‘American Gods’ Author Neil Gaiman Wouldn’t Budge on One Key Change
At long last, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods finally made it to the screen with Sunday’s Starz premiere, faithfully representing Shadow Moon, Mr. Wednesday and many others. Sure, there were changes here and there, but as Gaiman himself reveals, there was at least one tweak of the source material he’d step in front of a bus before agreeing to.
Even as Bryan Fuller and Michael Green’s take on the 2001 novel made adjustments of Gaiman’s sprawling tale for the screen, Gaiman himself told The Daily Beast of a few instances in which he asserted his authorship to pull rank. Most notable among them, it seems Fuller and Green had in mind for Shadow (Ricky Whittle) to give in to the advances of Audrey (Betty Gilpin) in the graveyard that housed their spouses, but Gaiman insisted with deadly seriousness they reconsider:
An early draft of the American Gods pilot, for instance, had protagonist Shadow accept a blow job from Audrey (Betty Gilpin), his dead wife Laura’s heartbroken best friend, right on top of her grave site. Gaiman recalls reading the script then phoning Fuller and Green, up in arms, raving that Shadow would never do such a thing.
The showrunners gently pushed back, Gaiman recalls, at which point he went full-diva: ‘If you insist on keeping that in the script,’ he announced, ‘I will leave a note explaining why I am killing myself and stand in front of a bus.’ As evidenced by his sitting here today, Fuller and Green yielded. (They admit now the move would have been a mistake.)
Gaiman only intervened in extreme circumstances (or when certain points diverged from his sequel plans), but the author also noted a number of requirements that weren’t challenged, including the mixed-race identity of Shadow Moon:
Cultural authenticity was another mandate of Gaiman’s, one he flatly says was ‘never negotiable’: ‘We do not change the race of the characters in the book and we do not whitewash,’ he says. ‘I never got any pushback. Everyone was absolutely behind that.’
We’ll see what other book changes emerge as Starz unfurls its first eight episodes (Gaiman also noted significant upgrade in the female characters’ roles), but did the pilot otherwise do American Gods justice?