12 Jul 2013

[List] - 10 Casting Suggestions For American Gods

Right now, the focus in the geek world is on Doctor Who, and wondering with hyperactive futility who the Dozenth Doctor might be. Barely a month after Matt Smith announced he was stepping down from the role, and already the list of actors "offered the role," and equally the list of actors who have confirmed they haven't been asked, is longer then is decent to repeat. So I'm not going to do that (I was, in November, by which point I assume it will be pointless). Instead, I'll go against the grain, and make my casting suggestions for a show that most people have probably forgot is going to be a show: Neil Gaiman's American Gods.

Back in April,  HBOWatch reported that "American Gods will debut this year if Gaiman can get the pilot script done in time to HBO's satisfaction." Now, I have a hard time believing that statement to be true. I suspect if HBO has any intentions towards American Gods, it would be to start production of the series at some point this year, with an expected 2014 or 2015 screen debut. That seems much more reasonable, considering the script isn't finished, there is no cast or creative team hired (beyond Gaiman himself, but the series will need a staff and showrunner), and that American Gods, if done properly, could be on a scale similar to Game of Thrones.

But it does get one excited for the possibility of seeing Neil Gaiman's novel translated to the screen sooner rather then later, and in a format that will better serve the source material then having to carve out the heart of the story to fit it into movie form. But who could fill the roles of Gaiman's complex and engaging characters? This is something HBO will have to start thinking about soon, and something I've already put a bit of thought into myself.

Hit the jump for the list, which contains spoilers for American Gods. So if you haven't read it, go do so immediately, then come back and have a look at the list.

Before we get started, I should mention that when positing this list, I never attempted to match the origin of the Gods with the country of origin of the actors. The majority of my choices are American actors, which I feel works. Like an immigrant who looses their accent and adapts to the new culture over years in a new country, the Gods too would become Americanised by their transplantation. So while they would reflect the racial history of their origins, they wouldn't necessarily still use the original vernacular.

Oh, and I paid no attention to whether of not if they currently have jobs. 

Bill Cobbs - Mr Ibis

"In Shadow's memory Mr. Ibis was a short man; whenever he stood behind him, Shadow would rediscover that Mr. Ibis was well over six feet in height, with a cranelike stoop." Ibis and Jacquel need to exude apathetic knowledge, the kind that comes from age and years and having seen things, and being close enough to death to not care about anything but telling a joke and getting through the day. And while I have no idea who should play Jacquel, veteran actor Cobbs has everything you would need from the livelier of the two funeral directors. He's sarcastic, sprightly in his way, and has a voice that screams "listen to me when I talk." This last year, he was one of the better parts of Matthew Perry's Go On, and would do very well as Shadow's master during his first great reprieve from the action of the plot.

 Danny Glover - Mr. Nancy

Mr. Nancy is smooth. You'd need an actor who you would believe could seduce any young thing he wanted into coming back to his place, no matter his age. You need an actor with class and style, and a world class smile, but can also display a life of sadness on his face with a flinch. Essentially, in Mr. Nancy you want the actor's equivalent to a jazz musician. All of that adds up to... Morgan Freeman. But Freeman is less likely to come to television, even if it is a limited appearance on HBO (although, attitudes towards TV work have changed dramatically in the last five years). Glover meets all the above criteria, and recently appeared in the first season of the FOX network's Touch.

Tommy Tiernan - Mad Sweeny

The one major break in my "no accents" rule. Because, well, Mad Sweeny's a leprechaun. He pretty much needs to be Irish. Otherwise, it just wouldn't work. He wouldn't seem as manic, as maligned, as genuine. He'd just be obnoxious. And he needs to be genuinely Irish, none of this Hollywood David Boreanaz 1950's-from-a-Carry On-film Irish accent. This is HBO, they can afford a few foreigners to fill out the cast. Tiernan is seeing his star rise internationally now for his standup, but in the late 90's he had his own sitcom on Channel 4, and made one off appearances on various series when his career was just beginning.

Judy Greer - Easter

Easter needs to be more mother-figure-Earth-goddess then sex kitten. Attractive, yes, but the role wouldn't be as convincing if they hired some Orange County twenty-something to walk around topless. There needs to be a level of maturity to Easter, to give her the impression of wisdom as well as power. What the kids today would probably call a MILF. I think Greer would be perfect because, well, I'd cast Judy Greer in anything. I think she's incredibly talented, very funny, and though given few chances to do so, a highly capable dramatic actress. Joss Whedon wants to work with her, and he knows him some talent; the producers of Gods would be wise to get their hands on her.

David Bradley- Czernobog

Known better to younger audiences (not the American Gods target audience) as Hogwart's janitor Filch, and recently as Solomon on the Doctor Who episode Dinosaurs on a Spaceship (and will soon play 1st Doctor William Hartnell in Mark Gatiss' An Adventure in Space and Time). He also already has an in with HBO, having killed it (ha!) as Walder Frey in Game of Thrones (seriously, if he doesn't get an Emmy or Golden Globe nomination for Rains of Castamere, there is no justice in the world). If you haven't noticed, he has carved out a career of late playing curmudgeonly, bitter old men with villainous overtones, which is exactly what you need with Czernobog. You also need someone whom Shadow can idolise and pity in equal measure, and you believe might have, in his youth, been able to take Shadow like he still believes he can.

