“She’s a person who has messed up a lot and wants to redeem herself in a way. I think dying is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to her because – I mean you think about it – once you realise that death can’t beat you, what the hell is there to be scared about?”
Australian actress Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, Sleeping Beauty) is talking about her American Gods character, Laura Moon, who dies in a car accident in the first episode, setting off the chain of events that lands out hero, widower Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) in the employ of wandering trickster, Mr Wednesday (Ian McShane). Of course, in the show’s world of hidden gods and old magic, “dead” and “gone” are two different things.
“This story is all about what you choose to worship and ironically Laura realises after she dies that what she worships is love,” Browning explains. “Which is kind of funny to me because she is the least loveable character in the whole show and she’s certainly not the kind of character that you would imagine was just fighting for her husband’s love the whole time. And that’s exactly what I find so fascinating and so cool about her. I think if she was written as a lovely, friendly sort of submissive girlfriend character, that would be sickening but the fact that she’s this really difficult, crass, you know, sometimes really horrible person, I think it makes that journey a lot more interesting.”
American Gods is, of course, based on the novel by the popular dark fantasy author, Neil Gaiman. For her part, Browning was only peripherally aware of Gaiman’s work. “Do you know a website called Brain Pickings? I’d read a lot of interviews and excerpts of Neil Gaiman’s work on there and sort of loved him as a person before reading any of his work, and when I first heard about the show, they said ‘oh it’s a fantasy kind of’ and I think my first response was like ‘argh, boring’ but then they said it’s a book by Neil Gaiman and then I said ‘Oh! Okay! Let have a look’.”
Browning took a run at the novel but decided to hold off on finishing it until after the completion of the first season, lest it colour her characterisation too much. “It’s not that she’s a different character in the show it’s just that you only get to see one tiny facet of her in the book and she’s been expanded so much for the show and the book was sort of getting in the way of my story and I only read it after we had finished filming the show.”
She did, however, get to meet Gaiman, but only after production had finished up. “I didn’t meet him until the wrap party and we sort of chatted for like two hours at the wrap party and I just wanted him to be my best friend!”
Everyone else involved in the production was, she says, a dream to work with. “Everyone is just wonderful. It’s just an easy, great group of people and that definitely helps a lot.”
As for what Browning herself worships? “I think the main thing that I love is acting. All of it is about the element that makes me feel like I could never quit this job because I don’t know what I’d do without it is, when you’re working with great people and you are working on a scene that is beautifully written and it’s the moment when the camera’s rolling and you completely lose yourself in another is. I mean it’s the closest thing to sort of religious experience that I know.”
American Gods will premiere on Amazon Prime Video on May 1, 2017. Customers who are not already Amazon Prime Video members can sign up for a free 7-day trial at PrimeVideo.com.