'American Gods': Kristin Chenoweth on Easter Worship and Why She Loves Ricky Whittle Very Much
Kristin Chenoweth and Ian McShane in American Gods.
[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead unless you've watched the season finale of American Gods. Major plot points discussed below.]
And just like that, the first season of American Gods is over! Did it all make sense? Not always. Did it go where we expected? Not usually (unless you're a fan of the Neil Gaiman book that the ambitious show is based on). Was it a visual orgy of fabulous sites? Yes, yes and yes.
In the season finale, we meet the fabulously fun Easter, played with her usual blend of beauty, mischief and depth by Kristin Chenoweth. Easter (aka, Ostara, goddess of spring) is visited by Wednesday (Ian McShane) and Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) who's goal is to recruit her to come back to prominence as a god and show the new gods that they shouldn't tussle with the old gods.
But, of course, these relationships old and new are more than a little complicated. Thankfully, Chenoweth talked to TV Insider about what it all (potentially) means and whether viewers will see more of Easter in the second season of the Starz hit.
With so much talk of faith and belief in the series, what were those first conversations like with Bryan and Michael since I know your faith is very close to your heart?
Well, it’s so funny, because when he called and asked me to do it, I panicked. Not that I was worried about my faith or how other Christians or people of faith might view it but because I wanted to just do the role justice. And you just have to go there. And he asked me, actually, “How are you going to feel as a Christian? Because I actually like it that you are and that you would do this.” That’s the reason I like it and this is the truth. It’s because it’s important for other young artists and people to know that people of faith are open to the idea that there’s other ways of thinking, not just theirs. I guess that’s the way I view art and my craft.
Do you think she has some affection for Wednesday? I know she’s not necessarily happy to see him initially but…
Well, I ask you, what was their relationship like in the past? In her heyday—and, possibly, his—what was that relationship? Was it romantic? Was it sibling? Was it child-parent? I think that that’s all going to unfold...
Also, I was incredibly nervous because being in the finale, the cast had all been doing their work and discovering the tone and I was new. I said to Bryan, “I’m so nervous. I want to make sure I’m in the right tone. I’m not going to mess this up.” And he said, “Well, that’s Easter, right there.” And I thought, “Oh, he’s right. I’m being Easter right now!” So I just took that energy in. But I think that you can also see that there’s some deep rooted anger with her that she just lets out embarrassingly a few times. But maybe that’s something that we’ll discover over time that has been very hard and I think that maybe Wednesday has been at the root of it.
Early in the episode, before they even get to Easter’s place, Wednesday warns Shadow not to let her like him too much. Is there a dark side to her when she becomes infatuated with somebody or brings someone close?
I like to think that she has had a lot of power in the past, but then it’s been put away on the shelf because, again, she is trying to be relevant and kind and figure out a way she can fold into this new world. But I like to think that in the past, she had a very special charm that no one is safe with. In fact, was there a relationship with Wednesday or with Pablo Schreiber’s character? I think that both of those men could probably say “don’t get caught in her web, don’t get caught in her basket because you might not be able to get out.” So that’s one of the things that I lead with in my character and I’m really glad that you picked up on that because that line, that’s extremely important.
Ostara is the person that lets Laura in on this big secret that the audience has known about—who’s responsible for her death. I love her dialogue about life and death.
I also think it’s interesting that the writers chose for Ostara to be the one who is actually, physically sewing Laura Moon up. So when you do a physical action while you’re saying something like, “You're the Laura Moon?” And what I love about Emily [Browning's] performance, there’s a sense of confident discovery for her character that you see in her eyes. And Easter, let’s say, has been [to] the rodeo. She has had all the power, but this girl, it’s almost like she’s mentoring her and that’s a relationship in the show that I really hope that they keep discovering, if you will. It was inspiring, as an actress, to be working with her because here’s this girl and she’s half fallen apart. Literally, inside she’s falling apart! And so Ostara sees this girl who, all in the same day, she’s been seeing Wednesday and Shadow and then Sweeney comes back from her past, too. It’s a lot for Easter to take in!
And it’s after Ostara looks into Laura’s eyes, sees what she sees and then she goes outside and summons up her powers to help Wednesday against the new gods. That just seemed like an interesting chain of events.
You just said the work that I did for my own self when I did the scene. Because I was like, “Now I just have to go out and all of a sudden, have power? Well, what happened before?” Well, when you teach, when you mentor, when you’re a big sister, when you’re there for someone—I’m not just talking about in acting—you are also re-inspired; it’s a full circle moment. So what re-inspired her is Laura’s determination and also a little bit of her heartbreak. I’m going to take over now. I’m the woman and I’ve just given her some knowledge and I’m going to take back my power and show them. So absolutely that is why and that scene was so important. Because it informed the Ostara to go,"'Screw this! I used to be the most powerful one in the room!"
Because the show is so much about worship how important is that worship to Ostara? Is it everything or...?
Well, I think honestly, when the Jesi come into the home and she’s celebrating on Earth Day, she doesn’t mind that they are all kind to her and loving. I do think that in her past, she was exalted. She was exalted and worshipped and as with a lot of artists and as time goes by, sometimes that crown gets taken from you because you’re moving along in life. And then you gotta figure out how are you going to do it. Well, she decided is, “okay I’m going worship them. I’m going to show them what it is.” What she can’t get over and what you see in this episode is that she really needs it.
We look at a lot of these characters, and there’s a narcissistic quality to them. Wednesday, he’s getting what he needs from Shadow. Pablo’s character is getting what he needs. Ostara is getting what she needs by having receptions in her home and being told how fabulous she is. This is faux and it’s not real. Eventually, the new gods are the ones that point out that “You guys are living in an old world, man; you don’t even get it.” Which is why I love Bruce [Langley’s] character (Technical Boy)…he’s just kind of sitting back and laughing. It’s almost like he’s got the keys to the kingdom.
What were the challenges in having to swoon over Ricky Whittle in the episode? That must have been tough!
Let’s be honest, on a scale from zero to ten, it was zero challenge for me to swoon. Absolutely none, nada, nein. You don’t want to become that woman where you’re always like, “Oh, your arms.” I have an inner voice problem that just comes out on set, I’d be finding myself saying, “Hey, would you run the lines with me and could you remove your shirt?” [Laughs]
It’s also very easy to fall in love with a person when they have a humongous heart. And yes, he’s a beautiful man, but I fell in love with his heart. And he is exactly how you think he is, by the way, that’s who he is, there’s no false pretenses, there’s no ego, he checked that at the door because he wants to be great. That’s a thing that you just don’t see very often. I mean, you see it on our show with our cast. But it very much made me love him—very much.
And we will see you in season two, right?
Yes, of course!
Here's a video clip showcasing Easter in all her glory...
American Gods will return for a second season in 2018.