Questioning the Gods

Photo by Natasha Koetsch
Photo by Natasha Koetsch

Attendees of the Friday morning American Gods panel had the opportunity to ask questions of actors Bruce Langley—Technical Boy, Demore Barnes—Mr. Ibis, and Ricky Whittle—Shadow Moon. Moderator Marc Lee introduced the actors who took the stage to raucous applause. After storming the stage, Whittle took part in some gentle ribbing of his fellow cast members and their first appearance at Dragon Con.

As Lee tried to start the questions with Barnes, Whittle immediately sent the panel careening by convincing Barnes to give a little demonstration of his character’s uniquely silken speaking voice. Whittle wrapped up his self-admitted fangirling, and Lee pulled Langley into the conversation by questioning who might win in a battle between the New World and the Old World gods. Langley admitted he didn’t think it would be much of a fight because Barnes’ character doesn’t tend to get involved in conflicts but ended by suggesting that in the next season “we might get to see.” Whittle joked that, in a fight between Shadow and Mr. Wednesday, he would “take that man down.” The panel then went into a brief exaltation, and a fair amount of teasing, of Ian McShane, the actor who plays the aforementioned Mr. Wednesday. According to Whittle, McShane is a practical joker on set.

The floor was then opened to the audience to ask questions. The first inquiry to the entire panel involved their past beliefs and if there were any gods or myths they found impactful, including character traits or stories that made a difference to them. Beginning with Langley, he drew on classical theater and how gods are portrayed saying they are “mostly dicks.” Expanding further, he explained the gods tend to be avatars for negative human emotions. He revealed his favorite is the Greek pantheon and that he feels the stories are fantastic and you can get much from them but not from the gods themselves.

Barnes jokingly revealed that, no, there were no gods he found impactful, but as a kid growing up he loved The Incredible Hulk. This led Whittle to needle Langley about his morning training session where Langley and Lou Ferrigno were working out at the same time. According to Whittle, Ferrigno asked Langley to use the weights and Langley refused. Finally, the question came to Whittle, who began by saying the gods on the panel with him “are pretty awesome,” then devolved into a hilarious diatribe about Pamela Anderson on Baywatch, slow motion running, learning about being a young man, and hair flips and how to stop women from using that power against him. He finished by saying we should be more accepting of who and how other people worship, saying whatever we cling to and believe in to get through the day should be respected. He argued that there is beauty in other cultures and gods and we should accept everyone as they are and focus on our own game.

A shout out from the crowd took Whittle down a deep rabbit hole about football and how Americans need help with naming things. Football, he said, is a sport that is played using feet and a spherical ball while American football is played using hands and an “egg.” He suggested a few different names like “hand egg” or “throw egg” before the discussion devolved further.

Lee brought the discussion back to American Gods with the next question. Whittle left the stage to meet the questioner, who admitted her query was actually for Langley, asking how the young actor feels about his character being bigger than was written in the novel. Langley answered by saying it speaks to how technology has become such a part of our everyday lives and how often the character pops up in the show is indicative of how much we interact with tech in our lives.

The next question was for the show in general, with the audience member asking if there had been any pushback from any religious groups. Langley said there was not much that they have been made aware of. He went on to say he felt it was because the show approaches the subject from such a position of respect and reverence. Barnes went on to say they keep the story broad and the overarching sentiment is they are representative of every perspective. There’s not a specific stance but an invitation to everyone to begin a much-needed dialogue.

When asked if the actors read for any part other than the characters they are currently playing, Langley mentioned he read for the only part that looked like a 16-year-old schoolgirl. Barnes admitted he read for Shadow, Mr. Ibis, and Anubis. After a little more joking, Whittle said he only read for Shadow, having learned about the role from his fans while at San Diego Comic-Con for another show he was on at the time.

