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Why It's Okay To Get Excited About The Starz Adaptation Of 'American Gods'

28 April 2016, 11:45 am EDT By Robin Burks Tech Times
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American Gods cast speak on how it reflects US immigration today
Any time a popular book gets translated for television, fans get worried. However, there's no need for concern when it comes to Starz's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's 'American Gods,' and here's why.  ( Harper Collins )

When it comes to adapting novels into movies and TV shows, most fans usually have very genuine concerns: the adaptation is rarely as good as the book, right?

Fans get terrified, though, when it comes to adaptations by beloved authors such as Neil Gaiman. They fear that Hollywood will completely muck things up, because that's what usually happens with work that's not just highly imaginative, but also super intelligent.

Hollywood has a tendency to dumb things down and take out the best parts of novels when adapting for TV or film. That's why fans of Gaiman's American Gods find themselves worried about the upcoming adaptation of that novel into a TV series by Starz.

However, don't fret: because so far, it seems that American Gods is in very good hands. Although it feels foreign to get optimistic about such a huge adaptation, it's completely OK, and here's why.

Neil Gaiman

The main reason fans will want to watch American Gods is that the man who created the story in the first place will write episodes for the series. Not only that, but it seems that Starz plans on keeping Gaiman around the production as much as possible as an executive producer, an effort that shows that the premium cable channel plans on getting everything exactly right.

Gaiman originally brought this story and its characters to life in the novel: who better to help adapt it for television? It's not like Gaiman doesn't have experience in TV, either: he also wrote several episodes of Doctor Who, including the brilliant "The Doctor's Wife." So, not only does Gaiman have a good understanding of the source material because it's his, but he also understands how to write for TV.

This is also important because Starz hopes to bring in some aspects of Anansi Boys, Gaiman's follow-up novel to American Gods.

(Photo : Harper Collins)

Bryan Fuller

Bryan Fuller often gets mentioned as a reason to get excited about everything (including CBS' new Star Trek series), and there's a reason for that. The visionary producer has given us some of the best television of the past decade, including Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me and Hannibal. Putting American Gods in his hands was a good move on Starz's part, and Fuller has stated his commitment to remain faithful to Gaiman's story.

Fuller knows how to take source material and make it work for TV.

"It's definitely adhering to the novel's plot points and characters, but when translating to screen, you've got to take certain liberties," Fuller said to Collider. "And we're beefing up some of the female characters to even out the world a little bit. We're beefing up certain characters just to make it TV series appropriate."

However, Fuller also wants to work closely with Gaiman in getting the series right.

"It will be an expanded version of the book's world, and Neil Gaiman is totally involved," Fuller said. "He's in on the pitch meetings, he reads the outlines, and he's on board. He's giving his blessing to everything that's happening, so it's definitely of his world still. I think fans will appreciate it."

Casting

From the first cast announcement to the most recent, Starz has consistently shown that it's put a lot of thought into the diverse kind of actors it needs to pull off an American Gods series. The 100's Ricky Whittle won the coveted part of Shadow, with Starz referring to his auditions for the role as "remarkable."

However, that was just the beginning: because Starz followed up that casting announcement with another that made fans of the novel squeal in delight: Deadwood's Ian McShane will portray Mr. Wednesday on the series.

"When you write a beloved character (beloved with, or despite, or because of all his faults) like Mr. Wednesday, you get to watch the Internet trying to cast the role. I've seen a hundred names suggested, but few make me grin like Ian McShane does," Gaiman said in an official press statement.

After that, the hits kept on coming: Starz also added Emily Browning, Crispin Glover and Cloris Leachman to the show. These are all actors that are a delight to watch, and it seems that Starz put a lot of time and effort into finding the perfect actors for Gaiman's characters.

Ian McShane in Deadwood (Photo: HBO)

Locations

Sure, American Gods is a novel about the conflict between old and new gods, but at its heart, it's also a novel about the ultimate American road trip through the Midwest. Some of the most legendary roadside attractions of Americana serve as locations, including Rock City, a site familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the U.S. Southeastern states.

There's also the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, which many readers probably considered fictional, but actually exists. Also, Cairo, Ill. is also a very real town in America's Midwest, as is Lebanon, Ks.

The good news is that, although the series' production is in Toronto, Gaiman recently confirmed that several on-location shoots will happen in both Wisconsin and Oklahoma. There's still no word on whether the cast and crew will travel to Georgia to "See Rock City," though, which would thrill fans even more about the adaptation.

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