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What Good Omens Taught Neil Gaiman About Making American Gods

When your show is called American Gods, perhaps it's not too much to expect the occasional miracle. 

Author Neil Gaiman is no stranger to having his work adapted for the screen, having written the books upon which 2007's high-flying fantasy Stardust (starring Claire Danes and a pre-Daredevil Charlie Cox) and 2009's dark stop-motion animated Coraline were based, as well as penning episodes of shows like Babylon 5 and Doctor Who. In more recent years, though, Gaiman has begun taking a more proactive role in productions, especially as his work is being expanded into television shows, sometimes in ways that surprise his readers, particularly since he has shown a penchant for taking these adaptations in startling new directions from his original work. 

These days, Gaiman executive produces American Gods, the Starz series based on the book of the same name, which he originally published back in 2001 — and in season 3, he has specifically pushed to break the boundaries. However, the process that got him to be more hands-on, as he tells it, wasn't from working on American Gods, but rather, when he served as showrunner for the 2019 Amazon Studios/BBC Studios adaptation of Good Omens, based on a novel he wrote with Terry Pratchett. It was that experience, Gaiman said recently in an interview with Comic Book Resources, that really helped him get a handle on the tricks of the trade ... or, rather, helped him learn to identify one particular trick that other people attempt to pull, whenever he asked for something that might prove difficult.

How Neil Gaiman learned not to take no for an answer

During the process of making Good Omens, Gaiman told CBR, "In many ways, the thing that I learned was not to believe things that sounded very credible that people would tell me."

The example Gaiman used, to explain what he meant by this, is one of scale. He says it took time for him to realize that when people on the crew would push back against certain things, saying it cost too much to do, that it was his job to push back and encourage them to find a way to achieve the desired results creatively. "We can't afford to do the $600 thousand version of that, but we could also do a $300 thousand version of that; we could do $150 thousand version of that, and we could also do a $75 thousand version of that [...] So, let's assume that we're going to shoot it and move on from there and figure out how."

After learning the ropes as a showrunner, Gaiman described how he understood that it meant not falling back whenever someone said something was impossible, because sometimes they just hadn't approached the problem imaginatively enough — or other times, they just didn't want to do it, and in Gaiman's words, "if you want to do something, there is always a way."

The third season of American Gods debuted on Starz on January 10, and new episodes will appear each Sunday until March 14.