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Looking to the 'Gods'

FremantleMedia North America is building excitement for its brand-new series "American Gods," based Neil Gaiman's acclaimed novel. And with it, a global consumer product is being built.

April 6, 2018

5 Min Read

FremantleMedia North America is building excitement for its brand-new series "American Gods," based Neil Gaiman's acclaimed novel. And with it, a global consumer product is being built.

FMNA_Logo_BlueBlack_RGB.jpgIn what is sure to be one of the most highly anticipated premieres of 2017, FremantleMedia North America is deep into the production process for the brand-new TV series "American Gods."

Based on the 2001 award-winning dark fantasy novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman, and with showrunners Bryan Fuller ("Hannibal," "Pushing Daisies" and "Heroes") and Michael Green ("The River," "Kings" and "Heroes") on board, "American Gods" is already generating huge buzz, with a social media following of more than 3.5 million across Facebook and Twitter–independent of author Gaiman's huge social reach. (Gaiman alone has nearly 2.5 million followers on Twitter.)

"I am thrilled, scared, delighted, nervous and a ball of glorious anticipation. The team that is going to bring the world of American Gods to the screen has been assembled like the master criminals in a caper movie: I'm relieved and confident that my baby is in good hands," says Gaiman.

All this, and the show hasn't even wrapped production of its 10-episode first season yet.

"This is a novel that is beloved and has an absolutely rabid fan base," says Craig Cegielski, co-chief executive officer, FremantleMedia North America. "Neil Gaiman has set this tone in the community that fans just eat up and love."

The central plot of the series posits on a war brewing between old and new gods–the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world are losing believers to an upstart pantheon of new gods that reflect modern society's love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs.

The series is set to air on the Starz network, and casting has added fuel to the social media fire.

Tapped for the series are Ricky Whittle as the lead protagonist Shadow Moon, an ex-con who becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to the mysterious Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane); Emily Browning as Shadow's wife Laura Moon; and Crispin Glover as the seemingly omniscient leader of the new gods, Mr. World. Other casting highlights include Cloris Leachman as Zorya Vechernyaya, Peter Stomare as Czernobog, Chris Obi as Anubis, Mousa Kraish as The Jinn, Sean Harris as Mad Sweeney, Yetide Badaki as Bilquis, Bruce Langley as Technical Boy and Jonathan Tucker as Low Key Lyesmith.

"When you watch the actors inhabit the characters, it really is a joy. The writing is beautiful and the scripts are magical, and when you get these people on the screen, it is truly engaging," says Cegielski. "The way that Michael and Bryan have unpacked the characters in the show allows for a very sustainable series across several seasons."

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And creating a sustaining franchise is the ultimate goal, says Cegielski.

"The moment that we brought Bryan and Michael on board and sold the series to Starz, I activated the idea about how to maximize this opportunity. Everything that you can imagine when you discuss a franchise comes to mind with this series," says Cegielski. "We have initiated every aspect of the consumer product side of the business, and have had conversations about everything from slot machines down to the coin that Shadow Moon carries with him. There is so much fan-made product out there already–it's an engaging book. I've never experienced a show that is more connected to its audience with more passion."

Despite how early the series is in rollout, a thoughtful consumer product program is already in the works, with several partners already signed on to support the property.

"'American Gods' dark and epic storyline, complex characters of old and new gods and fantasy elements translate very nicely into key categories such as publishing, apparel, games, gaming, social expressions and costumes, while also lending itself to novelty and collectible products such as figures, trading cards, prop replicas and the like," says Andrea Brent, senior vice president, licensing and franchise management, FremantleMedia North America.

Chronicle Books is signed on for publishing for a hardcover behind-the-scenes look at the filming of season one; and Dark Horse has been tapped for a variety of novelty and collectible products including sculpted coin replica pins, lenticular posters and cards, playing cards, 3D crystal laser-etched cubes, optical illusion products, barware, embroidered patches and journals.

First rollout of product is expected to be available in 2017, following the series' premiere.

According to Brent, Fremantle is building this program with an eye to worldwide distribution and is exploring additional opportunities with potential partners across key categories. There are also plans to expand offerings as the series progresses.

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"The property has a great heritage, and our goal is to develop a consumer product program that resonates with its existing fan base and with newcomers who will soon discover 'American Gods' through this highly anticipated series," says Brent. "We are laying the groundwork for a global franchise."

Fremantle says that the fundamental message of the series and its storyline is something that will echo across all cultures and is one that, despite being originally written more than 15 years ago, is still as relevant today as ever.

"The novel is incredibly relevant today because we inadvertently find ourselves worshipping or being slaves to our devices–we've drifted a bit from our traditional faiths that we have brought over to America and that used to give us that sense of purpose and the ability to sit in quiet contemplation, pray and feel a connection to a higher power," says Cegielski. "The new gods in the book are saying the same things that we are in the show: humanity is in a state of dysfunction and experiencing a borderline existential crisis, and these devices and the distraction they provide keep humanity in its place. And that's what the new gods provide–distraction. The old gods provided a transaction–hope or luck or strength... there was a real sense of personal connection and a human result that people would actually receive from giving faith and prayers."

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