Starz’s new original series, American Gods, begins airing April 30th. The Knockturnal got to sit down with several of the stars, including Emily Browning and Yetide Badaki. Badaki plays Bilquis, while Browning plays Laura Moon. The two stars talk with us about their roles, and the way American Gods explores love and faith.
The Knockturnal: Can you tell us about who you play in the series?
Emily Browning: I play Laura Moon, who is the wife of Shadow. She dies in episode one of the show, and then she’s resurrected under mysterious circumstances. She’s kinda trying to find Shadow for the rest of the story, but she’s rapidly decaying. She’s essentially an exhumed corpse. That’s it, really.
Yetide Badaki: I love that description, by the way. I play Bilquis. She’s an ancient goddess of love, who’s trying to find her relevance in the present day. Which, I will say, if anyone has been online dating, you would understand how the goddess of love might be starving a little bit right now. It’s really interesting, because she’s this extraordinary character, who is finding herself in ordinary circumstances. She’s just trying to get by, day to day, like any of the other people around her, who could’ve been potential worshipers.
The Knockturnal: Both of you have interesting, different storylines centered around love. How do you think the show does with tackling love, and the faith that comes with love?
Browning: I think Laura’s character, when she’s alive, doesn’t particularly understand what love is. I mean, she’s found a husband because she feels like that’s what she’s supposed to do. But she’s not particularly happy in her life. Then she dies, and realizes that death kind of didn’t affect her, really. I mean, she’s decomposing, sure, she probably smells pretty bad, but she’s still there. Once she doesn’t have any of that fear anymore, once you don’t have to worry about death, you’re kid of free, and she realizes the thing that actually means something to her is love, and is Shadow, essentially. She was kind of a regular kind of wife-girlfriend character, this kind of boring character we’ve seen a million times. There’s a great interview with Emma Thompson, where she talks about never wanting to play the woman character that’s saying to the man “don’t go and do the brave thing.” Which is so great, and I feel exactly the same way. If Laura had been a character that was written like that, I don’t think it would’ve been particularly interesting for me to play someone who wanted to get her husband back. But I feel like the fact that Laura is this very difficult, crass, incredibly selfish, and completely not self-aware person-
Badaki: And badass!
Browning: Yeah, I’d like to think so… she was a lot of fun. But I think it is interesting to see how she’s probably the least loving character in the whole show, and yet that’s what she’s after. That’s what she worships, is love.
Badaki: Well isn’t that the thing though? Sometimes the least loving just need that much more love? I mean, I’m not saying that ’cause I play Bilquis the god of love or anything. But as far as love, and faith, and belief, it’s been really interesting diving into these characters, because it’s so relevant. We were just talking about this New York Times article where millennials were having less sex-
Browning: Because they’re all on their phones.
Badaki: Yeah, and there’s less intimacy in general. And the idea of what is happening to intimacy and love? What would happen to a goddess of love in this time? Is she starving, and living off of empty calories, so to speak? Because I feel that there’s so many things where, you look around, they’re telling you they’re selling you love. But they’re an empty container of something that’s supposed to be love. And you buy more and more of it, but you’re still feeling empty. So I think it’s a really interesting discussion to have, of what is happening to our intimacy, and to our person-to-person connection? And I love that the show is asking that question.