Bryan Fuller talks AMERICAN GODS; how it tackles religion and creating a shared universe

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Every single time I switch on my Kindle, there’s an unread book there that glares at me accusingly for not having read it yet despite owning it for ages. But don’t worry Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, I will read you one day. And hopefully that day is before the planned TV series adaptation of Gaiman’s beloved fantasy epic actually arrives in 2017. Now if you’ve read American Gods… well, then you’re a better geek than I am… but if you’ve read it then you know that the basic premise of the tale is that gods only exist because people believe them into existence, and so in modern America, old gods have faded away as people stopped thinking about them while new ones get created by reflecting more modern values while also being brought over by immigrants.

That’s already not the easiest thing to adapt, considering how touchy the subject of godhood can be, but the man behind that adaptation, Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies), revealed to CraveOnline that they’re actually making it a bit harder on themselves. Because while the book delves into religion, as you would imagine given the context matter, it mainly sticks to the religious fringes and doesn’t tackle real world organized religion. That’s something that the show will actually be doing differently.

“Oh yeah, we get into Jesus and the big God as well. You know, so much of the book is exploring the more marginalized gods who are struggling to make their way in modern America without the strength of the believers that, say, Jesus and Buddha and Easter might have because of their public personas. So it wasn’t necessarily a part of the novel but ideally what our goal would be with this series – mine, Michael Green’s, Neil Gaiman’s – would be that the book AmericanGods is actually the Reader’s Digest version of the story.”

Just looking at Christianity, with so many denominations out there, one particular group’s idea of Jesus maybe different to another’s, and since gods are thought into existence in this literary world, how do they account for that? Simple: Show them all.

“Oh there’s as many Jesuses as there are cultures that believe in Jesus… I won’t say [if there’s a scene where they all meet and get in an argument] but stay tuned.”

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Fuller went on to explain that they’re already having some serious conversations on how approach a topic as sensitive as this.

“There’s conversations in the writer’s room that we are having on this show that I’ve never had in a writer’s room before, because we’re actually given the ability to talk about fate and belief, and the rules which we use to navigate society being challenged in a fashion that is not anti-religion, but not necessarily letting religion off the hook entirely.

So it’s very important to us in the show to not be making fun of anybody for their religious beliefs because we all have some sort of belief-like thing in our brain that could arguably be delusional, whether it’s ghosts or gods or whatever superstition, black cats, walking under ladders, et cetera. So every one of us is prone to a delusion-like belief and that feels like it’s an exciting arena to talk about humanity in a way that I haven’t been able to do before on a show. Not since Star Trek really.”

After American Gods‘ publication in 2001, Gaiman also penned a spinoff titled Anansi Boys, which doesn’t really continue the first novel’s narrative thread but does take place in the same universe. At the moment, Fuller and co are just focusing on the original story, but they’ve taken some tips from a certain comic book movie studio on how to prepare for a possible future.

“Well, we don’t have the rights to Anansi Boys but we’re hoping that we will eventually. Mr. Nancy is going to play a major role in the series and potentially what we’re looking at with American Gods is developing a Marvel Universe, not with superheroes but with gods. As detailed and integrated as the Marvel Universe is, and doing that with deities is something that excited all of us.

So who knows? In success we may have spin-offs of American Gods that follow lesser gods in greater detail than you might in the main series, but there’s all sorts of potential for this show that we’re very excited about and I hope the audience is as enthusiastic as we are so we can bring those dreams to fruition.”

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Fuller may have said that they’re swapping superheros for gods in their tale, but there’s no denying that there’s a real similarity between the two groups. So could there actually be superheroes in this universe of gods?

“I think ideally these gods become superheroes in their own right, and I think that is their goal, of trying to reignite belief in them will give them more power to become those heroes that they promised their believers that they will become. So there is a heroic interpretation.

Or are you asking, in the rules of the universe, since the rules hinge on thought form – which is, if you believe in anything enough, it manifests into reality – that if we believe in Superman will we manifest him into reality?”

[Because] it’s an interesting question. We don’t necessarily cross over into those kind of broader superheroes but we do extend the thought form umbrella over other things that Americans believe in and may have manifested into reality because of those beliefs. [Something like urban legends, for example].

All of this sounds really good, and given just how incredible Hannibal turned out, I have seriously high hopes if they can follow through on all the claims here. Now if only I could follow through and read the damn book already!

Read  Apple looking to reboot the anthology series Amazing Stories

Last Updated: November 5, 2015

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions – but very little sleep – I’ve been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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