Ricky Whittle Talks Shadow's Identity Crisis in American Gods Season 3

What a nice hat.
What a nice hat.
Image: Starz

The third season of American Gods will be a departure, finding Shadow in the small, seemingly innocent town of Lakeline. It’s not innocent, and for Shadow this isn’t just a quiet getaway—it’s a chance for him to figure out who or what he really is, and what he wants from the world.

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In a new interview with Syfy Wire, actor Ricky Whittle talks Shadow’s rough place and how it reflects the broader thematic goals of the embattled Starz series.

It’s a journey of self-discovery right now, [Shadow’s] got to figure out who he is, and now that he knows he’s a god, what he is. What kind of god he wants to be,” Whittle said, of the situation Shadow finds himself in at the start of the third season. We find him and he’s in hiding from the police and the FBI. He’s grown his hair out, his beard out, he’s changed his name, because this is all Wednesday’s fault. Wednesday brought this to his door. Wednesday is kind of like the root of everything that has gone wrong with Shadow.”

That means trying to unravel his own godhood while getting to the bottom of what’s going on at Lakeside, where a bizarre supernatural murder mystery is going down, one of the strangest side stories in the American Gods world.

As for Shadow’s godhood, Whittle has some thoughts about that, as well.

It’s always about worship, not being forgotten. I think anyone can relate to that in the world. Why do we watch American Gods, why do we watch Avengers, and all these kind of movies of magic and stuff that is not too tangible? Because we want to believe in the magic, we want to believe in things that are impossible [but] can be done. This is his destiny and there’s only so long you can run away from it before it will eventually find you,” Whittle said.

That point, he says, reflects on the show’s larger thematic ideas about America. Like Shadow, America is a country in an identity crisis, one that can’t really look at itself.

“It’s that inability to look at one’s self. I think that’s mirrored in this country. Everyone’s too afraid to look at America for what it truly is. You’ve set the narrative, you’ve decided that this is who you are, this is who Shadow is, and then all of a sudden you’ve had your eyes opened to this world of truth. Same as in Lakeside, this beautiful, wonderful town on the surface, but if you look at the dark underbelly there is so much more going on. I think that’s very much mirrored in today’s society in America, where America and its citizens believe it’s a land of the free and this and that, but to be quite honest, America was never truly free. The last time America was truly free was before “Americans” got there,” Whittle said. “This is a country full of mass incarceration, a land that we’ve taken from Native Americans, it’s a country full of immigrants which still has the cheek to deny immigrants from coming in.”

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Shadow, in Whittle’s eyes, reflects America’s own embattlement and identity crisis. He might also reflect the show’s own struggles—from the loss of its original showrunners to the loss of Orlando Jones, who alleges racism on the part of the show’s lead staff. It’s less clear than ever whether the show can recover from these problems to become something truly compelling.

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Like Lakeside, we’ll find out what secrets American Gods holds in its third season when it premieres tonight.


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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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