After mentioning how amazing the cinematography is on the show, the next audience member and asked if the panelists had a favorite scene. Langley chose the first scene he shot, which happens to also be the first seen we see him in. Technical Boy and Shadow are in a limo and the scene starts with the camera starting right next to Langley’s eye. As the camera panned out, the film crew had to move the set to make the limo appear extremely long. All the while, Whittle was sitting on a small box about 10 feet away to act as a focal point. Barnes’ favorite was the introduction to the mortuary, admitting the set is one of the coolest he has seen. Whittle has many but chose the scene in the hotel when Shadow’s wife, Laura Moon, comes back to life. He explained that the actress, Emily Browning, wears a full body cast in the scene so she looks naked to us while feeling fully dressed herself. He revealed they had to build a runway for the diminutive Browning to be able to walk up to him and kiss him without his needing to bend over for her to reach him as that would have ruined the feel of the scene.

History of the gods through the centuries was the next subject. The questioner was interested to learn if the panelists had any gods they were interested in before they joined the show. Barnes said he found his character, Mr. Ibis, interesting as he is considered the oldest of the gods and the keeper of secrets. He mentioned he found it fascinating to think about what Ibis knows compared to what you think he should know, throwing into question what it means to be omniscient. Langley said it was interesting to think about what his god, technology, was like before and how much it has changed over time. Whittle said his interest was piqued by the First Nation gods.

A fascinating question was asked next about the upcoming season: what new gods might be coming, as well as what new gods the panelists would like to see. Whittle said he would find it interesting to see a god of beauty based on how obsessed we tend to be with appearance. He lamented that we can’t even take pictures of ourselves without using filters to make us look a certain way because we’re so afraid to put our true selves out there. He feels we’re all built differently for a reason and everyone is beautiful in their own special way. When Lee suggested Whittle could be the god of beauty and asked if he would accept, he declined, saying he would want to be the god of chocolate because he would rule the world.

Langley mentioned he would like to see a representation of a god of a culture fear as he feels we have been growing towards that over the past couple of years. This would be a representation of an entire nation’s insecurities and how scapegoats are targeted at such a subliminal level that we don’t realize they are being singled out. He finished by saying if we could identify that, we could then do something about it.

Barnes suggested he would like to see a god of trauma, going on to assert that our experiences profoundly affect our lives and our view of ourselves and others and influence how we go forward. He said that the effect, along with time, could help heal traumas of those experiences and eventually allow people to live their best lives the way they dream of.

Asked if they had any favorite scenes after watching the finished show, the entire panel agreed Orlando Jones as Anansi was an amazing performance. They revealed there will be a lot more of Anansi in the next season. Bilquis was a close second with her first scene. Barnes said there are so many times he has to remind himself who he is playing in a scene because he’s watching everyone else. This reminded Whittle of a scene with a cat in which Barnes was distracted by the cat’s performance, missing his own lines.

For the final question, the panelists were asked to reveal their most awkward scene to film. Barnes mentioned the scenes with Laura Moon naked on the autopsy table. Whittle countered with the sex scenes with Laura. Langley said none were awkward but the interrogation scene with Crispin Glover, who plays Mr. World, was interesting. The part when Glover slams his head into the metal table was not originally in the scene. It caused a red mark on his face, and makeup had to cover it up. To reshoot the scene, they had to bring in a foam table. Whittle recalled that Glover checked with Langley after they shot the scene to make sure he was okay and Langley shrugged it all off.

American Gods will return in early 2019 on Starz.

Author of the article

Colleen Callahan is a freelance content writer and social media consultant specializing in food and beverage, writing blog posts, newsletters, and managing social media accounts. She recently sold her house and most of her possessions and moved into an RV with her two doggos. They live the full-time nomad life, traveling the US and chasing 70 degrees. Starting with A Wrinkle In Time and never looking back, Colleen is a huge fan of science fiction, fantasy, and the supernatural. Favorite time burners are anything by Joss Whedon, the entire Outlander universe, the occasional Neil Gaiman rant, and as many geeky TV shows as she can lay her eyes on. Recently, Colleen has decided to go back to her first love - writing. Since the third grade, creating neighborhood newsletters with a typewriter and copying them with a mimeograph machine (remember those?), the writing flame has been kept alive through short stints in industry magazines, copywriting for marketing projects, and writing on her blog, Volunteering for the Daily Dragon was the first stepping stone in a journey towards her Destiny. Colleen can also be seen on her YouTube channel, Sunrise 2 Sunset RV.