‘American Gods’ Star Jonathan Tucker on Filming Alongside Death Row Prisoners

     January 9, 2017


Jonathan Tucker has quietly been building a varied filmography of TV and movie roles over the last 20 years, with early performances in Sleepers and The Virgin Suicides, and more recent efforts in fandom-driven shows The Black DonnellysParenthoodJustified, and Hannibal. He currently stars as MMA fighter Jay Kulina in the AT&T Audience Network family drama, Kingdom, and will appear as a pivotal character in Bryan Fuller‘s adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s American Gods on Starz later this year.

During the ongoing TCA 2017, our own Christina Radish had a chance to chat with Tucker about his work on Kingdom–keep an eye out for the full interview coming soon–but also managed to sneak in a few questions about the upcoming Starz series. He praised Fuller’s strength as a collaborator and showrunner, talked about the decision to expand the American Gods story into a more in-depth exploration of its mythology, and how he filmed his scenes in a state penitentiary alongside real prisoners on Death Row. Some spoilers follow, but we’ll give you a heads up in advance.


Image via DirecTV

Here’s what Tucker had to say about Fuller’s style as a showrunner, as compared to other fine folks he’s worked with over the years:

Bryan Fuller has been a wonderful collaborator. (Kingdom showrunner) Byron [Balasco] is like that, and so is (Justified showrunner) Graham Yost. These three showrunners are unique, in the sense that they don’t operate from a place of fear. They’re entirely confident in their own skills, and they not only allow, but are eager and they support people coming in and contributing their truest selves as artists. That gives you incredible leeway. That gives you the ability to take a risk.

Fuller & Co. are going to need that confidence and bravery if their plan to use the book to launch into more original story is going to pay off. Here are Tucker’s thoughts on that approach:

I knew of the book, but I hadn’t read it. It’s amazing that it’s resonated so thoroughly, across the world, and that it was written 20-some odd years ago and it seems to have more impact on today than it did when he wrote it. It’s incredibly prescient now, in this fight of technology, greed, media and demagoguery. I think people will really respond to it. The pilot is almost the entirety of the book, and then they use the book as the leaping off point for the rest of the season, which is cool. It’s done entirely with Neil Gaiman’s blessing, so it’s fun to take this really well-read book and use it as a place just to start. It’s like when you’re in elementary school and your teacher makes you write a new story about one of the characters you like. That’s kind of what we’re doing. You’re like, “I wish I could have seen more of Benvolio (in Romeo & Juliet),” or “I wish I could have followed the preacher in The Scarlet Letter. I want to know what he does when he goes home, and what his life is like.” It’s fun to explore these characters in a way outside of the book.