It’s pretty common for Hollywood to whitewash characters from books when their races are not explicitly stated in very exacting language. American Gods’ leading man is one of those characters—Shadow’s parentage is half-white in the form of Norse god Odin, and though it seems clear in the narrative that his mother is not white, she is never said to be black or any other ethnicity in particular.
Which is why it was so relieving to hear Byran Fuller—showrunner for the upcoming American Gods television series—assure fans that he has no intention of whitewashing the character.
Here are Fuller’s own words regarding the casting from his interview with Den of Geek:
“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.”
There were a lot of interesting tidbits in the interview, giving a window into the direction Starz is going with the adaptation. It would seem that different episodes will be set in different character’s points of view, the world’s scope expanded so that the audience sees the novel’s more minor players in a major light:
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.
This means that Fuller is intending to expand the story’s varied female perspective as well, to make certain that the show doesn’t come off as one more dudebro roadtrip narrative:
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.
There more in the interview, including word on that scene with Bilquis from the beginning of the novel. (Yup, that scene. Apparently, the whole thing is going in.) In terms of production, Fuller also reveals that they’ve blocked out around three episodes in to the season so far, so it sounds like the show is moving ahead instead of lingering in limbo as it did with HBO. Check out Fuller’s interview for more!