Warning: contains a minor spoiler for American Gods.
While chatting to Bryan Fuller about plans for Hannibal season three, we couldn’t fail to bring up the forthcoming TV version of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which Fuller is currently adapting for Starz with Heroes’ Michael Green.
The full interview will be on the site next week, but in the meantime, here are a few excerpts from our chat, taking in why the project failed at HBO, plans for the show to extend beyond the world of the novel and into multiple seasons, how the series will approach some of the novel’s stranger moments, and what would make he and Michael Green “the biggest assholes in television”...
On why American Gods [which HBO originally had the option on adapting] proved so tricky for HBO to get right:
I wasn’t part of any of the creative conversations when the property was at HBO. I’ve heard from people who were involved with it that there were differing opinions about what the show should be. It was simul-developed with Game Of Thrones, which is a big sprawling, fantastical world, a heightened reality of sorts, so I think there was probably nervousness about cross-pollinating those worlds and concern about keeping them very distinct from each other. When you are developing something you have to look at it individually. You can’t compare and contrast it to the projects around it, because that way madness lies. You need the project to be what the project needs to be, as opposed to ‘no, it can’t be that, because this other thing is that so we have to find another thing for it to be’. That would be one interpretation of what happened.
On keeping the characters’ races intact:
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.
On what stage the scripts are at:
We’ve broken the first three episodes, Michael Green and I, and we’re having so much fun. It’s such a different muscle to Hannibal. There’s a big, bold, sprawling world that is at our fingertips that is going to be so much fun to explore.
On plans to go beyond the novel on screen:
It’s fun to platform the world and say to Neil [Gaiman], 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.
Is the plan to go beyond a single season then?
On how the show will handle some of the novel’s odder moments:
You have to ground it in the emotional reality of what Shadow, or Wednesday, or Laura is experiencing in that moment. One of the exciting things for us in adapting this is that we get to expand characters, so Bilquis, who is only in a chapter of the book, then you don’t see her again, is a major player in this world. Laura, who is kind of lurking in the background, she’s a major player in this world.
On developing the novel’s women characters for television:
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.
On which image for him sums up the world of the novel:
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’s laid out that sequence is that you’re in the gentleman caller’s point of view for his climax and the reeling of that. I mean, 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 he 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’.
On playing with perspective in the story:
One of the fun things about the television series we’re crafting is that for every moment that takes place, there are alternate points of view of that moment so we will see an episode that is primarily from Shadow’s point of view, and then the next episode will be primarily from Wednesday’s point of view, and then the next episode will be primarily from Laura’s point of view so there’s a fun to point of view when you’re adapting a novel like this, because it gives you the freedom to expand the world and the characters.