After a long break and more behind-the-scenes changes (including departing cast and a new showrunner), Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods is finally returning to our screens – and after a divisive season two, star Ricky Whittle says the new episodes are set to raise the stakes for the Gods-vs-Gods fantasy.
“For me season three is a massive return to form and I think it’s down to the fact that Neil Gaiman came back and put a steadying hand on the ship after his Good Omens stint,” Whittle, who plays Shadow Moon in the series, told RadioTimes.com.
“He was able to come back, work with [showrunner] Chic Eglee for a lot longer over the summer – they had quite a bit of time together, I believe in Texas – and they were really able to figure out the whole story, which culminates in an epic season three finale and then season four.
“This is a very planned rollercoaster so every dip and swerve is to make the audience feel something. And it’s slap-bang in the middle of a story that they’ve planned throughout and projected through season four.
“If season two was like an eccentric treasure hunt where every now and you find magic and gold, this is a very planned rollercoaster that Neil and Chic were able to do.”
After the shocks of the season two finale – which revealed Shadow was the son of Ian McShane’s Mr Wednesday/Odin, who had killed his wife Laura (Emily Browning) – the new season sees Shadow lying low in a small town called Lakeside, where he’ll get drawn into a new supernatural mystery.
“We find him in hiding,” Whittle told us. “After the massive bombshell at the end of season two, where we found out that Wednesday was his father and that he also killed Laura, this has kind of sent Shadow over the edge. He’s done with them. He’s hiding from the police, he’s hiding from the FBI, he’s hiding from the Gods, he’s turned his back on Wednesday, Laura, all of that world.
“So we find him hiding out trying to live a normal life. He’s in a factory, he’s grown his hair out, his beard out, he’s truly in hiding. He’s even got his eye on a local girl and he wants that normal life. It’s what he’s always craved but there’s only so long you can hide from your destiny before it eventually finds you. Especially with Mr Wednesday - he’s never that far behind either.”
As seen in Neil Gaiman’s original novel, the Lakeside storyline is a favourite of many fans – and Whittle is chief among them, noting that he was particularly keen to shoot this part of the series.
“It’s my favourite part of the book,” he said. “I loved the book and this was genuinely my favourite part that I was really looking forward to shooting, until I got to this beautiful town called Port Perry in Toronto in the middle of winter and it was brutal.
“The weather conditions were horrific. Oh my goodness! If you see Shadow shivering and stuff that’s not make-up, that’s not fake icicles on his beard, that’s genuine. It was freezing cold out there so massive props to our cast and crew.
“But we get to welcome some of my favourite characters from the book: Chad Mulligan, Anne-Marie Hinzelmann and Marguerite Olsen, played by Eric Johnson, Julia Sweeney and Lela Loren. It’s basically like a whole new show where the book and cast kind of flips into this murder mystery.
“You’ve got Wednesday on his journey,” Whittle continued, “On his mission, as these threads and arcs start to drift away and start heading on their separate paths.
"Shadow is wrapped up in this quaint little town with this dark underbelly and unluckily for him a little girl goes missing and the only thing that has changed in this town is that a new guy has turned up. So as the walls start to close in they start to suspect that maybe he’s hiding something but unfortunately for Shadow it’s not what they think it is, it’s something much much larger.”
He added: “It’s great that this show is able to add so many different genres. You have this murder-mystery now added to fantasy, sci-fi, the romance, the drama, and there’s a lot more comedy in this season as well which is in Lakeside. You get to see a different side of Shadow where he gets to have fun.
“He’s surrounded by humans for the first time on the show. He’s been surrounded by all these Gods and he’s been the person who knows the least in the room. Now he’s the person who knows the most and it’s a very interesting table-turning that’s happening for Shadow.”
Only time will tell whether fans love the new season as much as Whittle – but for now, the actor’s feeling positive about Shadow’s return.
“I’m really proud of this season,” he concluded. “It’s a true return to form for American Gods. The writing has been incredible and it’s a season that I’m very, very proud of.”
Interview conducted by Simon Button.
American Gods season three comes to Amazon Prime Video on Monday January 11th, 2021. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.