The American Gods panel was huge, in that most of the cast was onstage. It was huge, in that every actor had a ton of answers to each question, and it was huge-hearted in that literally the second it was over the cast came out the front of the stage to sign things and dispense hugs to the crowd of fans that gathered at the front.
Really the panel was like a giant warm hug, but I’ll do my best to round up some highlights below!
Moderator Patton Oswalt opened by welcoming Demore Barnes (Mr. Ibis), Omid Abtahi (Salim), Mousa Kraish (The Jinn), Bruce Langley (Technical Boy), a natty Crispin Glover (Mr. World), Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy, who got the biggest pre-Gaiman cheer), Yetide Badake (Bilquis), and Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney), before Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon) entered (by running through the crowd high-fiving people) and finally Neil Gaiman, who then introduced Emily Browning (Laura Moon).
Oswalt began by saying that he didn’t want to spoil anything for Season Two, and asked Neil Gaiman to tell the audience whatever he could.
Gaiman reminded us that Season One ends with Shadow Moon realizing who Wednesday truly is. Then he digressed to apologize for Ian McShane missing the panel, apparently McShane had texted Neil: “they’re zapping kidney stones which I will then be pissing out.”
Patton added, “He also asked me to say “Cocksucker” if that helps?”
Gaiman continued, saying that the new season begins “a few short hours” after the close of the last season. He assured us that the show will reach The House on the Rock “they closed it down and let us film!” but then added that the characters won’t make it to Lakeside, but will pass through Cairo. Also, Laura and Mad Sweeney will go on their own adventure to “hot and exotic” places. Pablo Schreiber (Mad Sweeney) scoffed: “It’s just Whole Foods!”
When Oswalt asked Ricky Whittle (Shadow Moon) and Emily Browning (Laura Moon) about building a relationship after infidelity and resurrection, Whittle pointed out that the vows only said, “Til death do us part” before mentioning Laura Moon’s infidelity again.
Browning: “Will you just—”
Whittle: I WILL NEVER LET IT GO.
Gaiman praised the actors, saying “One of the things that was really inspiring to me was how much all of the cast were invested in their characters. This season’s writers were a whole new set of writers [Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left after Season One] and the cast made sure the integrity of their characters was never compromised.” This was an extremely interesting moment given the drama that must have come from Fuller and Green’s departure. The cast also later cited their director Chris Byrne as a solid through line in maintaining the tone of the show, and Pablo Schreiber made a point of honoring Fuller and Green during an answer.
Patton also asked about how the actors dealt with the mingling of practical effects and CGI, finally standing to look pointedly at Yetide Badaki, who, as the goddess Bilquis, swallows people during sex to feed on their devotion.
“Y’all don’t do that on a Friday afternoon?” she asked, laughing. But she stressed that even in a scene like that she had to stay in touch with her character’s core “These gods are distillations of human belief, human thought. Inasmuch as they’re otherworldly, they’re still human in their needs and wants…we got to so deeply go into these stories, even though we’re sitting there with a trapdoor bed it came down interaction between two people.”
Ricky Whittle demonstrated the joys of CGI by walking us all through “How To Interact With a Giant Imaginary Buffalo”—and nothing I can say will do it justice, so please just imagine it in your own minds.
I’m going to try to explain how the next moment went, and get at the whipsawing emotion that a Comic-Con crowd is capable of. Patton Oswalt turned to Orlando Jones, and all he said was his name, and people screamed with joy. Then Oswalt started his question, saying, “That monologue”—meaning the “Angry Gets Shit Done” monologue—but before Jones could say anything, people across the audience groaned, and screams of YES were scattered throughout. People stomped their feet. Oswalt continued, asking if he had a sense of the monologue’s importance when he first read it. Jones, who had been bantering with Oswalt up to this point, became much more serious:
I thought somebody’d say, “There’s no way in hell he can do this! Send him back to reprogramming!” I didn’t realize the speech would be that prophetic—the difference is that we’ve all heard it before, we just haven’t done anything about it. It’s impossible not to see how Neil’s work 17 years ago becomes so powerful today. A lot of the battle for Mr. Nancy is about what human slavery is today—which is mass incarceration [more screams of YES] and the treatment of women.
Oswalt asked Bruce Langley how he manages to find a sense of humanity in the Technical Boy when the character’s nature is constant change. Langley answered in a way that has become familiar to anyone who has seen other interviews with him, by speaking at a nigh superhuman rate to explain that Tech Boy is incapable of stillness, that he has a very vulnerable soul in there, but that because he has known nothing but worship he has no idea how to deal with even a moment’s doubt or boredom. Gaiman added: “We get to see different incarnations of Tech Boy. The Technical Boy of 1999 is not the Technical Boy of now, and we’ve started playing with it. In Episode 206, set in the 1930s, we meet Telephone Boy…who has recently taken over from Telegraph Boy.
A fan asked how involved Gaiman was with American Gods, versus Good Omens, and Gaiman replied that he was on Good Omens pretty much constantly, which, given his annoying lack of bi-location, meant he wasn’t able to also be in Toronto for Gods. However he did make it to the shooing of The House on the Rock—“I was damned if that was happening without me”—and that he worked closely with the writers on episodes 206 and 207 especially. He also said that since “Good Omens is finite and it is done” he would hopefully “get to spend a lot more time with this bunch of reprobates.”
One of the final questions came from a writer with Geeks of Color, who asked how the cast felt about “showcasing the gods of other cultures.”
Ricky Whittle started them off by mentioning a new non-god member of the cast: “We welcomed the character Sam Black Crow to the cast, she’s a First Nations lesbian, and the actress [Kawennahere Devery Jacobs] is a First Nations lesbian. I’ve learned so much about her culture as I’ve worked with her.”
Orlando Jones added, “It’s an important thing, when you’re looking particularly at women, who often don’t speak on camera, but here you have women with real autonomy. And Anansi was someone—my grandmother and great-grandmother used to read stories to me about Anansi, and I begged Neil for this job on Twitter. I wanted him to have all those colors and flavors, because we [the Black Diaspora] are scattered all over the Americas and the Caribbean.” He gestured toward the writer. “Believing it would touch you—that’s why we made the show.”
Demore Barnes added, “Growing up, when I watched TV, I was often looking for someone who was my voice, and that transcends color, that’s something within all of you who are looking for that. The opportunity to play a god of color, it’s very exciting to take on the role of being a voice for someone out there watching.”
And Yetide Badaki closed by reminding us all, her voice cracking with emotion, “The stories we tell ourselves are incredibly important to how we see ourselves, and how we’ll be in the world. Especially we as women, we need to tell ourselves that we’re powerful.”