Although American Gods is fantastical, the show has a socially-conscious voice. As white nationalism and xenophobia overwhelm the current political discourse, American Gods seeks to remind viewers where everyone’s roots come from.
“What we talk about in the show, immigration, racism, sexism, this political climate we’re going through, it’s important we remember America is this incredible place because of different cultures that have come to America,” Whittle says. “Unless you’re Native American, you’re not from America, this beautiful melting pot full of different cultures from all over the world. That’s what made America great. We need to portray that more and more.”
The actor has taken his show’s message to heart, outright advocating for his position on certain issues, including women’s rights, “getting rid” of homophobia, and “talking about gun control and immigration.”
“It is so important we keep talking about it and don’t let bad things become normal,” he says. “We need to keep this going, and keep these conversations in the headlines.”
For Whittle, a mixed-race black actor, his significance in American Gods is pretty personal. He credits Gaiman for writing Shadow as ethnically ambiguous, which has allowed him the rare opportunity to inspire young, non-white actors.
“Fortunately, Starz and Neil Gaiman writing Shadow Moon ethnically ambiguous has given me the opportunity to inspire young ethnic actors,” Whittle says.
Whittle recalls how he needed seeing a face like his — in his case, Will Smith — to lead a life worth living.
“I looked up to Will Smith,” the 35-year-old actor says. “I said, ‘If Will Smith can be in TV and films, I can be in TV and films.’ Growing up, you want to relate to someone. If you’ve got nothing to look up to, you live an empty void. You need to have something to aspire to.”
In Whittle’s time, he found it in a fresh prince. For tomorrow’s generation, they may find it in an American god.
American Gods Season 1 is available now on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital HD. A release date for Season 2 hasn’t been announced for 2018.