I was lucky enough to attend several panels of American Gods and learned a great deal about the production. However, one of the most significant things I took away from those panels was how the team decided on casting.
When Starz first announced the production of American Gods, audiences and fans started to ask lots of questions. Like any other show, people cared more about casting than perhaps anything else. Cast can be the soul of a production. Last year, during the American Gods panel at SDCC, Bryan said one of the first things Neil confirmed with him was to keep the ethnicities of the original characters. “I was very persistent about that,” Neil said, “because the story would not be the same without it.”
The team, of course, agreed on that wholeheartedly. Lots of great actors were brought in, including our beloved Ricky Whittle and Orlando Jones. Bryan appreciated Starz’s decision to “not be too involved” with the casting process because a show would not be the same (and perhaps much more dismal) if networks refused to let go of charge.
Meanwhile, in a later panel, Bryan mentioned that staying true to characters’ ethnicities does not simply just mean cast the right “color.” Unlike lots of TV shows on screen nowadays, it contains much more specificity than “get me a black guy” or “she is a quarter Asian.” (Yes that’s you, Scarlett.)
“Back when we casted Hannibal, we were trying to find the right actress for Chiyo. We had lots of great talents coming in and but I said, ‘she has to be of Japanese descent’, because the story would not be the same if we don’t stay true to that,” Bryan paused and added, “there are many kinds of Asians. It’s so easy, or convenient for people just to pretend that they are just one thing.”
(As someone who is, you know, Asian, I really appreciate this comment.)
American Gods is a fantasy set in a seemingly different but not-so-distant world. As Neil mentioned in his documentary, this story is eventually about all kinds of immigrants coming to America and witnessing their faiths colliding in this new land, with some godly elements, more or less. The casting philosophy of American Gods is relatively simple and straightforward – to preserve a character’s cultural descent. However, truly accomplishing this casting goal is one of the great things that makes American Gods unique and wonderful.
Also– just to hype up for American Gods, I visited the AG mural in West Hollywood several days ago! If you happen to be in LA, check it out! It’s super cool.
The AG wall is right next to the famous pink “Colette Miller Wings” (7769 Melrose Avenue). You may get a better image from across the street, but seeing it up-close is pretty amazing too.