King of Tangents: Ricky Whittle

From the moment Ricky Whittle arrived in the Marriott International Ballroom on Saturday at 4PM, it was clear it was going to be a fun panel. He couldn’t help posing for all of us, both to show off his muscles and also to give us a few moments to take pictures of him without his mask on. We had a whole hour of Q&A with Shadow Moon, and with the way Whittle’s mind seems to work, we needed every minute of it.

While the audience questions were getting organized, moderator Carol Malcolm started things off with a question about when Shadow Moon was the happiest over the three seasons of American Gods. Whittle said that he knew where he wanted Shadow to end up and then had to work backwards so that in Season 1 Shadow was an empty vessel but by Season 3 he’s just decide to let everything go. He takes some time to look out for himself, and by that season Shadow starts to be seen as the most knowledgeable person in the room.

When it comes to what’s next, Whittle said that there would not be a full fourth season but they are working out plans to wrap up the story in maybe a one or two episode thing. “It’s important to me to get it done for the fans, and for Neil [Gaiman], to finish that story, no matter how we do it. … We need an ending.”

If there had been a full Season 4, Whittle said that would have been where you would see Shadow at his happiest because it’s when he’d be fully in control of himself and the story. It’s when Shadow comes into himself as a superhero. Which lead Whittle to comment, “If I had superpowers, I would massively abuse them.”

In one of Whittle’s more introspective moments, he responded to a question about whether being on American Gods led him to adopt any new cultural practices or beliefs. Though he responded initially with a cheeky “absolutely not,” he went on to say that he was raised all over the world because his Dad was in the Royal Air Force, which left him quite open to other cultures. It made him aware that everyone is quite different but that everyone is still the same. American Gods opened him to what different people needed to get through that day. “It showed me that your god is real, my god is real, they co-exist. It doesn’t matter if they’re different. Whatever it takes to get you through your day is what is important. And you should never let anyone else take that away from you.”

He added that he learned how beautiful so many different faiths are and how little they affected his life. “So let them believe what they want. It doesn’t affect me. My world didn’t crumble. Learning about other people is the most important thing we can do because then you stop fearing other people.”

Whittle talked a lot about the wonderful people he worked with, especially on Season 3 saying that it was hilarious, and they are still all bantering around and smacking each other around on Twitter. He said that the favorite changes that they made from the book to the show was that they were able to increase the footprint of people’s characters and dig down to learn more about them. He wasn’t familiar with Gaiman’s work before being cast on American Gods, but the show has opened it all up for him. Now it’s all new to him and amazing.

As wonderful as Shadow Moon is, it was great to have a question or two about Austenland as well, which Whittle agreed was possibly the greatest movie ever made. He said that the movie took about two years to come out because there was so much material. With all the ad-libbing, it would have been a 5-hour movie. Whittle specifically called out co-stars James Callis and Jennifer Coolidge as being so talented that he just watched them and learned from their choices. “When you have that talent just ad-libbing, your scenes get so long and so irrelevant. They’re like one of my questions that I don’t actually answer, I just go on and on.”

He also said that it was next to impossible to not break during filming. “I break like fine china.” Even in American Gods, which is very dark, they still laugh and break during scenes. “Imagine what it’s like in a comedy with comedic geniuses, you can’t keep your sh*t together. I ruined so many takes.”

Whether it’s playing a heavy and dramatic character on screen, or just telling a story on stage at Dragon Con, Whittle is certainly entertaining. We can’t wait to have him back again. He was gracious enough to take a few minutes at the end of the panel to chat with the Daily Dragon.

Daily Dragon (DD): Have you been to Dragon Con before?

Ricky Whittle (RW): I believe this is my second or third time lucky—It’s my third time lucky I’ve just been told from the corner because I have no idea what day it is, nevermind what year or how many times I’ve been here. It’s my first con since the pandemic started.

DD: Thanks for choosing us!

RW: Thank you for asking me to come. I’m glad that it’s half capacity because it’s nice to kind of ease us back in, especially with safety. That’s the paramount. It’s all about safety first. And everyone here is vaccinated, masked, plexiglass, social distancing… we’ve got quite intelligent fans here. You believe in science, and you care about each other. That’s the most important thing, that’s why I want to do comic con. I’d rather be at comic con than a football game or a special event because this is an arena and an event where people care about each other. They have a common purpose and a passion and love for each other and the things they enjoy watching and reading and listening to. It’s great that I got to come back in the safest way possible to just kind of just share that love again and just be with the fans. Because during the quarantine you realize just how important the fans are and how much they push us through as actors. Everything becomes just a job, so for me when you see the fans and you see that passion again, it reinvigorates you. I get as much out of Dragon Con as the fans do. I’m a big fan of Dragon Con. It’s a wonderful show. It’s up there with the best of them

DD: I have one question about Austenland. It’s comfort viewing for me, and I love looking at the expressions of the people in the background. You were talking in your panel about breaking. Is there one thing that was just the funniest thing?

RW: All you’ve got to do is… especially look at the servants. Because they’re just extras who came who just came and were there for the whole time. You can see that they’re just trying not to laugh to just hold it and keep it together.

DD: Were you disappointed that the “It’s Too Hot in Here” dance didn’t make it into the actual film?

RW: No! What I am upset with is Jerusha Hess came up to me before lunch and said So I’m going to need you to learn It’s Hot in Here because we’re going to film you doing the whole thing. So I spent my whole lunch hour learning Nelly’s “It’s Getting Hot in Here” lyrics word for word. In my lunch hour I learned a song so I could perform it for Jerusha Hess so she could do it’s hot in here for the whole song. And then so she decided to change it after I’d learned the whole song that we were just going to do little parts. So what it turned out being was just a really fun time where the crew, the cast were just having fun. You just want to giggle. And I’m glad it made it to the credits at the end.

Author of the article

Max sees to the needs of her kitty overlords; polices the grammar on all kinds of published material including signage, menus, and food packaging; and cuddles with her wife while watching her favorite shows (Our Flag Means Death, Killjoys, Sense8, and Doctor Who among them). She continues to be far too excited to be working for the Daily Dragon.