To get ready for Starz’s new series
, you could read the book by American Gods Neil Gaiman — all 700+ pages of it. (If you have the time, you really, really should.) It won’t completely spoil the show, as creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green have promised to diverge from the novel and expand on some characters to give them more to do.
The cast of the series gave
SXSW Film Festival audiences some insight into those characters when the show stopped in Austin, Texas, earlier this month to premiere the first episode. The producers, who also participated in the show’s panel at the annual fest, shed light on some of the characters who don’t appear until later in the first season.
Check out the gallery below before
American Gods premieres at the end of April to learn more about the players in this epic battle between the classic and modern gods.
STOP HERE IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW STORY LINES.
Shadow Moon ( Ricky Whittle)
Our reluctant hero, Shadow Moon just wanted to do his time and get back to his wife. Just days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife died in an automobile accident. With no other prospects, Shadow goes to work for Mr. Wednesday as a driver, but the job will entail more than just driving.
“Shadow is this kind of broken, empty vessel when we first meet him,” Whittle said. “He’s a shadow of his formal self. He’s got to get his mojo back. He’s a broken man, but he’s been awoken by Mr. Wednesday.”
Mr. Wednesday ( Ian McShane)
Mr. Wednesday already seems to know all about Shadow and his wife when they meet on the plane. He convinces Shadow to work for him, but will eventually reveal he’s leading the old gods into battle against the new gods of technology and media.
”Wednesday believes in himself,” McShane said. “He’s just as capricious and as willful as the gods that he’s fighting against, but he’s right.”
Laura Moon ( Emily Browning)
For a character who dies before she appears on the show, Shadow’s wife has a pretty big role! She comes back from the dead to help him, and will have even more to do in the show.
“She kind of ends up protecting Shadow from afar I suppose,” Browning said. “She’s kind of like his slightly awful guardian angel.”
Bilquis ( Yetide Badaki)
Bilquis was the Queen of Sheba and is an ancient diety: the goddess of love. She makes a hell of an introduction swallowing a man with her vagina. She needs to be worshiped, and these days men don’t worship women like they used to.
“There was a lot of power in her from this ancient time,” Badaki said. “Who is that person who is not getting the kind of worship or acknowledgment or allowed the agency that she is used to? And how she then tries to survive in this world.”
Mad Sweeney ( Pablo Schreiber)
Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun. You thought leprechauns were little? That’s just in stories.
“When we meet him, obviously he’s working for Mr. Wednesday,” Schreiber said. “Mad Sweeney’s arc is once he loses his spark, his life force, he spends the rest of the season chasing a woman to get it back, which I think as men we can probably identify with, or whatever romantic interest we’re chasing.”
Mr. World ( Crispin Glover)
Mr. World won’t appear until later in the season. As the leader of the new gods, his presence will grow through legend and secondhand talk, but Glover remained cryptic about his character.
“One of the things [Fuller and Green] said to me about Mr. World was, ‘We are the world. We are the children,’” Glover said. “I like that.”
Mr. Nancy ( Orlando Jones)
Mr. Nancy is an African god, which was significant to Jones.
“I’m very fortunate to be able to bring that character to life that’s been a part of the African diaspora since it survived the middle passage and made its way here from Ghana,” Jones said. “It seems extremely poignant, while at the same time extremely powerful to be in the position of the voice of a nation in some ways. I also think that the conversation of race is one that we’ve avoided for quite some time. The fact that this show allows us a platform to not preach, but talk about our beliefs and how our beliefs bring us together as opposed to how they tear us apart, I believe, is a part of the tricky journey of Mr. Nancy.”
Technical Boy ( Bruce Langley)
Technical Boy is the god of technology. He basically downloads Shadow in his very first scene on the show.
“It’s becoming so integrated into our lives, more and more so as time goes on,” Langley said. “It’s looking to be the most driving force of the direction of our entire species in so many ways. He’s in so many ways the driving force and part of the driving force of what could and will be.”
Robbie ( Dane Cook)
Robbie was Shadow’s best friend who was going to give him a job at his gym. Robbie died in the same automobile accident as Laura, with whom he was having an affair.
During a panel last summer, Green described Robbie as “a really entertaining dick” and Fuller added, “[He’s] very savvy as an artist and understands the perception of his brand and how to subvert it with this role in the show.”
Audrey ( Betty Gilpin)
Audrey was Robbie’s wife, who tells Shadow the graphic details of the affair at Laura’s funeral. She comes onto Shadow in the cemetery and will have a larger role in the series than in the book.
“I believe we started [the scene] at 3:30 in the morning, which helped,” Gilpin said. “We don’t see Audrey a ton in the book so I was kind of filling in imagination-wise what she was like. I was sort of thinking that before the accident, she was like a vocal fry, Appletini kind of girl. This kind of revealed her cavewoman self. She says, ‘Who knew I could be so vulgar?’ I just played with that.”
Low Key Lyesmith ( Jonathan Tucker)
Low Key appears in the premiere in prison with Shadow, who frequently remembers his pal’s misguided advice throughout his adventure. Now say “low key” fast. That’s right, it’s Loki, the god of mischief — like Tom Hiddleston’s character in the Thor and Avengers movies.
“I think if the story moves a little further, perhaps in another season, you’ll see a lot more Low Key,” Tucker said. “In this season, I really like to set it up and turn it over to the rest of the team. They’re very capable, and they do a fabulous job.”
( Corbin Bernsen)
Vulcan is a brand-new character in show. He and Mr. Wednesday go way back, and Vulcan is the god of guns, so will provide the show a way to address America’s worship of firearms. Gaiman named the character after seeing a statue of Vulcan in a small steel town.
( Gillian Anderson)
Since the inventions of radio and television, the media has been such a part of modern life that one could say it is worshiped as a god. The god of media is personified in American Gods, appearing to Shadow as Lucy Ricardo in an old episode of I Love Lucy. Fuller’s Hannibal star Gillian Anderson does the full Lucy in her appearance as Media.
( Kristin Chenoweth)
Described by Gaiman as a curvaceous platinum blonde, Easter meets
Shadow and Wednesday later in their journey, and her resurrection powers might come in handy. Thanks to the commercialization of Easter, she’s doing just fine in the modern world.
( Peter Stormare)
One of Shadow and Wednesday’s first stops on the road is to see Czernobog, the Slavic god who causes bad things to happen. Shadow tricks him into joining Wednesday’s quest with the promise that Czernobog can bash his head in with a sledgehammer when it’s all over. So Peter Stormare plays him, of course.
Zorya Vechernyaya ( Cloris Leachman)
One of the Slavic stars who live with Czernobog, Vechernaya (Evening Star) gives Shadow and Wednesday a place to sleep for the night. More importantly, this gives Shadow time to meet her sister.
Zorya Polunochnaya and Zorya Utrennyaya ( Erika Kaar, Martha Kelly)
The Midnight Star, Zorya Polunochnaya, also lives with Czernobog and doesn’t wake up until late at night. Shadow meets her, and she teaches him how to take the moon out of the sky. This is a token of protection for Shadow, but it’s not powerful enough to save him from everything he’s about to encounter.
Her elder sister, Zorya Utrennyaya (Morning Star), silently observes the world around her.
Anubis ( Chris Obi)
Not much has been said about the appearance of the ancient Egyptian god of the dead, but we have the feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of him on this bloody series.
American Gods premieres April 30 at 9 p.m. on Starz. Read Rotten Tomatoes’ interview with Fuller and Green here.