When Neil Gaiman published the award-winning novel American Gods in 2001 it was hardly controversial. But in the wake of a tense U.S. presidential election in which race became a heated topic of discussion — and an attempt to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. failed — the same cannot be said.
The expansive novel, which has been adapted into a beautiful TV series that will debut Sunday, April 30 on Starz, is inherently an immigrant's tale told through the lens of a brewing war, with the old gods of biblical and mythological roots, like the Norse god Odin or the African trickster Anansi, on one side, and the new gods of the current age, including media and technology, on the other.
Today the coming-to-America theme and the fight for cultural identity that lies at the heart of the story has become increasingly — and maybe accidentally — relevant. Gaiman hopes that the new Starz series, adapted by Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan), will at least get people talking.
"When I wrote the book nothing that I put in seemed in any way contentious," Gaiman tells TVGuide.com in the video above. "It just seemed like, yes, obviously you're going to do these coming to America stories in which people come to live here because everybody came from somewhere, they brought their gods with them. They abandoned their gods, that's our story. Now the landscape has changed and these things are contentious. They are controversial. So I hope people start talking. That's what I want most of all."
Fuller and Green's adaptation is true to the novel, both in terms of how methodically it reveals an intricate and far-reaching story as well as the number of coming-to-America stories depicted across a number of faiths and belief systems. Fuller hopes the eight-episode first season will allow people to speak more compassionately about immigration stories as opposed to vilifying immigrants.
"If there's one thing this show can do at this point in time, [it's] start that conversation," he says.
"One of the beautiful things about this show, is that it's a very, very personal experience, someone's relationship to faith. In essence this show is a show about immigrants and what it means to be a human being through the lens of what it means to be an American," adds Bruce Langley, who plays Technical Boy, one of the new gods. "And with that in mind, people are going to take away very, very different things for very, very different reasons, which is wonderful."
American Gods premieres Sunday at 9/8c on Starz.