Starz' American Gods Is Coming Together..And It's Going To Be Amazing.

A cast including Crispin Glover, Peter Stormare, and Emily Browning has transformed the Neil Gaiman/Bryan Fuller series from highly anticipated to an absolute dream come true.

Entertainment news over the weekend more or less stopped as media sources and fans alike paused our incessant dissections of pop-culture to mourn the loss of Prince. Then today the world of cult TV was abuzz with the ridiculously cool and impressive news of Twin Peaks' final casting announcements. But between those two things, just about everyone was too saddened or preoccupied to notice the other absolutely incredible TV casting news which came out at the end of last week: a torrent of updates about the long-awaited Bryan Fuller and Michael Green-produced Starz adaptation of American Gods by Neil Gaiman. We now have a substantial amount of the core cast revealed (though not everyone yet), and we have word that production has officially begun. From the start, this project was one of 2016's most exciting and potential-filled shows, but these announcements have kicked it up several notches: American Gods is starting to look like a dream come true, nearly on the level of Twin Peaks season three.

"If I win, I get to knock your brains out.
With the sledgehammer."
Just imagine Peter Stormare saying that.
The tale of a war between old gods of mythology and new gods of technology and media, Neil Gaiman's epic story clearly demands an appropriately epic cast to fill the shoes of its literally legendary characters. However, I don't think any of us could have anticipated an ensemble this excellent. Very early we had received the exciting news that Mr. Wednesday, the leader of the old gods, would be played by Deadwood's Ian McShane: a perfect choice for a character whose gravitas is equally balanced out by his gruff and sardonic personality. As of Thursday, we now know several of the show's other leads as well, including a couple more of the American Gods themselves. One of the most exciting new announcements is that Czernobog, a Slavic god of darkness and chaos who is nonetheless one of our unlikely heroes, will be played by one of cinema's great creepy European guys, Peter Stormare. A guy who's played memorable villains in everything from Fargo to 22 Jump Street, he easily is the best possible choice for this crucial role. Czernobog's most important trait is an uneasy balance of violent menace and sarcastic humor: a combination that Stormare has literally built his entire career upon. We know he can be funny-creepy ("nihilists, man...") as well as legitimately scary, and I suspect that on American Gods we'll see him be both.

Speaking of actors who have built a career upon a very unique brand
"I would be equally qualified to play a
Ratspeaker in a film of Neverwhere."
of strange and unsettling, another recent bit of casting that should rocket American Gods to the top of your must-see list is that of Crispin Glover, in the mysterious and shadowy role of Mr. World: a mastermind trying to manipulate the conflict between the old and new gods. Glover can always be counted on for a truly memorable, and often truly unhinged, performance, and making him a figure who is a bit like Neil Gaiman's equivalent of The Smoking Man is an inspired choice. Even cult movie fans who are totally unfamiliar with Gaiman's work should be sold on the series with him on board. But it doesn't end there: Mel Brooks regular Cloris Leachman was announced on Thursday in the role of Zorya Vechernyaya, one of Czernobog's fellow Slavic gods. A true screen legend, her smaller but memorable role will definitely be one to look forward to. Sean Harris (Mission: Impossible: Rogue Nation, The Borgias) was announced as Mad Sweeney, a snarky and heavy-drinking leprechaun (don't bring up that height stereotype to him - that's racist), Chris Obi will be playing the shape-shifting Anubis, and Yetide Badaki will play Bilquis. There are still a few more crucial roles that need to be filled - particularly the African trickster god Anansi (aka Mr. Nancy) - but so far the ensemble could not be better.

Yes, this means that both of the American
main characters in American Gods will be
played by actors from other countries doing
American accents... but actually, that makes
perfect sense with the book's themes, in
sort of a postmodern way.
The series has also found its female lead in Emily Browning as Laura Moon, who finds herself suddenly plunged into this world of the supernatural along with her husband, Shadow (Ricky Whittle). Browning has gotten a lot of attention in recent years as a major rising talent, in eclectic films ranging from the Jane Campion-produced art-house drama Sleeping Beauty to last year's true-story-crime-thriller Legend, in which she starred opposite two Tom Hardys. American Gods will be an exciting project to see this very promising actress in, and her presence also shows the dramatic ambition that Fuller and Gaiman have for the series, bringing on a clearly rising talent such as herself for one of the leads.

This cast list is just further proof that this really is one of 2016's most exciting new series. Not only are the showrunners taking great care to find the best possible actors to fit the source material, but they are using the phrase "best possible actors" not just within the scope of TV regulars, but serious art-house film stars as well. This is easy to see as a signal of the show's cinematic ambitions: I think it's safe to say that we could be looking at another great example of the recent trend (epitomized by the brilliant first season of True Detective) of TV shows as really long movies, in both an artistic and a narrative sense. Pair this with Bryan Fuller's statements that he wants to develop and elaborate on Gaiman's novel to create a massive universe of mythological characters, and we could be looking at something incredibly unique with American Gods. With production going on right now, and more news sure to come soon, this series should be on everybody's radar. It's going to be good.

- Christopher S. Jordan