When audiences tune in to American Gods, the highly anticipated Starz series adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel, beginning this Sunday, April 30, they’ll see a show that tackles issues of race, religion and other provocative subjects head-on. They’ll also see a remarkable amount of gore—the very first episode opens and closes with no-holds-barred bloodbaths—as well as male nudity. That inaugural show includes a glimpse of a cell-phone dick pic, followed in the second by the real thing and in the third by a full-frontal shot of the extremely well-hung Jinn.
When queried about making American Gods such a sausage party, writer and showrunner Bryan Fuller at first has a simple explanation: “Starz loves cock.” He quickly adds, more seriously, “ ‘Equal opportunity’ was the actual term. They knew that there was going to be sexual content in the show, and we were clear that it was always going to be uncuttable, in the sense that it would be related to character and story, and be presented as artfully as anything else. If there’s a sex scene in a show or film where if you eliminated it, someone can still appreciate the emotional journeys of the characters, then it probably wasn’t done right. At least, that’s how we went about it. You couldn’t tell the Salim-and-Jinn story without being honest about it, and we really wanted to tell that story and tell it right. It’s probably the part of the book we tell with the most fidelity, because it’s very moving and romantic.”
Adds his Gods partner Michael Green, “Starz said up front that they encouraged the male nudity, because they didn’t want to take a hit on this show having female nudity but not male nudity. They were encouraging, and had no problem with it.”
“Just the same,” Fuller continues, “they said, ‘We are perfectly fine with episodes that don’t have any’; it wasn’t so much one way or the other. It was, ‘Do what you want, do it artfully, and do it with our support.’ ”
Starz, of course, has a history of unfettered flesh and blood in series such as Spartacus and Ash vs. Evil Dead. Thus it’s not surprising when Fuller reveals that the network was their “first and only stop” when they went looking for a home for American Gods. “It seemed like a fit from when we walked in the door,” he recalls. “They were interested, they were fans of the show and of us, we were fans of their shows and they wanted to engage with this type of programming. They liked the literary auspices and the visual potential, and that we wanted to make it funny. It just seemed like there was a common goal of taking anything we were going to touch, celebrating it as much as possible and doing the most artful version—whether it was the artful version of something ugly, the artful version of something romantic, sexy, violent—how can we do this in a way that warrants what might be seen as extreme?”
On the other hand, Green notes, “Neither of us see this as extreme. But to anyone who hasn’t worked on the show, and will be watching it for the first time from the outside, yeah [laughs], I think it’s going to challenge a lot of people. But it wasn’t our instinct to be inflammatory in any way; it was just about authenticity. I’m glad if it freaks people out, because that’s a good reaction, but we weren’t little devils trying to get away with things. We were just trying to tell the story in the most epic, authentic way that we could.”