ECCC 2018: The American Gods Panel With Yetide Badaki & Ricky Whittle

by Hannah Means Shannon

At the American Gods Panel at Emerald City Comic Con 2018, Yetide Badaki and Ricky Whittle made some noise to get things rolling. They said they were appreciating a sunny day in Seattle. Maybe Shadow Moon changed the weather, Whittle joked.

Asked if they were familiar with the source material when they auditioned for the show, Badaki said she has always been a huge Neil Gaiman fan, and read the book in 2001. Asked how she approached her “sexual” audition scene, Badaki said it was very “still” and “quiet” and focused in on the idea of a Queen who had “lost all her power”.

Whittle said, to applause, that they’ll be shooting Season Two shortly, and he’ll be obliged to bulk back up and gain some weight. He complained he won’t be able to wear his clothes again now.

Whittle was apparently “crowdsourced” into this “situation” to play the role of Shadow Moon. Whittle while talking stripped his shirt off, since he had ripped it, to even more applause. He recounted that he was at San Diego Comic Con for The 100 and some fans suggested that he audition for American Gods. He didn’t know the book, but read a synopsis and the timing looked good for his schedule, so he auditioned. It took five months to audition, and he had to create many tapes to convince them. It was the most intense audition period he’s ever had. Neil Gaiman later revealed they watched 600 tapes for the role of Shadow, so now he doesn’t feel so bad. But Whittle learned that there were 600 good ones, and 1200 tapes in total.

There’s a lot of love and support among the team members that they’re going to be bringing to Season Two, Whittle said. Talking about the early days of developing the character of Shadow Moon, Whittle said he’s a little OCD about the role. Initially, he was playing Shadow a little too much like the books. Neil Gaiman’s character doesn’t really react when a dead Laura turns up in his hotel room, but Whittle worked with the show runners to bring some more realism to those reactions. They worked to make the character “pop” a bit more since Shadow Moon is a “universal punch bag”. He’s a “leaf in the stream getting buffeted along”, Whittle commented. They brought in more anger and frustration for Shadow. They wanted Shadow to feel “real” in this world of “spectacular things”.

Asked about her geek girl status, Badaki said she had just done a Back to the Future photo op with Christopher Lloyd and he probably thought she was crazy she was geeking out so hard.

Asked about the House on the Rock stuff that must be coming up in the show, Badaki said she loves the fact that it’s a real place. The reality of the place had to be toned down in the book because people just wouldn’t believe it, Gaiman has told Badaki.

Whittle is looking forward to Lakeside, personally. He’s looking forward to seeing more characters coming up like Sam Crow and Whisky Jack. Bilquis isn’t as much in the book as she is in the show, and this continues to be true—the show can use characters more and build on their dynamics as they develop.

Asked if there will developments “past the literature” expanding the story since the original story is only one book, Whittle said they don’t need to since they haven’t used much of the book yet, but he still hopes they will and sees that they already have. It’s a way of using the great cast to best effect, he said.

Asked if they have favorite mythological characters, Badaki said that she, too, used to nerd out about mythology as a young person in Nigeria. Hearing the stories of Anansi, Mr. Nancy in the show, was part of her experience. She’s now geeking out about the fact that she’s going to have an action figure, too. As is Whittle.

Whittle spoke about how helpful the show is in educating the world about different cultures and their gods and mythologies. Fans agreed that representation does matter, too, and that’s a big impact the show is making.

Asked how they handle when they get too close to personal feelings or reactions when playing a character, Badaki said it happens a lot. She appreciates having incredible people on the team around her that help pull her out of hard moments. Those “anchors” pull you back to yourself, out of that moment, she explained. Whittle said that he likes to go “balls out” after scenes and doesn’t limit himself. He can always reign things back in, so he prefers to go more “raw and real” when he can. Going into the unknown appeals to him, though for each person it’s different.

Asked about the move in the show to add more depth to characters in the new season, and what they’d like to see more of for their roles, Badaki said that knowing they can go as far as they want because of the “safety net” of a great team is key. She’s looking forward to explore Bilquis a lot more. Whittle said that working with Ian McShane is fabulous, and now that they know each other better, he’s ready to go to the next level in pulling pranks on him. Shadow’s going to be meeting new characters, like Anubis, Mr. Ibis, and the Jackal. Whittle is looking forward to all those developments.

Badaki said that she’s been on a “solo” journey in Season One, and she’s looking forward to more interaction with the people she’s met off set in the future, too.

Asked about their favorite episodes, Badaki said that getting to tell the Bilquis backstory with different costumes, hair, and makeup was awesome for her.

American Gods will return to Starz in 2019.