a gay man of faith too, Green said.

“Interestingly enough, he’s probably the most traditionally religious of any character we have in the show,” Green said. “He believes in one of the big three religions and practices it as best he can on a day-to-day basis. As you’ll see, he prays five times a day to Allah, which he sees as a completely separate thing from his sexuality, because I believe that he believes that Allah created him and therefore they have a good relationship.”


Fuller and Green also made an LGBT-friendly addition to Bilquis’ (Yetide Badaki) story. Who could forget Bilquis? The goddess of love swallowed a man sexually the first time she was ever on screen. Episode 2 showed that Bilquis’ conquests included women, too, something that did not occur in Gaiman’s book.

“We wanted to make sure that she was going to be representing a sex positivity despite what ultimately happens to her suitors,” Fuller said. “Although there’s an argument to be had when you see what happens to them that it’s not quite so bad.”


Badaki certainly goes all in for those scenes. They’re bigger than just American Gods, Fuller explained.

“The interesting thing about Bilquis and the filming of those sequences really was casting Yetide Badaki, who is a Nigerian woman who was raised in a fashion that does not acknowledge or celebrate female sexuality,” Fuller said. “To hear her story as an actress who’s then coming to portray this goddess whom sex and sexuality is how she feeds, but it is also a powerful expression of a woman owning her sexuality in a really cinematically aggressive way.”


Yetide Badaki as Bilquis in American Gods (Starz)

Yetide Badaki in a poster for American Gods (Photo by Starz)

Bilquis ingesting her lovers, created in a post-production process similar to the Jinn scene, is a sight that could also make viewers giggle, so Fuller and Green paid careful attention to make sure viewers could take the Bilquis scenes seriously.

“[Director] David Slade spent a lot of time trying to create that first sequence in the first episode and then the later one to be things that were again majestic and would never produce the giggle,” Green said. “That might produce shock horror that can be erotic but to be taken seriously when you’re trying to do something utterly fantastical and when we didn’t want to do it off screen.”

American Gods airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz. Watch our video interviews with the cast here and read our full interview with Fuller and Green.

 


POLL:

Tag Cloud

facebook animated Sundance Now MTV Film Festival Trivia TIFF war stand-up comedy Peacock Reality Competition Endgame satire Comedy Central TV dragons name the review Crunchyroll Drama aliens Lionsgate WarnerMedia Rocketman TCA Winter 2020 Action Pride Month Epix joker X-Men Black History Month See It Skip It Amazon Prime Video casting toy story Amazon dark TCA BBC One ITV space films MCU 2020 Alien National Geographic spanish language Paramount Network LGBT Heroines AMC australia USA Network The Academy SXSW 2019 science fiction Stephen King crime drama halloween Trailer Polls and Games Brie Larson YouTube First Look DGA MSNBC comedies series Baby Yoda rotten movies we love canceled RT21 cartoon 2017 psychological thriller psycho Awards Tour Britbox Summer indiana jones Mudbound American Society of Cinematographers Masterpiece Spring TV Columbia Pictures Amazon Prime Esquire BET Awards Emmys Grammys rt archives Marvel Television politics ABC Family worst movies emmy awards Marathons TCA Awards political drama Funimation sequels RT History obituary Apple TV Plus universal monsters movie Pet Sematary TV Land PaleyFest Cartoon Network deadpool VICE book cars El Rey singing competition independent Lifetime Christmas movies Election festival Opinion CBS All Access justice league award winner reboot technology Nickelodeon Superheroes based on movie Mary Tyler Moore Lifetime The Arrangement critics serial killer Creative Arts Emmys Kids & Family Classic Film cancelled TV series comic books Shondaland Ghostbusters vampires cops Biopics scorecard Vudu Christmas Country zero dark thirty NBC mission: impossible Spike Video Games 24 frames concert Emmy Nominations football police drama boxoffice stoner Ovation cinemax video on demand festivals Martial Arts Hear Us Out Turner child's play Schedule natural history Marvel Women's History Month Premiere Dates Starz witnail WGN DC Comics Superheroe GoT best news franchise christmas movies boxing Extras rotten spanish elevated horror foreign indie Mystery OneApp unscripted remakes 99% spain spy thriller TV renewals harry potter PBS transformers CW Seed BBC History ratings die hard Netflix Christmas movies what to watch Disney Plus nature mockumentary italian Arrowverse theme song cooking anthology chucky Fantasy YA Adult Swim Crackle Reality Music Family adaptation Winners slashers biography dramedy fast and furious Podcast Warner Bros. SDCC President Infographic Holidays free movies tv talk hispanic black Hallmark criterion crime thriller Dark Horse Comics sequel Television Critics Association Apple Film batman Avengers classics YouTube Red worst period drama spinoff Netflix IFC Films 72 Emmy Awards revenge james bond cats Sundance Star Wars Disney streaming service sag awards TBS Paramount talk show NYCC New York Comic Con A24 Chernobyl CMT CBS Freeform YouTube Premium docudrama APB versus Food Network Valentine's Day The Walking Dead Fox Searchlight 20th Century Fox strong female leads Lucasfilm all-time Thanksgiving sitcom TruTV Oscars Mary poppins Super Bowl cults Anna Paquin mutant FX discovery Certified Fresh latino Horror 2018 dceu superhero Television Academy teaser Awards zombies diversity breaking bad green book crime Star Trek IFC FOX binge Pop Disney Rock Rocky scary movies documentaries BET Discovery Channel 21st Century Fox twilight VH1 Pop TV LGBTQ thriller Marvel Studios Bravo directors TCA 2017 japanese Cannes Apple TV+ Comedy archives CNN documentary E! Tarantino 007 Elton John Travel Channel Rom-Com DC streaming service A&E Turner Classic Movies blaxploitation OWN Nat Geo Song of Ice and Fire BBC America SundanceTV Watching Series TNT Tomatazos Amazon Studios Trophy Talk HBO Go Chilling Adventures of Sabrina ABC toronto 45 Photos social media comics Tumblr FXX sports PlayStation Pirates Sony Pictures Countdown TCM hollywood anime Comic Book venice Mary Poppins Returns The Witch Winter TV children's TV Spectrum Originals FX on Hulu Universal ESPN supernatural 2015 DirecTV composers movies Box Office 2016 TLC ID historical drama Nominations The CW medical drama blockbuster Sci-Fi cancelled Mindy Kaling Year in Review Holiday jamie lee curtis 71st Emmy Awards hist screen actors guild Fall TV Interview Sundance TV Disney Channel Musical Hulu game show comiccon San Diego Comic-Con nfl romantic comedy Sneak Peek Comics on TV Shudder Logo GLAAD Cosplay Tubi First Reviews dogs 4/20 travel golden globes Red Carpet BAFTA Set visit canceled TV shows Walt Disney Pictures miniseries E3 streaming nbcuniversal werewolf reviews Calendar stop motion Hallmark Christmas movies game of thrones crossover Fox News adventure Ellie Kemper a nightmare on elm street quibi HBO dc Academy Awards video Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt parents cancelled TV shows renewed TV shows ghosts Best and Worst Toys fresh cancelled television richard e. Grant zombie finale laika Disney+ Disney Plus Pixar french Syfy asian-american Showtime Black Mirror Binge Guide comic Western VOD Captain marvel halloween tv HBO Max Character Guide south america true crime Writers Guild of America DC Universe Musicals Quiz spider-man GIFs robots kids doctor who screenings USA disaster Acorn TV television romance Teen The Purge Animation