’American Gods’ – release date, cast, and everything we know about the surreal TV sensation

It's the show everyone's talking about.

Every so often a game-changing TV show arrives out of the blue. It’s not like we haven’t had 16 years to prepare for American Gods – it first emerged as a novel in 2001, written by Neil Gaiman – but 2017 looks set to be defined by this ultra-surreal, socially conscious phenomenon.

First given the go-ahead in 2015, it’s taken two years for this high-budget, fantastical series to arrive. Here’s everything you need to know about the show everyone’s talking about:

What’s the premise of American Gods?

In a nutshell, the show’s defined by a ferocious battle between old and new gods. The old-school religious figures are borne from mythological roots, while the new gods mirror the ugliness of modern day society. They have names like Media and Technology, and they’re motivated by money, fame and drugs. At the heart of this battle is Shadow Moon, a man who finds himself released from prison early by someone named Wednesday, who is later revealed to be old Germanic god Odin. His job is to gather all the old gods, preparing them for battle against the ever-growing, deceitful new gods.

When is American Gods season one released?

American Gods debuts in the UK on Amazon Prime Video on Monday May 1. In the US, the Smerz production comes out on April 30. The first season consists of eight episodes.

Is there an American Gods trailer?

The American Gods trailer finds Shadow Moon released from jail early, because of the death of his wife. He becomes acquainted with Wednesday (Odin), “eased in” to a vicious, violent, seemingly eternal battle. And even from this trailer, there’s enough blood and guts to put the average Game of Thrones scene to shame.

Who stars in American Gods?

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle)

Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) Credit: Starz

You may recognise Ricky Whittle from his days in Hollyoaks, starring as the good-guy police officer Calvin Valentine. Things have come a long way since then (and not just when he came runner-up on 2009’s Strictly Come Dancing). Whittle plays the lead role of Shadow Moon.

He’s backed by an all-star cast including Emily Browning as Shadow’s wife Laura Moon, X-Files star Gillian Anderson as Media (the “mouthpiece” of New Gods), Yetide Badaki as Bilquis and Ian McShane as Wednesday.

What are the main American Gods talking points?

Wednesday (Ian McShane)

Wednesday (Ian McShane) Credit: Starz

Sixteen years since rising to prominence as a novel, American Gods tackles tough, contemporary topics that feel perfectly suited to 2017. The world is defined by ideological division, and America itself is caught up in complex race, gender and immigration debates. Meanwhile, technology’s grip grows ever stronger, and many are asking if being glued to screens accelerates traits like narcissism and greed. These burning hot issues are all addressed in American Gods, and the perennial battle between old values and contemporary ills.

Author Neil Gaiman told Comics Beat he considered his work to be “relatively non-contentious.” However the crux of the novel – where old gods are brought to America by immigrants, being a force for good that modern gods attempt to crush –  feels particularly relevant today. “I think every part of the show became a lot more relevant suddenly after last November,” Emily Browning, who plays Laura, told The Geekiary

Lead star Whittled backed this up, telling Variety: “Although [the novel] was written in 2001, we wrapped the show in November before the election, and we talk about some incredible themes that still need to be discussed every day — religion, immigration, racism, sexism, women’s rights, gun control.” 

Gaiman, who added a couple of new gods to the televised plot in order to reflect the modern world, told Reuters: “We are talking about what is America. What is the soul of America, what makes it tick, what do people believe, what do they care about, and where do they put their attention, and all of those things are still every bit as relevant.” 

It’s this which makes American Gods such a timely arrival – it inspects contemporary issues with a level of compassion that might be required for such thorny, contentious times.

Will there be a second season of American Gods?

A second season is rumoured but unconfirmed, at this stage. Season one’s popularity is one factor, and the potential to introduce new gods into the plot is another. 

A production site listing by MyEntertainmentWorld suggests that filming for season two will begin in September 2017, although the Starz network has yet to confirm these rumours.