American Gods: Neil Gaiman says season 3 is the most “focused” yet

PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 25; English writer Neil Gaiman poses during portrait session held on October 25, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images)
PARIS, FRANCE - OCTOBER 25; English writer Neil Gaiman poses during portrait session held on October 25, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by Ulf Andersen/Getty Images) /

Author and showrunner Neil Gaiman talks about how much American Gods season 3 gets to the heart of the book, his view on small towns, and who has the best attitude among the gods.

American Gods has gone through a transition period, with growing pains emerging during the second season. But with the third season premiering this weekend, it’s clear that the show has found a renewed energy as it gets to the heart of the fascinating novel written by Neil Gaiman, in the small town of Lakeside.

After watching the first four episode screeners of American Gods season three, I can tell you that the third chapter is distinctly different from the previous two, with a streamlined narrative that has a clear and dramatic vision, calling to mind the best moments from seasons one and two.

Culturess spoke with Neil Gaiman about what he’s most excited about in American Gods’ third season, which premieres on STARZ on January 10.

Culturess: I love the season so much. The look and feel of it is gorgeous. Lakeside is my favorite part of the book. Can you tell me about the differences between last season and getting to this iconic location in the novel?

Neil Gaiman: I think, for me, getting to Lakeside was the thing that I’ve been looking forward to doing since before we began. I remember talking to Bryan [Fuller] and Michael [Green] — the original showrunners — about how excited I was, and how it would make a fabulous season one day.

I think what’s lovely is we’re back to the book, we’re back to what makes the book good, we’re back to what people love about the book. And it feels focused, you know.

Season one was wonderful; it created the whole vocabulary. But it also felt a little bit like an anthology series: “Okay, here they’re going off to this town, and here they’re going off to this town, and that kind of thing.”

Season two I felt got a little bit tangled. And by the end of the plot, and the end of the season, It was visually beautiful, some fabulous performances, but the story is tangled.

What I love about season three is, it’s everything that you have ever loved about American Gods: It’s the glorious visuals, it’s these amazing performances, it’s the characters that you love and want to spend time with. But now it’s all in service of a story, and the story begins in episode one, and then it just goes to episode 10, and it’s a roller coaster.

Culturess: It’s so cohesive this season, I love it. And I wanted to ask, what are your feelings about small towns? You know, you see the reaction to Shadow Moon after the girl goes missing and also when he arrives. You know, it’s kind of like hot and cold: they’re so friendly, supposedly, but in many ways not really.

Gaiman: I love small towns. And I know just how weird they are… I  stole a lot of Lakeside from a little Wisconsin town that I’d been living in for a decade when I wrote it. And it was all of the things that I loved, that went in there. But also, just the knowledge that every small town, as soon as you get under the surface, is the strangest place in the world.

And that there is nothing that you can make up as a novelist, about a small town that you will not then discover actually really did happen in that place. And either it makes you feel like you’ve got godlike powers or something, or it just makes you feel like, “Well, of course, it’s a small town,” something like this will always happen.

Culturess: It’s very relatable. I wanted to ask you about Bilquist’s loyalty, where you see that going. What you can tease about this season? Because she seems so ambivalent.

Gaiman: I love Bilquis as a character. I love what Yetide has done. I think building up Bilquist into a character that we could relate to, If not always understand her motives, was hugely important. And I feel like she’s come a long way from season one.

But for me, I think the biggest thing is just making it clear that it’s not that simple. And it’s so easy just to go, “Okay, the old gods, they’re the good guys and the new gods, they’re the bad guys. And that’s right, isn’t it?”

And you want to go, “Well, no, no, not really, it’s much more complicated than that.'” Just as the world we’re living in is much more complicated than that. It’s what you give your attention to, it’s what you believe, it’s what you’re giving your time to.

And what I love about Bilquis is in many ways, she is the happy medium: She is the old god who is willing to go, “Yeah, this new stuff has a lot of stuff going for it.” Not necessarily as an act of betrayal. But as a pragmatism that perhaps some of the old gods do not possess.

Cultures: Exactly. I love her. So, good luck with the season and thank you so much for your time. It’s an amazing season.

Gaiman: Thank you. Bye.

American Gods season 3 premieres on STARZ January 10 8:00 p.m., ET.

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Are you excited that American Gods is back? Do you agree with Neil Gaiman that Bilquist might be the most balanced of them all? Do you think she’ll be won over by the new gods this season? Share your thoughts about what you’re looking forward to this season below.