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Bryan Fuller Talks Adapting Gaiman's 'American Gods,' and Avoiding Being 'the Biggest Assholes on Television'

By Cindy Davis | Industry | September 12, 2014 |

By Cindy Davis | Industry | September 12, 2014 |

I’ve sort of a love/hate relationship with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods; the first and only Gaiman I’ve read (Neverwhere and Stardust are on my shelf). I was completely taken in by Shadow and his early adventures and backstory, but somewhere between the halfway mark and end, (for me) the story fizzled out. It didn’t turn me off to Gaiman, per se, but I’ve been in recovery a while. That said, I’m quite intrigued by the upcoming Starz adaptation, firstly because Shadow is quite simply a fantastic character — I can’t wait to see him brought to life — and secondly, because the series comes from the Hannibal-meister himself, Bryan Fuller (co-writing/running with Michael Green [Everwood, Smallville, Heroes]). With his brilliant, twisted take on Thomas Harris’ stories, Fuller has proven his ability to get to the *ahem* meat of a character, to take a mold and ply it into new and interesting shapes, and yet still remain true to an author’s vision.

Case in point his attention to every detail and desire to get Shadow exactly right; in an interview with Den of Geek, Fuller discussed avoiding a big mistake:

“In our conversations about who our ideals are for specific roles, Shadow is described as… is he a gypsy? Is he Hispanic? Is he black? Or is he all of those things in one? So we know that he is not white! I think if we cast a white man to play Shadow we would be the biggest assholes on television.”

With Hannibal, Fuller has successfully changed characters’ sex and race — people are people, yes? But he’s smart enough to care that Shadow’s not whitewashed, something that’s important to Gaiman:

“One of the things I’m concerned about is that I really want to make sure the races of all the characters are kept… I want to keep the racial mix in American Gods the same. And, I want to make it faithful, but also would like it to have a few surprises for people who read the book.”

Gaiman has previously said he would love to see Morgan Freeman play the ultracool, Mr. Nancy. Yes, please!

Speaking about the book’s female characters, Fuller discussed how he’d incorporate them:

“One of the things that’s important for anybody adapting source material that is primarily a male buddy picture is to find ways to latch on to strong female characters in the piece and bring them to the forefront and celebrate their point of view alongside the men, otherwise it becomes a sausage party and it’s a singular point of view…

[*Note: Major Book Spoiler ahead*]

…One of the most amazing sequences for me when I was reading it was the Goddess Bilquis eating a man with her vagina! I think it’s beautifully written in the novel. What I love about how Neil laid out that sequence is that you’re in the gentleman caller’s point of view for his climax and the reeling of that. What is it like to cinematically deliver an orgasm to an audience that more than likely, is not experiencing an orgasm at that moment? Although you never know! Being in his point of view in the novel, he comes out of his orgasmic revelry and then realises that he’s kind of hanging upside down, chest-deep from her. We plan to deliver that moment as it is written, because I believe that we can, and that’s very exciting for us because we were breaking that story and thinking, we are just going to lift that right out of the book and drop it right into the show. That came up in the Starz meeting, they were like, ‘how are you going to do that moment?’ and we said, ‘we’re going to do it exactly as written’.”

Fuller also mentioned that Gaiman (who’ll serve as executive producer) is writing additional material for the series:

“It’s fun to platform the world and say to Neil, okay, if these are the rules of this universe that you’ve created, then it would also apply in these circumstances. That’s been great for Michael and I because we’re recognising the rules and then also allowing ourselves to navigate those rules and expand the story in a fun way where those rules are supporting a greater, grander world than you’re able to see in the novel.”

And that’s the part Fuller is particularly exceptional at: expanding a story, while staying true to its core and “rules.”

I cannot wait to see who they cast (I really can’t come up with a perfect candidate…maybe, possibly Wentworth Miller?); this could end up being Starz’ Game of Thrones.

P.S. Hannibal, season 2 is out on DVD/BluRay September 16th.

Cindy Davis, (Twitter)

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