Starz and FremantleMedia North America (FMNA) announced today that Ricky Whittle (“The 100,” “Austenland”) has been cast as Shadow Moon in the upcoming adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed contemporary fantasy novel, “American Gods.” The series will begin shooting in April.
Neil Gaiman said, “I’m thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow. His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun.American Gods is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I’m delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts.”
Commented Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, “We searched every continent and country and all the islands in between for our Shadow Moon, and we are lucky to have found Ricky. Fans of the novel will find he has every bit of the heart of the character they fell in love with.”
A native of Oldham, Greater Manchester England, Whittle’s credits include “The 100,” “Austenland,” “Hollyoaks,” “Mistresses,” “NCIS” and “Holby City.” Whittle is the son of former Royal Air Force serviceman Harry Whittle and grew up travelling around the world. A keen sportsman, Whittle represented England and the United Kingdom at youth level in football and rugby.
The race of the novel’s main character, Shadow, is one that’s been the source of debate since the novel was published in 2001. Neil Gaiman previously addressed the matter, saying, “In my head, at least he’s one of those people whose race doesn’t read easily – in the celebrity world, Vin Diesel’s an example of the same kind of look. But it seemed appropriate in a book about America that the hero was of mixed race.”
It’s been argued that, given evidence in the novel, Shadow’s mother is African American. But Gaimain has remained seemingly intentionally vague on the subject.
Four years ago, while on tour promoting the 10th anniversary edition of “American Gods,” speaking to Collider.com, he addressed the problems faced with bringing his works to the screen, stating: “One of the things I’m concerned about is that I really want to make sure the races of all the characters are kept… I want to keep the racial mix in ‘American Gods’ the same. And, I want to make it faithful, but also would like it to have a few surprises for people who read the book.”
Also, Mr. Nancy – Anansi, a trickster from African folklore – is a character that both “American Gods” and the subsequent “Anansi Boys” share. Gaiman once said that Morgan Freeman would be his choice to play that character – another casting announcement to watch.
“American Gods” been translated into over 30 languages and earned numerous accolades including Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker Awards for Best Novel. The plot posits a war brewing between old and new gods: the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world steadily losing believers to an upstart pantheon of gods reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs. Its protagonist, Shadow Moon, is an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to Mr. Wednesday, a conman but in reality one of the older gods, on a cross-country mission to gather his forces in preparation to battle the new deities.
“American Gods” is produced by FremantleMedia North America. Bryan Fuller (“Hannibal,” “Pushing Daisies,” “Heroes”) and Michael Green (“The River,” “Kings,” “Heroes”) are writers and showrunners. David Slade (“Hannibal,” “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse”) is directing the pilot and additional episodes. FMNA’s Craig Cegielski and Stefanie Berk are executive producing the series along with Fuller, Green, Slade and Neil Gaiman. Senior Vice President of Original Programming Ken Segna is the Starz executive in charge of “American Gods.”