Jesse Eisenberg - Internet

 In 2001, when the book was published, the internet was still in its relative infancy. The character of the Internet is described as dressing like Neo from the Matrix, which at the time was probably the most prominent cultural image of a hacker-type at the time. His physical state was more in line with the Revenge of the Nerds/Bill Gates archetype of the geek: glasses, overweight, covered in spots, etc. Nowadays, the cultural image of a internet mastermind has shifted into a hipster-style layabout, wearing pyjamas and looking more like Mark Zuckerberg with horn rims and a scarf.  Which is part of the point of the book, that the Gods are effected by how people worship them. The modern personification (or more accurately, the public perception) of the Internet's temperament would be probably more in line with a Youtube comments section.

Eisenberg has played both Zuckerberg, the standard for internet nerd 2.0, and a modern nebbish several times on screen, from Zombieland to To Rome With Love, where he played the role Woody Allen would have thirty years ago. He is perfectly suited to play a "all-bluster-and-no-bite" sort of cowardly villain, which is exactly what Internet needs to be.

Amy Acker - Laura

Amy Acker needs to be a star yesterday. Much Ado garnered her many accolades, but I haven't heard of any networks offering her leads in series, or directors seeking her out. So I'm just going to keep insisting people cast her in things until she's cast in things by people that don't have the last name Whedon. Laura is the perfect character for her: at first glance looking fragile and soft, but revealing more and more that she is a hardened bitch willing to go to great lengths to protect those she loves. And what a juxtaposition she'd be with my choice for Shadow, which we'll get to in a moment. One tall dark and simmering, towering over the other, who is demure pale and falling apart.

Mark Sheppard - Low-Key Lyesmith

There doesn't need to be any subtly when it comes to Loki. Pretty much every version of the character, from myth, to the Avengers, to American Gods, is constant in their depiction that Loki is someone who needs people to know that he is messing with their shit. And Sheppard has made a career these past ten years (since his small role as Badger on Firefly, thus inducting him in the genre character actor pantheon) out of playing characters who are shit disturbers. He's already played the character, essentially, during his time as Crowley on Supernatural. Which makes sense considering that Supernatural is a watered down version of American Gods (by way of Buffy). Sheppard tends to be at his best when he's playing antagonists who believe completely in their point of view (Crowley, Sterling on Leverage, Romo on Battlestar), and would be a wonderful presence and enemy throughout Gods run.

Jim Beaver - Wednesday

The trick with Wednesday is that he has to be likable and smooth enough for the audience to believe that he's as successful as he is, without being a scene chewing villain. Beaver has charm to spare, and an honest talent that makes anything he appears in better. And, because he is affable and accessible, and can be believed to gain people's trust, the ultimate reveal of his intentions would be all the more effective. I'd say Beaver has already auditioned for the role of Wednesday, in last season's Dexter episode The Dark… Whatever. Playing Yvonne Strahovski's father, over the course of an episode you go from hoping the character will be recurring, to hating the prick and wishing for the knife to meet his throat. It's exactly this sort of performance Beaver would excel at in the role of a desperate and malicious All-Father.

That, and the man needs to be a lead in a series immediately.

Idris Elba - Shadow

"Shadow... was big enough and looked don't-fuck-with-me enough that his biggest problem was killing time." Shadow's defining physical characteristic is his size, rather then his race, which is never mentioned, though there are several suggestions of mixed heritage (Gaiman once joked that the Rock would be serviceable in the roll). Elba is physically dominating, and is able to carry a lot of intent through body language rather then actual threat. His depiction of Luther is one of internal conflict and stoic suffering, meaning he has the experience to tackle Shadow's own torment.

There are few obvious actors available that could bring Shadow to life on screen, and Elba I feel is at the top of that short list. Without getting Shadow perfect, the entire show falls apart. American Gods won't be like Game of Thrones, where there is no lead, and bad performances in one quarter can be overshadowed by stellar ones elsewhere. American Gods will be more like Breaking Bad. And if Cranston didn't hit the perfect note each time, that show would collapse. Whomever they choose has to be able to carry the weight of the entire series on his massive shoulders. And Elba has proven he can do that once already, with Luther. I feel he can, and should do it again.

Elba is also my top pick for the role of the Doctor, an opinon shot down by many (including himself) by the fact that, despite still leading up Luther on the BBC, the man is also a movie star now, with Thor and Prometheus behind him, and Pacific Rim and Thor: the Dark World in front. But that doesn't preclude him from leading a new TV series, if anything it might suggest a career path, considering the sheer number of other movie stars that have found work on subscription cable as of late. And while he might be too big (in all respects) for the role of the Doctor, he might fit perfectly into the role of Shadow, a role that he could also make his own.

So, there you go HBO. The hard work done for you. Now, so long as Gaiman doesn't keep getting distracted by Doctor Who, maybe you can get to work on this.

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