Exclusive Interview | Bryan Fuller on ‘American Gods’ and ‘Amazing Stories’
When last we spoke to Bryan Fuller, Crave’s latest guest editor, the producer of the acclaimed TV series Hannibal was reflecting on the past. He reached deep into the history of horror to highlight some of the most stylish scary movies in history. Today, we are looking instead to the future, which promises to be full of Amazing Stories, and feature plenty of American Gods.
Bryan Fuller is a busy man, and is currently developing two highly anticipated TV shows. His adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel American Gods, which is expected to premiere on STARZ sometime in 2017, will introduce audiences to a broader world of living, breathing deities. A war is brewing between the old gods of forgotten mythologies and the new gods of television and the internet, and Bryan Fuller is telling us all he can about how much the TV series will expand upon the events of the already epic novel.
Meanwhile, development has only just begun on Amazing Stories, a new version of the beloved anthology series which ran on NBC from 1985 through 1987. In the following exclusive interview, Bryan Fuller reveals how the new Amazing Stories came together, what fans can expect from the updated show, and denies the pesky rumor that original series producer Steven Spielberg is not involved with the future of the show.
Crave: Where are you at right now, in the process of producing American Gods?
Bryan Fuller: American Gods is cruising along very nicely. It’s very exciting. There’s conversations in the writer’s room that we are having on this show that I’ve never had in a writer’s room before, because we’re actually given the ability to talk about fate and belief, and the rules which we use to navigate society being challenged in a fashion that is not anti-religion, but not necessarily letting religion off the hook entirely.
So it’s very important to us in the show to not be making fun of anybody for their religious beliefs because we all have some sort of belief-like thing in our brain that could arguably be delusional, whether it’s ghosts or gods or whatever superstition, black cats, walking under ladders, et cetera. So every one of us is prone to a delusion-like belief and that feels like it’s an exciting arena to talk about humanity in a way that I haven’t been able to do before on a show. Not since Star Trek really.
One thing that’s absent from the book is organized religion. We don’t really see any priests, and we don’t really go into any churches. Is that something you’re more free to explore on the show?
Oh yeah, we get into Jesus and the big God as well. You know, so much of the book is exploring the more marginalized gods who are struggling to make their way in modern America without the strength of the believers that, say, Jesus and Buddha and Easter might have because of their public personas. So it wasn’t necessarily a part of the novel but ideally what our goal would be with this series – mine, Michael Green’s, Neil Gaiman’s – would be that the book American Gods is actually the Reader’s Digest version of the story.
Are there different versions of Jesus, or would there only be one, do you think?
Oh there’s as many Jesuses as there are cultures that believe in Jesus.
Do you think you’ll have a scene where they all meet and get in an argument?
I won’t say but stay tuned. That’s kind of your answer. [Laughs.]
“What we’re looking at with American Gods is developing a Marvel Universe, not with superheroes but with gods.”
The spin-off of American Gods takes place in its own isolated corner. Do you think there’s room to get to Anansi Boys or include it in some way?
Well, we don’t have the rights to Anansi Boys but we’re hoping that we will eventually. Mr. Nancy is going to play a major role in the series and potentially what we’re looking at with American Gods is developing a Marvel Universe, not with superheroes but with gods. As detailed and integrated as the Marvel Universe is, and doing that with deities is something that excited all of us.
So who knows? In success we may have spin-offs of American Gods that follow lesser gods in greater detail than you might in the main series, but there’s all sorts of potential for this show that we’re very excited about and I hope the audience is as enthusiastic as we are so we can bring those dreams to fruition.
Could there be actual superheroes, since we’re interpreting the idea of godhood so loosely in American Gods?
I think ideally these gods become superheroes in their own right, and I think that is their goal, of trying to reignite belief in them will give them more power to become those heroes that they promised their believers that they will become. So there is a heroic interpretation.
Or are you asking, in the rules of the universe, since the rules hinge on thought form – which is, if you believe in anything enough, it manifests into reality – that if we believe in Superman will we manifest him into reality?
I am asking that, yeah.
It’s an interesting question. We don’t necessarily cross over into those kind of broader superheroes but we do extend the thought form umbrella over other things that Americans believe in and may have manifested into reality because of those beliefs.
Something like urban legends, for example?
I want to talk to you about Amazing Stories, which just got announced. How long has this been in the cards? How long have you been working on this?
Not very long! It’s relatively new. I got a phone call from Steven Spielberg’s office asking for a meeting, and I went in and I sat down with Mr. Spielberg and he was very, very complimentary about Hannibal and how well it is produced, and [he] asked me if I would produce Amazing Stories and make sure it was as beautiful as Hannibal, and I said, “I will do whatever you want me to do, Mr. Spielberg.”
That is the correct answer.
How involved will he be throughout the course of the show? Or at this point is it all in your hands?
I have had three meetings on Amazing Stories, two of them with Steven Spielberg. So from my experience he is very involved. I’ve pitched him ten stories for episodes and he has approved five of them, and no story moves forward without Mr. Spielberg’s approval.
“I have had three meetings on Amazing Stories, two of them with Steven Spielberg. So from my experience he is very involved.”
The original series was basically a “Who’s Who?” of great directors. Is that the plan, again, to preserve the anthology format where each film will have the personality of the director involved? Or is it all Bryan Fuller?
Oh no, it’s almost as if I am curating the Amazing Stories magazine and reaching out to various writers and directors and asking them to play in this world, and that’s what is so exciting for me about this, that it’s not just “amazing stories” it’s “amazing storytellers.”
I realize you’re reaching out, but are there any pie in the sky people you’re really hoping to bring on board?
There are a few […] but no one I can say now because no one is confirmed.
For the filmmakers you reach out to, is there room for them to pitch ideas or are they all coming from you at this point?
Oh no, it’s almost like a nursery, a development nursery. We want people to come in and pitch. We want people to come in and tell us a story that they’re very excited about telling, and facilitate them telling it as well as I possibly can. One of the things that I’m most proud about, with working with the directors that I did on Hannibal, is that I basically provided the paradigm from which we make the show and then encouraged every director to make their best version of a pretentious art film. [Laughs.]
“That’s what is so exciting for me about this, that it’s not just ‘amazing stories’ it’s ‘amazing storytellers.'”
Amazing Stories seems a bit more Spielbergian and populist. Is that approach continuing, and if so is that approach refreshing or is it hard to wrap your head around at this point?
Oh I think it’s totally refreshing to tell stories in this way. It’s exciting that they can be high concept and that essentially, the requirements are that they have to be horror, science fiction or fantasy. Those are the requirements of the story.
What was your favorite original Amazing Story, and why?
I would have to say Mark Hamill as the collector [in] Gather Ye Acorns, because I am an action figure collector and I have action figures from my childhood, and I related very intimately to Mark Hamill’s journey in that episode! [Laughs.]
Top Photo: Todd Williamson / Getty Images North America
William Bibbiani (everyone calls him ‘Bibbs’) is Crave’s film content editor and critic. You can hear him every week on The B-Movies Podcast and watch him on the weekly YouTube series Most Craved and What the Flick. Follow his rantings on Twitter at @WilliamBibbiani.