The Story Behind 'American Gods' Groundbreaking Sex Scene

Jim Halterman
Spoiler Alert Starz

Omid Abtahi as Salim and Mousa Kraish as the Jinn

When American Gods creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green looked at Neil Gaiman's book and were deciding what stories they wanted to be sure to include in the show's first season, one particular story was an easy decision.

"When we sat down to talk about the show, we were like 'Okay, what are the sequences in the book that you remember the most?' Fuller told TV Insider at the Paley Center for Media in Beverly Hills last week at a screening and panel discussion hosted in partnership by GLAAD. "We both said Salim and Jinn."

'American Gods' Renewed by Starz for Second Season

'American Gods' Renewed by Starz for Second Season

Whatever the gods want, the gods get, including more of the critically acclaimed new drama.

Played by Omid Abtahi (Salim) and Mousa Kraish (The Jinn), the characters in this story take the already ambitious series in yet another direction we have yet to see on not only this show, but all of television. "Especially with what's going on in the Middle East and in some Arabic countries where homosexuality is punishable by death, the Chechnyan gay camps, there was something to telling the story of a man coming from a country where homosexuality is punishable by death and not having ever had a loving sexual experience," Fuller explained. "We thought a lot about what the wish that The Jinn can grant Salim is making love to him. We wanted specifically to make it as aesthetically beautiful as possible, so regardless of your comfort level with same-sex romance, you couldn't deny that it was beautiful. That was part of our impetus."

For Abtahi, his character and the story told easily hits more than a few different groups of people in terms of representation. "This character represents the gay and lesbian group, the Muslim group, and then the immigrant group, and then the gay-Muslim-immigrant group," he explained. "Before the election, I really thought we were heading towards the right direction and now it seems like we've done a reversal and all three of those groups are getting harassed or discriminated against and they're possibly losing rights."

"American Gods" advance screening In Partnership With GLAAD

Omid Abtahi and Mousa Kraish speak onstage during the Q&A after the "American Gods" advance screening In Partnership with GLAAD at The Paley Center for Media on May 10, 2017 in Beverly Hills, California.

That said, Abtahi agreed that the story has a universal element to it that will also make it easily relatable for any viewer. "I think anybody who struggles with self worth, lack of self appreciation, self love, this will resonate with them and more specifically the gay-Muslim population, which I know is out there."

While Salim's backstory is a part of this particular episode, what about The Jinn? What's his story? "What I like about this character...the way the set up is is like in the book," Kraish said. "There's a mystery in the book, he comes and he goes, and there's a reason why—and we'll find out later—and that's how it's going to be in the show." (Yes, we will be seeing more of The Jinn and Salim later in the series.)

For Gaiman, whose popular American Gods book was released in 2001, he had many reasons for including an LGBT story in his sprawling story. "The biggest [reason] of which was having lots of LGBT friends and I find in doing a book about the American experience, I need some LGBT characters in here," he told us. "I wanted a love story. I thought, 'I think this story will work best if both of the characters are men. If it happens in New York.'"

A cab ride with a driver who repeatedly fell asleep at the wheel also gave him an interesting perspective to instill in the story. "I would reach over and wake him up. I thought, 'That feels like I could build a love story. I could make a love story work.' I loved writing it."

While not present at the GLAAD/Paley Center event, series star Ricky Whittle stopped by our Los Angeles offices last week to talk about his journey playing Shadow Moon as well as offering up his take on this week's envelope-pushing third episode. Check it out below and follow TV Guide Magazine on Facebook for all our upcoming Facebook Lives and more TV coverage.

American Gods, Sundays, 9/8c, Starz

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