'American Gods': A Character Guide to the Neil Gaiman-Bryan Fuller Starz Drama

Who is Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle), and what is Wednesday (Ian McShane) if not a day of the week? THR has the answers to those questions and more.
Courtesy of Starz

[Warning: This story contains mild spoilers from the American Gods novel on which the Starz series is based.]

There's a war coming, and the only way to win is with a whole lot of friends, and a whole lot of belief.

At least, those are the stakes at play inside the world of American Gods, the upcoming Starz series from showrunners Bryan Fuller (Hannibal) and Michael Green (Logan), based on author Neil Gaiman's celebrated 2001 novel. Both the book and the television show follow the same premise: The old gods of myth, who were brought to America through the faith of devout immigrants long ago, are now on the losing end of a power struggle against an array of modern gods built around the temples of media consumption and technological advances. A war between the sides is brewing, with one mortal man caught in the middle of the conflict — all while dealing with some seismic changes of his own.

Before the launch of American Gods on April 30, here's a quick overview of some of the major characters involved in the story, many of whom are pivotal to the divine conflict at play:

• Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is the protagonist of the series. When we meet him, he's a convicted felon with only a few days left before leaving prison. Tragedy strikes, sending Shadow home earlier than expected, without a real home to call his own. Adept at coin tricks and strong as an ox, Shadow weathers very little nonsense, which makes him curious bedfellows with ...

• Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), an old trickster with a fake eye and an authentic smile that stays glued to his face, rain or shine. Wednesday, secretly a god of old (we won't spoil which one), recruits Shadow as a bodyguard, enlisting him in the war that's yet to come. Wednesday seeks to add a few other godly troops to his cause, including ...

• Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), a lucky leprechaun (yes, some of them are very tall) who loves nothing more than a good fight.

• Mr. Nancy (Orlando Jones), a West African god who uses trickery and persuasive storytelling to lure people into acting on his behalf.

• Zorya Vechernyaya (Cloris Leachman), one of three Slavic gods who watch over the stars and protect our world from ending.

• Czernobog (Peter Stormare), a Slavic god armed with a massive hammer and an unquenchable thirst for squashing heads.

• Bilquis (Yetide Badaki) is yet another God in play in the world of American Gods, albeit one with complicated loyalty — at least as far as the show is concerned. An ancient creature who feeds off of lust, love and sexual devotion, Bilquis is involved in one of the single most iconic scenes in Gaiman's novel, which is thankfully (and terrifyingly) featured in the very first episode of the Starz series. Her role has been expanded for the television adaptation, thanks in large part to the fact that she stands at the crossroads between the old gods and...

• ... the New Gods, a list that includes: Technical Boy (Bruce Langley), the spitting image of an Internet troll, vaping away at dehydrated toad skins as he wields all the power that comes with being a brand-new deity; 

• Media (Gillian Anderson), not to be confused with the Tyler Perry character, but a master of disguise all the same. Played by X-Files veteran Anderson, Media comes in many different forms, first appearing in the series as the spitting image of Lucille Ball. And finally ...

• Mr. World (Crispin Glover), the mysterious man in charge of the new gods, and the person most directly on a collision course with Mr. Wednesday and his posse.

We round out the cast with Laura Moon (Emily Browning), alias "Puppy," a nickname she also likes to use for her husband Shadow. Laura is awaiting Shadow's release from prison, and the television series goes deeper into her struggle than Gaiman's novel originally allowed. Saying much about Laura's journey would be saying too much; let's just say despite the fact that she's not a god, she's as ethereal and otherworldly as virtually any other character in the series.

Oh, and one last thing. Keep an eye on this guy:

That's Low Key Lyesmith (Jonathan Tucker), one of Shadow's fellow inmates, featured prominently at the start of the series. He might not seem like much on the surface, but forgetting Low Key completely would be a big mistake on anyone's part.

Which American Gods character is your favorite? Sound off in the comments below, and click here for more coverage of the show.