American Gods has not come out yet, and it’s already putting the rest of TV to shame through a mixture of a killer creative team — it doesn’t get better than Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller, and a network that’s been kicking ass at epic and subversive shows lately — and pitch-perfect casting. There’s Ian McShane as the gloriously inscrutable Mr. Wednesday, Gillian Anderson as the Lucille Ball-lookalike God of Media, Ricky Whittle as the taciturn Shadow, Emily Browning as his dead wife, and Coen Brothers fixture Peter Stormare as the sinister Czernobog. All of this is quite spectacular on paper — but now we’ve got visuals, too.
First, the newly cast Orlando Jones as the African trickster god Mr. Nancy — who also shows up in Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys — has provided some photos of Nancy looking appropriately fly and mysterious.
Entertainment Weekly has also released a photo of Ian McShane’s Wednesday giving zero fucks while perched atop a crocodile stool in a delightfully atmospheric Bryan Fuller-ized rendition of Jack’s Crocodile Bar. Although the bar isn’t described in great detail in the novel, the show’s interpretation of a kitschy, slightly batshit aesthetic evokes the book’s Americana tone perfectly.
I wish I could stop using the word “perfect,” but this show just refuses to let me.
There’s also a sneek peek of the infamous first meeting between Shadow and Mad Sweeney, played by Pablo Schreiber.
Mad Sweeney’s look is particularly reassuring, because it’s quite different from the book’s description. From American Gods:
He had a short ginger-colored beard. He wore a denim jacket covered with bright sew-on patches and under the jacket a stained white T-shirt. On the T-shirt was printed IF YOU CAN’T EAT IT, DRINK IT, SMOKE IT, OR SNORT IT…THEN FCK IT!” He wore a baseball cap, on which was printed, “THE ONLY WOMAN I HAVE EVER LOVED WAS ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE…MY MOTHER!”
Nowhere does it say he has a pseudo-punk haircut or suspenders. Now, why is this encouraging that the show is shaking up his look? Because it demonstrates that it will honor the book — but refuses to walk on eggshells, unafraid to forge its own territory. American Gods was written over 15 years ago, and as a wickedly smart novel that engages with American culture, it wouldn’t make sense for it to feel stagnant. Mad Sweeney’s trucker-slogan laden outfit suited 2001, when the book came out, but in the years since, as hipster culture has spread and terms like “normcore” and “lumbersexual” have spread, Mad Sweeney’s off-kilter undercut and suspenders aptly fits this day and age. It’s today’s equivalent of lame t-shirt slogans, and this change shows that the television adaptation is as smart as the book.
Perhaps Gillian Anderson’s character will also appear as Lucille Ball, or perhaps she’ll get an update as a character that’s closer to our own times — maybe she’ll even appear as Dana Scully, if the show decides to go meta. Whatever the case is bound to be exciting, because American Gods is nothing if not exploring and forging your own weird and wild path. The most successful book-to-show adaptations all find a way to juggle the novel with new creative spins. These pictures solidify it, then: We’re not too early in proclaiming this the must-watch show of 2017.