Neil Gaiman’s Amer­i­can Gods found a home in Canada

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BILL BRIOUX

Where do “Amer­i­can Gods” go to build a home? Canada.

The eight-episode first sea­son of the multi-mil­lion-dol­lar U.S. TV fan­tasy se­ries was shot in Toronto, one rea­son ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Bryan Fuller jokes it should be called “North Amer­i­can Gods.”

Ad­dress­ing re­porters at a gath­er­ing of TV crit­ics in Los An­ge­les, Fuller ad­mit­ted the big­gest rea­sons to shoot in Toronto were the tax in­cen­tives, not to men­tion the low Cana­dian dol­lar.

“And the other rea­son is Toronto’s a great city, and it has fan­tas­tic crews,” said Fuller, who shot the NBC drama “Han­ni­bal” in Mis­sis­sauga. He said the crew he worked with on that se­ries “had fan­tas­tic at­ti­tudes and be­came friends, so I love walk­ing on set and see­ing friends.”

Based on the best­selling 2001 novel by Neil Gaiman, also an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer on the se­ries, “Amer­i­can Gods” fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of Shadow Moon (played by UK ac­tor Ricky Whit­tle), a man re­leased from prison af­ter the death of his wife Laura (Aus­tralian Emily Browning). Shadow meets a con artist named Wed­nes­day (“Dead­wood” star Ian McShane) and is soon caught up in an out-of-this-world road trip across Amer­ica, re­cruit­ing old gods from mythol­ogy and re­li­gion in a square off against new gods from the worlds of me­dia and tech­nol­ogy. Seems the his­tor­i­cal gods are los­ing fol­low­ers to these up­start gods, re­flect­ing so­ci­ety’s fickle ob­ses­sions with money, me­dia, celebrity and drugs.

De­vel­oped at HBO then shifted to Starz, the epic se­ries be­gan pro­duc­tion in 2015 and wrapped the first eight episodes in Toronto last Oc­to­ber. The cast rocked Comic-Con last sum­mer, even with­out the pres­ence of re­cur­ring star Gil­lian An­der­son, who plays the new god Me­dia.

Bri­tish Columbia-born Pablo Schreiber is among the prin­ci­pals as 4,000-year-old lep­rechaun Mad Sweeney, a part ex­panded be­yond the orig­i­nal book.

Schreiber, who at 6-foot-5 is rather large for a lep­rechaun, told the Comic-Con crowd that he felt like he was given “a gift from the gods” just be­ing part of the se­ries. Best known as “Porn­stache” from “Orange is the New Black,” Schreiber ad­mit­ted fan­tasy is not his usual genre. He was hooked on the chal­lenge, how­ever, of try­ing to make these out­ra­geous char­ac­ters “in­cred­i­bly be­liev­able.”

The Toronto lo­ca­tion was good news for sev­eral Cana­dian ac­tors who round out the cast, in­clud­ing De­more Barnes (“The Flash,” “12 Mon­keys”) who plays Mr. Ibis, an old god who runs a fu­neral par­lour and writes some of the books be­hind the mythol­ogy. Sonja Smits, Se­bas­tian Ma­cLean and An­dre Dae Kim are other Cana­dian-born ac­tors in the se­ries.

Whit­tle, who en­joyed a brief stint on “The 100,” en­dured 16 au­di­tions be­fore land­ing the lead role.

“Find­ing our Shadow was a process that lasted sev­eral months,” Gaiman told fans at Comic-Con. “We put poor Ricky through the wringer.”

“Amer­i­can Gods” can be seen as the story of how im­mi­grants came to Amer­ica and brought their gods, re­li­gious and myth­i­cal, across the ocean. The clash be­tween old and new gods and the im­mi­grant sto­ry­line might seem like a re­ac­tion to the as­cent of Don­ald Trump, but showrun­ners Fuller and Michael Green (“He­roes”) cau­tion that sea­son 1 wrapped be­fore Trump was elected U.S. pres­i­dent last Novem­ber.

One of the things Green loves about the book is that “it man­ages to dis­cuss re­li­gion in an in­clu­sive way that in­vites all, whether you’re com­ing at it faith­fully, whether you’re com­ing at it ag­nos­ti­cally, whether you have an aca­demic back­ground in mythol­ogy, it re­ally re­wards var­ied at­ten­tion.”

“Amer­i­can Gods” pre­mières Mon­day in Canada on the stream­ing ser­vice Ama­zon Prime Video.

JAN THIJS, FREMANTLEMEDIA NORTH AMER­ICA

Mr. Wed­nes­day (Ian McShane), Vul­can (Corbin Bernsen) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whit­tle) in Vul­can’s Man­sion on "Amer­i­can Gods."

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