Adapted from the best-selling novel written by Neil Gaiman, the Starz series American Gods is back for Season 2 and the battle between the Old Gods, or the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world, and the New Gods, who reflect society’s modern devotions (i.e. money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs), is really heating up. And while Mr. World (Crispin Glover) plots revenge, Shadow (Ricky Whittle) and Wednesday (Ian McShane) attempt to get the Old Gods on board for all-out war.
While at the Starz portion of the TCA Press Tour, Collider got the opportunity to sit down with co-stars Emily Browning (who plays Shadow’s dead wife, Laura) and Yetide Badaki (who plays Bilquis, the ancient goddess of love) to talk about their characters getting more of a say in what’s going on in Season 2, the experience of shooting at the House on the Rock in Wisconsin, getting to work with more of the cast, the dynamic between Laura and Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), and what they appreciate about their characters. Badaki also talked about shadowing the different directors they had for this season, and why she wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to do so.
Collider: Yetide, I’m so glad that we actually get to hear from Bilquis in Season 2. She was quite the force in the first season, but didn’t get to say a lot, so it’s nice to see her strength and that she has a desire to be heard?
YETIDE BADAKI: She literally says, “I will be heard.” It’s incredible. Getting to say to someone like Wednesday, “I was old in the deserts, before they sacrificed the first horse to you,” is a pleasant reminder of the lessons from her-story. It’s incredible to be able to do that. It’s just really wonderful to be able to have those interactions and to have a seat at the table. I love how Bilquis demands that seat at the House on the Rock. She said, “No, I’m coming,” which they probably just based off of how much I wanted to go to the House on the Rock. It was exciting. But, it has been an incredible journey to be able to spend more time with the entire family.
What was it like to shoot at the House on the Rock?
EMILY BROWNING: I didn’t get to go there. It was sad.
BADAKI: They did do the re-creation, which was pretty great.
BROWNING: They did, and it was amazing, but watching Episode 1 and seeing where you guys were, I was like, “I’d like to be there!”
BADAKI: The House on the Rock, if you haven’t been, is one of those destinations that you’ve got to add to your list. It is indescribable. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think I’ll ever see anything again like it.
BROWNING: It’s North American weirdness at its finest.
BADAKI: It is, and it’s warehouses and warehouses of it. I don’t think people realize the full scope of how huge it is. It has the largest carousel in the world. The place is absolutely huge. It was life-changing. I’m definitely going to be visiting there again.
BROWNING: Did it feel like suddenly you were in the book?
BADAKI: That was it, exactly. You step into the House on the Rock and, all of a sudden, it was like you were in the book. You’re literally in it.
These characters are really on their own journeys. Does it sometimes feel like you’re on separate shows because you’re all off on your own?
BROWNING: Season 1 felt like that a lot because I had a lot of stuff on my own, and then I only really interacted with Ricky [Whittle] and Pablo [Schreiber], which is great, but I need some lady energy around, as well. The first day that Kristin Chenoweth showed up, on Season 1, I had an excited panic attack. I was like, “Not only do I get to hang out with a girl, but it’s Kristin Chenoweth,” and I lost my mind.
BADAKI: It’s Kristin Chenoweth, so I think we all have that reaction.
BROWNING: Yeah, she’s amazing. It felt less like that this season because we all got to interact a lot more than we did last season. I like that there’s a lot more intertwining of characters. I still haven’t had a scene with Bruce [Langley], or I had one very brief passing-by. If we have a Season 3, we really need that because I feel like they’re just such assholes, they need to have a moment to see who can out-asshole the other one.
BADAKI: It’s fun, within the world, to play with that idea because there are all of these individuals from all of these different worlds, and all of these Gods are the heroes of their own stories. They come in and they’re like, “Well, I’ve been worse off than this,” but as it goes on, all of the different sides are influenced by each other. There is a little bit of symbiosis that occurs, and you see how that all coalesces.
Emily, what do you enjoy about the dynamic between Laura and Mad Sweeney?
BROWNING: Maybe it wasn’t exactly an accident, but it felt like a happy accident, in Season 1. I know that Michael [Green] and Bryan [Fuller] had these two characters from the book, but Sweeney is in and out so quickly, and Laura is in little pieces throughout the book, and they were their favorite characters, along with Bilquis. None of us realized that Pablo and I would have that of instant chemistry with those characters. I’m really glad that, in Season 2, we separate a little bit, but we keep coming back and smashing into each other. It’s just really, really fun. There were a few moments, in Season 2, where a certain director would want us to ad-lib, and I’m not generally great at that, but because we know these characters so well, and Pablo and I know each other’s characters so well, we tell each other what to say. I had a scene with Yetide, in a later episode, where I had to catch myself as I was about to say, “You should say this.” I was like, “No, Emily, you and Pablo can direct each other, but you can’t direct any other actors.” I suddenly had this fear of, “Oh, my god, I’m such an asshole!”
BADAKI: I do remember you saying that, and it cracked me up. I thought it was hilarious. I cannot wait for the viewers to see some of the stuff that goes on with these characters.
BROWNING: It gets emotional, too. It got emotional last season, but it gets intense this season.
BADAKI: It got me in my feelings, definitely.