Neil Gaiman Says 'American Gods' Hasn't Changed Since Showrunners Left, Ian McShane Says It's Closer To The Book [TCA 2019]

It's been two years since Starz had a Television Critics Association panel for American Gods. That's because it took two years to make the second season. In that time, original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green left. The new showrunner Jesse Alexander left as well and the only producer on the season 2  panel was original author Neil Gaiman. Despite the problems behind-the-scenes, the TCA panel assured fans that everything was all good for the new season.

Nothing’s Changed in Season 2

Gaiman has been on American Gods since before Fuller and Green. After all, he wrote the book, but he was also directly involved with developing the Starz series. From his point of view, season 2 wasn't much different from season 1 or preproduction."I was on the show before Bryan and Michael came on as showrunners," Gaiman said. "I got to watch that being made, I got to watch them leave, and Jesse come on and take season two. From my perspective, the thing that has been made as season two feels like the same show that we had for season one."Let's be honest: of course Gaiman is going to say good things about the show. However, if he was truly disappointed, he didn't have to show up at all. If they're able to continue the brilliant first season (or at least come close without Fuller and Green), all the backstage drama won't matter."Part of that is because we have amazing actors, part of that is because a lot of the people didn't change," Gaiman continued. "Our second unit director who also directed several episodes, Chris Byrne, who was very much responsible for a lot of the look and feel of season one was still there, and it still looks and feels like American Gods. It's definitely taken awhile to get season two out, but it takes a while to get good things made, and I think we'd all rather have it good than have it quicker, although we'd rather have it quicker too."

One Thing Has Changed, For the Better

Actually, even before Gaiman could weigh in on the showrunner issues, Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday on the show) jumped in to defend season 2. "I think Season 2 is really a great way back to the book, which I thought we got away from in season one," McShane said. "Spectacular some of it was, and subversive and far out there as it was, we think we needed to get back to the line in the book, which is reuniting Shadow with his story, and his relationship with Laura, and Laura's complicated relationship with Sweeney, and the character that you've become invested in needed exploring more. And I think the series two does that. Bring it together in a way and asking provocative questions of where do you go with the rest of the book if there's a season three?"A lot of the draw for season 1 was the way Fuller and Green embellished the novel, giving Laura Moon (Emily Browning) and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber) bigger roles. Even Audrey (Betty Gilpin), the widow of the man with whom Laura was having an affair, got more to do.No one but Fuller and Green could probably continue those paths though. If American Gods has to be streamlined, following Gaiman's book isn't a bad path.

There Will Be New Characters

If you've read ahead in American Gods, there are some characters you probably can't wait to see on the show. And then you may meet some who aren't even in the book."We do have a number of new characters turning up in Season 2, some of whom are in the book, and some of whom aren't," Gaiman said. "One of the coolest of whom is New Media, because the peculiar thing about the book for me as the author is that, while the old gods in the book still feel timeless and timely, the new gods of 20 years ago already feel faintly dated."Gaiman is referring to the god Media, played by Gillian Anderson in the first season. Anderson is not returning, so that gave Gaiman the opportunity to turn Media into New Media, to reflect the media of the last 20 years. This allows Gaiman to update his own book without having to publish a new version."New Media wasn't a thing when I wrote the novel, and now is an enormous thing, and it's gloriously played by Kahyun Kim," Gaiman said. "And we get to meet a younger incarnation, a previous incarnation, of the Technical Boy in the shape of the Telephone Boy, who has recently replaced the Telegraph Boy. These New Gods date and age out really quickly."

Mr. Wednesday and Mad Sweeney Go Back in Time

Season 2 will also include flashbacks for Mr. Wednesday and Mad Sweeney, but the veracity of those stories may be up for interpretation."Mr. Wednesday tells a story that may even be true, you never really know with Wednesday's stories, about running a burlesque house in the 1930s, and the death of Thor," Gaiman said. "Episode 7 of season two is the last, what is it, six thousand years of Mad Sweeney. You know, it's not easy being the tallest leprechaun in Ireland, and various other things. You get to find who he is."Just like New Media, Mad Sweeney's backstory is an extension of Gaiman's book. He considered writing it, but now it will live on in the series."When I wrote the book I had this huge Mad Sweeney backstory that I actually never got to tell," Gaiman said. "So I got to tell it to [writer Heather Bellson] and they got to take the stuff that I gave them and then build something big and beautiful and completely mad with it."Whether it's stuff that may have come from the book, or new stuff he's thought of since publishing, it's still more Gaiman and more Gaiman is a good thing.American Gods returns March 10 on Starz.