It's been nearly two years since Starz's striking adaptation of Neil Gaiman's beloved novel American Gods first premiered. In the time since we last saw Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) and Wednesday (Ian McShane), there have been multiple showrunner changes (Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were out, Jesse Alexander was in... before he was also out) and some cast turnover (Gillian Anderson won't return because she was only signed for Season 1; Kristin Chenoweth isn't returning without Fuller), but now the series is set to return Sunday, March 10.
The trailer for Season 2 reveals that the war between the Old Gods and New Gods for which Wednesday has been recruiting is reaching a big turning point. Picking up at the iconic House on the Rock, the new season promises some exciting new adventures that will take fans all the way to Cairo, Illinois. To preview what else is coming down the pike, Gaiman, who serves as an executive producer on the series, and cast members Whittle, McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki and Orlando Jones appeared at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Tuesday to discuss the new season. Here's what we learned about what's coming in Season 2.
Season 2 is a return to the novel in many ways. "Season 2 is really a great way back to the book, which I felt we got away from in Season 1, spectacular as it was," said McShane. "We needed to get back to the line in the book, which is reuniting Shadow with his story and his relationship with Laura and Laura's complicated relationship with Sweeney. ... But it's kind of fascinating because Gaiman wrote a great blueprint for a TV series that can go anywhere it wants as long as it remains true to the roots of belief, faith."
But the show is still the same show too. "The thing that has been made as Season 2 feels like the same show that we had for Season 1," said Gaiman. "Part of that is because we have amazing actors, part of that is because a lot of the people [behind the scenes] didn't change. ... It's still looks and feels like American Gods."
Shadow is no longer just reacting to what's going on around him. "I would say the theme of the first season, thematically, tended to be weird sh-- happened and Shadow goes, 'What the f--- is going on?' Season 2, Shadow's kind of figuring out what's going on and weird sh-- is still happening but now he is actually learning what's going on," said Gaiman of our hero's arc this season.
Mad Sweeney and Laura are still off on their own little buddy comedy. Some of the best parts of Season 1 were the interactions between Mad Sweeney and Laura, and Gaiman promises that their story is going to go in even weirder directions in Season 2 as they head off to New Orleans in search of immortality in Season 2. Schreiber also said that it's more of the same for the two characters. "The joy, I think, of the character for me in Season 1 was how he interacted with [Laura], so there's a lot more of that [this season] ... two assholes ripping each other new ones constantly, so that's kind of the joy of it, two of them most hideous people you've ever known ripping each other apart."
Laura is on a new path this season. "She kind of wasted her time with [Shadow] when she was alive. A lot of [Season 1] was her fighting her way back to him and Season 1 ends with the two of them finally coming face to face again," Browning said. "Season 2 begins about 30 minutes after Season 1 ended, so Laura finally has Shadow there in front of her. And as was probably to be expected of Laura, maybe now that she has what she wants, she's not entirely sure what she wants. ... He's not her Puppy anymore, but there's an evolution for her and her arc in this season was kind of finding a new thing to focus on outside of Shadow. ... It's about her finding some new things to fight for."
Mad Sweeney's backstory is coming. Episode 7 of Season 2 will dive into the last 6,000 years of Mad Sweeney's life. "You get to find who he is," said Gaiman. "And that was wonderful for me just to get involved with... I talked to [the writers and Pablo] about the fact that when I wrote the book I had this huge Mad Sweeney backstory that I never actually go to tell. I got to tell it to them and they got to take the stuff that I gave them and build something big and beautiful and completely mad with it. ... Again, it's not in the book, but it was actually — I think people who love the book will enjoy it and people who will never read the book are going to love it too."
"It advances a bunch of the plot of the season, but we do go very far back in his history. We'll learn a ton about him in that episode," added Schreiber.
Bilquis and Nancy are going to be spending a lot more time together. "For [Nancy], his worshippers in modern day America are dying and he is looking for a way to keep them alive because that is what empowers and serves Nancy," said Jones. "In that sense, the war is important to Nancy, but as we ended Season 1, his one piece of advice to Mr. Wednesday is to get himself a queen, to me that also means specifically Bilquis because that is exactly the queen he was referencing at the end of the [season] and how she plays into this, to him, is that he cannot have a war without a queen. And that aspect of Nancy makes him very focused on understanding Bilquis, getting Bilquis over to our side and also satisfying his own interests, which I believe are also romantic as it relates to Bilquis."
We're going to flash back to Wednesday's past. "Mr. Wednesday tells a story that may be true, you never really know with Wednesday's stories, about running a burlesque house in the 1930s and the death of Thor," said Gaiman. "And we get to meet a younger incarnation of the Technical Boy in the shape of the Telephone Boy."
Easter won't appear, and could be recast later. Kristin Chenoweth has announced she won't be returning to the show, but her character Easter does play a larger role in the book later on. But it sounds like it's a bridge the producers will cross when they come to it, as there was never any plan to include Easter in Season 2. "We are going to need Easter again. Whether or not we get Kristin or somebody else remains to be seen," said Gaiman. "We don't need her right now. She's not in Season 2... She doesn't actually show up until three-quarters of the way through the book and we yanked her earlier in Season 1."
American Gods Season 2 premieres Sunday, March 10 at 8/7c on Starz.