American Gods: Neil Gaiman Talks Adapting His Work

We talked to Neil Gaiman about what he has learned from the American Gods TV show, the on-screen adaptation of his bestselling book.

It’s been almost two decades since Neil Gaiman penned American Gods, an ambitious novel about belief and immigration in contemporary America. Now, Starz has made into a TV series and, while Gaiman is on board as an executive producer, the British novelist has had to trust other people — namely, showrunner Bryan Fuller and Michael Green — with the source material.

In an interview earlier this month, we talked to Gaiman about why Fuller and Green were the right people for the job.

The thing that drew me initially to Bryan was the fact that he was mad in a good way. He didn’t do things like anybody else on TV. I even loved the things of his that didn’t work — or didn’t work commercially — like his Munsters remake, Mockingbird Lane. I loved that. Because it was Bryan and because it was like, ‘I know what you’re doing here and you’re brilliant.’ 

For Gaiman, Fuller was someone he could trust to bring American Gods to the screen. “It was Bryan who went and found Michael,” said Gaiman. The two had previously met and worked together on Heroes, and had been looking for something to collaborate together on ever since. Green has his own impressive resume, including the creation of NBC prestige drama Kings and, more recently, as co-writer on Logan. The two were more than up for the task, bringing Gaiman’s imaginative, ambitious, and complicated work to modern TV screens in phantasmagoric ways.

Has Gaiman learned anything new about his work through seeing what Fuller and Green have done with it? Gaiman notes that “I think I’ve fallen in love with Laura again, so that is interesting for me.” The role of Laura Moon, Shadow’s undead wife, has been expanded from the book for the TV show, with the character getting her own episode to tell her story halfway through the season. It’s one example of the ways in which Fuller and Green have expanded the roles of women from the novel to the screen.

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In ruminating on what he has learned from the TV show, Gaiman added:

Some of the things that you learn are really small and weird. Like, discovering probably my favorite, most small, weird personal moment is Pablo Schreiber as Mad Sweeney being asked by Ricky Whittle as Shadow how he just did that amazing coin trick and Pablo saying, ‘With panache.’

And it’s perfect. It’s a perfect moment, and I go, ‘I wrote that line 17, 18 years ago and I didn’t think it was terribly funny there, but it was sort of appropriate. And now you guys have just… it’s like you’ve given me back a tiny flower or a little treasure. It’s something that I’ve made and I’m laughing at my own joke and it could not be better.’ 

American Gods is currently airing on Starz. For more information about the show, check out our news hub.