Fantasy Casting Neil Gaiman’s American Gods

joblo.com_The day of our rejoicing has arrived! After years of speculation, Starz, the television home of Outlander, announced it has greenlit an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved fantasy novel American Gods. There aren’t too many details yet, except that the showrunners will be Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Heroes). In response to the news, Gaiman stated, “The team that is going to bring the world of American Gods to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I’m relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands. Now we finally move to the exciting business that fans have been doing for the last dozen years: casting our Shadow, our Wednesday, our Laura …”

You know your fans well, Mr. Gaiman! Coincidentally, we do happen to have some casting ideas to share. Here is how we think the primary players would shake out in a perfect world. (No spoilers, but really, if you haven’t read the book yet, get thee to a Barnes & Noble, stat.)

Shadow: Jason Momoa
Let’s start with what is sure to be the most difficult casting of all: Shadow Moon. But no worries: this one’s already solved! We already have an eminently suitable volunteer who has stated in the past that he wants the role: Jason Momoa. He checks all the boxes: Shadow is supposed to be in his thirties. Got it! Comfortable with the strong and silent thing (as if there could be a more perfect audition for that than Khal Drogo). He needs to look like he could take almost anybody on (he’s getting hired as a bodyguard after all—and there is no small amount of threatened violence in the book). Check and check! Plus, he’s clearly enthusiastic about the role, and you need someone dedicated to step into a character with this many expectations attached. Moreover, it isn’t his first rodeo with fandom, so he knows what he’s getting into.

And besides: the big reveal of the character’s true identity… Well, if you could look at anyone and go, “Oh. Yeah. That makes sense,” it’s probably Jason Momoa.

Mr. Wednesday: Edward James Olmos
I’ve seen the names Brian Cox, Rip Torn, Anthony Hopkins, and Ian McShane bandied about for this role, and I get the logic behind all of them—especially given late-in-the-book revelations about who Mr. Wednesday really is, casting any of these guys would be a form of foreshadowing. They could all pull off the look, too: scraggly hair, stubbly beard, rumply suit, the impression of power, and a hint of debauchery. But no one could embody all those qualities better than Edward James Olmos. He’s got the same energy as the others, and can definitely command a room (or a Battlestar). But what puts him over the top is his warm, disarming charm, not to mention the fact that we already loved him as Daddy Adama will make the gut punch the character is sending our way all the more effective.

First Alternate: The aforementioned McShane is a very close second choice. Deadwood proved that if there’s anyone who can walk a razor edge of power and charm, it’s him.

The Technical Boy: Jonah Hill
I’ve never seen geeks fight so little about the ideal casting choice for a role. Sure, there are probably other actors who could pull this off (had this been made a few years ago, Seth Rogan would have been the natural selection; if we traveled back in time, maybe Wayne Knight in his dinosaur-embryo-stealing days). But I think there’s a reason there’s such a strong consensus: Jonah Hill viscerally gets across what we’re looking for here: the Technical Boy is supposed to embody the dark belly of the internet—sloth, greed, and lust. He’s supposed to be deeply untidy and vaguely gross, but he still has to project the vibe that he could fix your computer. Jonah Hill, veteran of both bro-tastic comedy movies and a role as a stats genius in Moneyball, often ends up playing characters that are placeholders for these exact traits. All he’ll need is the right costume.

Laura: Eva Green
Eva Green is the best choice for Shadow’s ill-fated wife. One: she’s got the look. Two: she’s very comfortable in genre pieces and has played a wide variety of dark, vamping characters who show strength in the face of (and in spite of!) death all around them. But honestly, despite the fact that she can play a strong woman with the best of them, she’s at her best when she’s showing the vulnerability she usually keeps in check, when you see the hurt she’s overcoming (remember that shower scene in Casino Royale?) I’d also love to see her play a lighter role, which I think she could do and still make sense as a match for Shadow. She would set just the right tone for Laura’s story.

Low Key Lyesmith: Aiden Gillen
I was torn on this one, but ultimately had to go with Aiden Gillen. Low Key Lyesmith is Shadow Moon’s cellmate from jail, described as having a “scarred smile,” close cropped hair, sharp edges, someone who you’d definitely immediately suspect of being capable of violence and mischief. We find out later that these character traits are…even more innate than you might think. We need a someone slippery—someone we can never quite get a handle on, even when we think we’ve got his number. Someone who could pull a knife or a smile on you at any time. Aiden Gillen has one of the best paranoia-inducing Mona Lisa smiles I’ve ever seen. See why casting the brilliant actor who brings Petyr Baelish to life makes sense?

First Alternate: Tom Hiddleston. I mean—for obvious reasons. But my worry is, his casting in a certain previous role would be too big of a tipoff for the non book-reading audience. Sorry, Tom! You’re just too perfect. (I bet you get that a lot.)

Easter: Christina Hendricks
This is a smaller, recurring role—the sort that requires casting that will trigger an immediate reaction. There are few people who get more of an immediate reaction than Christina Hendricks. And it’s mostly the sort of reaction you’d want for this character: Easter is meant to be a voluptuous beauty who symbolizes the season that she represents (the pagan version, less with the bunnies). She’s also got some kick-butt moments, and as the Firefly fans among us know, Hendricks can more than handle that.

Hinzelmann: Brendan Gleeson
He’s supposed to be an older man, a sort of caretaker for a small town, ostensibly fairly harmless and above board, except that he seems ever so slightly…off. I think that Brendan Gleeson would make a great Hinzelmann. He has the ability to fade into the background, and seem innocuous and trustworthy if he wants to. But when the time comes to step up, he’s also got the charisma to hold his own with Shadow. He’d make a potentially menacing choice—one of those menaces you never see coming!

Mad Sweeney: David Tennant
And here we have our contribution from the mythology of the Irish: Mad Sweeney is a character who self-identifies as a leprechaun. He’s got a red beard, he’s dressed badly, he has a temper and an Irish accent that has faded due to his long-ago immigration to the United States. I think that David Tennant could bring some manic and/or intense energy to the role (as needed). He can bring it with the crazy eyes like nobody’s business, helping to up the freaky, supernatural vibe. Plus, I think everyone would be so delighted to see him that he’d make this important, if supporting, character a really memorable one.

First Alternate: Colin Farrell. After the glorious In Bruges, I’ve got faith in him to hit a good line reading, and I think he can definitely embody the aggressive part of the role, no problem!

Now, we just need to wait to see if fate, and the showrunners, agree with us. We shouldn’t have too long to wait—rumor suggests the cast may be introduced in less than a month, during San Diego Comic-Con.

Help us fill out the rest of the cast in the comments!

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