by Brian Truitt
SAN DIEGO — A couple of bunnies lined the Comic-Con stage for the American Gods panel to make way for the upcoming show’s newest goddess:Kristin Chenoweth.
The Broadway star was a surprise addition to the cast of the Starz series based on Neil Gaiman’s fantasy novel, and it marks a reunion between Chenoweth and her Pushing Daisies creator Bryan Fuller.
Chenoweth will be playing Easter, a goddess of spring who’s grasping for relevance in a modern world by embracing chocolate rabbits and jelly beans. While she is a big believer in God off screen, the actress said at the panel, “Easter is very, very (mad) that Jesus took her holiday. So there’s a part of me that can understand.”
The first trailer was debuted for the series, written by executive producers Fuller and Michael Green, that showed the core characters of American Gods: Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison after a three-year stint for bank robbery and learns that his wife (Emily Browning) was killed in a car accident. On the way to the funeral, Shadow befriends the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who takes on the ex-con as his bodyguard. In reality, Mr. Wednesday is one of a group of old gods with mythological roots who’s gathering soldiers for a war against new deities associated with contemporary aspects such as money and technology.
Bruce Langley stars as The Technical Boy, a new god of the Internet who “doesn’t give a crap” and is very unpredictable, said the newcomer. “You never see the same version of him twice.”
Nigerian-born actress Yetide Badaki, whose love goddess Bilquis consumes men during sex, connected with American Gods because it’s an immigration story. “Facebook just reminded me that I became an American three years ago,” she said, “and my friend said, ‘Hey, three years from American citizen to American God.’ ”
Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is the New Black) plays the hard-drinking leprechaun Mad Sweeney, who wants to join the table of the gods. “I’m just really into big characters,” Schreiber said. “I’m into human behavior at its most outrageous and making it incredibly believable at the same time.”
He added that he was a big fan of the book: “My mind kind of exploded with the characters and scenarios Neil sets up.”
The Gods panel was a homecoming of sorts for Gaiman: A geek-god regular at the event over the years, the award-winning writer revealed that he wrote the first chapter of the source material on a three-day train ride in 1999 from Chicago to San Diego for Comic-Con.
Gaiman’s work has a massive fan base, but Fuller promised that “we’ll take care of you if you haven’t read the book.”
The idea behind American Gods is everybody worships something, and the show will tackle such topical subjects as women’s rights, gun control, racial divides and social media. But Green mentioned that they won’t mock religion.
“It’s OK to believe in something that gets you through the day,” Whittle added. “All we know is we exist. Everything else is up for interpretation.”