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‘American Gods’: Neil Gaiman and Bryan Fuller on Whether You Need to Read the Book Before the Starz Show

Comic-Con attendees got their first look at the upcoming Starz adaptation of Neil Gaiman's novel.

American Gods

American Gods

American Gods

What do you worship? That’s the question “American Gods” will be asking in 2017.

There aren’t many authors who have the kind of fandom that Neil Gaiman has, and “American Gods,” his novel about old-world deities trying to find purpose in the modern age, is a big part of that. That’s why expectations were already high when Starz and FremantleMedia announced that the book’s story would be adapted for television. Fans got more excited when it was later announced that “Hannibal” creator Bryan Fuller (who’s also behind CBS All Access’ upcoming new “Star Trek” series) would showrun with Michael Green.

READ MORE: Gillian Anderson Joins Cast of Starz’s ‘American Gods’

During a packed panel presentation at San Diego Comic-Con, Gaiman shared that “American Gods” had a special connection to the convention: He wrote the first chapter of the novel on a train to San Diego in 1999. And the trailer screened for fans, posted below, teased plenty of magic and otherworldly events.

One of the major questions about the show (in this age of “Game of Thrones”) was whether viewers need to read the book before watching the show. While the answer was technically “no,” there were nuances to it. For one thing, Green said that “You should! It’s wonderful.”

And Fuller remarked that with the “Harry Potter” series, he’d see the movies first and then read the books “because the world became so much bigger.”

While the producers said that having read the book would give you a leg up on what’s set to happen, the show has been built to surprise both book readers and casual viewers. The adaptation process, in Fuller’s words, “becomes fan fiction in a wonderful way,” as he and Green bring their love of Gaiman’s world to the screen.

READ MORE: ‘Hannibal’ Creator Bryan Fuller to Serve as Showrunner for Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’

Gaiman has become less involved with the adaptation as it found its own voice, but Green and Fuller said that they’d love for him to contribute a potential Season 2 story about a 1940s Japanese internment camp, which Gaiman originally wrote for the novel.

Fuller and Green were given plenty of freedom in adapting the story, with an exception. Gaiman’s one stipulation with the adaptation was that the novel’s diverse cast of characters remain true to their designated ethnicities — specifically to avoid any instances of whitewashing.

It was a request that earned a lot of applause from the audience, but even more applause followed when Green said that “We shouldn’t get credit for that. That should be the baseline assumption for adaptations.”

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