Ricky Whittle Talks ‘American Gods’ Success and Portraying Shadow Moon

For a show that is a month old and just about halfway through its first season, American Gods has been an overwhelming success. Not only has the series received near universal acclaim from critics thus far, but Starz also renewed it for a second season just after the premiere of its second episode.

Given its stunning visuals, groundbreaking scenes and interesting characters, the show’s immediate popularity doesn’t seem like much of a surprise to its already loyal fanbase.

But in an exclusive interview with CBR, American Gods star Ricky Whittle admits that success never felt like a guarantee, even with an all-star cast and the creative talents of Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green backing the project.

For Whittle, one of the most reliable metrics of success has been the fans’ reactions to the show and his character, Shadow Moon.

“When I was first cast, people were judging on appearances. So, if they don’t know me, they are like, “Oh my God. That was great. You are exactly like in the book,” which is a strange and wonderful thing. But, they would always finish the tweets with, “Don’t fuck it up.” Oh, wow. There’s some pressure. But, they’ve reacted and said, “You are perfect as Shadow.” As the episodes have gone on, they are responding really positively. For me, that’s the greatest thing.”

This fan acceptance has especially been a relief for Whittle since he took some liberties in his portrayal of this important main character.

“In the book, [Shadow’s] very blasé and passive and accepts a lot of the fantastical things going on in his mind and in front of him. He’s very neutral, whereas the Shadow in the TV show – I worked with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green to bring this character a bit more off the page, to make him more vocal and give him more anxiety and fear and intensity.”

Whittle next spends some time in the interview on Shadow’s background, detailing how a long and lonely life filled with cynicism eventually led him to his wife Laura.

“This is the one thing he loved in his life, was his wife Laura. He lost his mother when he was young. He never knew his father, so he traveled. The only thing he found was Laura. That was Shadow’s only home. That was the only thing he believed in, was love.”

Of course, Shadow’s simple beliefs are shattered when his wife dies and, quite literally on the same day, he is suddenly ushered into the world of gods and supernatural creatures by the mysterious Mr. Wednesday.

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Mr. Wednesday and Shadow Moon. Image via American Gods/Starz

Many strange, sometimes violent and completely unexplainable events have occurred so far, including Shadow’s reintroduction to the recently deceased Laura that happened in last week’s episode.

Whittle confirms for fans that Shadow is not adapting to his brave new reality well.

“His struggle, as an intelligent man, is to always go to the logical answer… did he really imagine this? Is this really happening? Or, is he having what he read about, where ex-cons are released from prison and go a little bit crazy. It’s much easier to believe his mind is going rather than the fact that everything in front of him is real.”

In the face of this internal conflict, where does Whittle see Shadow’s journey going for the remainder of the first season? Fans will see more of his struggle to accept the new world around him, with the possibility that he doesn’t come to this realization without some serious consequences.

“His big journey is cynic to believer. That is essentially his journey right now. The fantastical elements are piling up. There is only so far you can go with all this evidence in front of him before you have to make a decision. As Wednesday put it, “Is he mad or is the world mad?” That’s a frightening place to be. If you feel your mind is unraveling and that’s something you can’t control, how do you come back from that? When we get physically injured, you go see a doctor who can fix that. For somebody to lose their mind, it’s a scary place to be. It’s an easier option to take than believe there’s magic and gods walking among us. Hopefully, Shadow figures it out sooner than later.”

Tell us how you feel about the show – do you like Ricky Whittle’s interpretation of Shadow Moon? Which gods are your favorite from this season so far (besides Bilquis, of course)? Are you worried about Shadow’s mental state as he delves deeper into whatever supernatural scheme the gods are planning?

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below! And don’t forget to check out all the latest American Gods episodes every Sunday at 9 p.m. on Starz.

Source: Comic Book Resources

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