‘American Gods’ Finale: Yetide Badaki on That Sensual Bilquis-Shadow Exchange

American Gods - Yetide Badaki
Spoiler Alert

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 2 finale of American Gods, “Moon Shadow.”]

Well that was a doozy of a season finale, wasn’t it?

In the two seasons that Starz’s American Gods has been on the air, viewers became used to not fully understanding what’s playing out in front of them but, as the finale proved, it’s always a hell of a ride, leaving you with much to chew on.

After last week’s shocking death of feisty leprechaun Mad Sweeney (Pablo Schreiber), the second season finale picked up shortly after that tragedy and, as one would expect, everyone is still reeling. Well, everyone except that puppet master Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane), who quickly cut out on his own.

There were great moments in the episode between characters but the high point, and what will lead us into the third season (yes, the show has already been renewed), was when Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) also came to some realizations as he pieced together information and came up with some idea of his origins.

Also, fan favorite Queen Bilquis was very present in the finale so it was a perfect time to chat with Yetide Badaki to get her take on what we saw transpire and how Bilquis has weathered this crazy season. Plus, she breaks down the meaning of that scene she shared with Shadow.

I don’t even know how to ask you questions on the finale, Yetide!

Yetide Badaki: [laughs] Just go for it, what do you want to know?

Emily Browning and Yetide Badaki earlier this season on American Gods

In a general sense, how would you put into words the finale and how things have wrapped up for Season 2?

We see Shadow go through a major revelation and start to take on agency, opening up many, many possibilities for Season 3.

With Bilquis, she started the season inserting herself in the mix of everyone but then there was a lot of talk of which side she was on. Do you feel like she knows where she’s at even if everyone else is questioning it?

What I love about playing Bilquis is that [everyone is] thrown into a world where there are very divisive individuals, offering only 2 options. Neither of those options really end well for anybody. Bilquis offers a third way and that’s what the journey of this season has been for her, remembering that she is, in fact, a queen. While everybody is scrambling trying to get a queen, while they’re all playing games, she starts to maneuver along a completely different board. She’s not just thinking outside of the box, there is no box for Bilquis.

And she’s not playing by the rules that are presented to her, she’s kind of like, “This is what I’m going to do.”

Exactly. Exactly. It was very interesting to me that people said, “why didn’t she go with Wednesday?” and, as we saw in the very first episode, they didn’t even invite her to the table. [Laughs] She bought her own folding chair! In her mind, she should have been the first person to be invited and so not only was she not invited, the option that’s been given up is so static.

Then she sees Mr. World (Crispin Glover) and what he has presented to her was an idea she thought may be worth examining because she thought at the time that he understood an idea of evolution, evolving. You even have this conversation, which I really thought at first when we saw it on paper it was very much one against the other, but the more we started to play with it was the idea that they’re trying really hard to connect and understand each other but then it becomes all the more heartbreaking that she sees he doesn’t get it, he’s just a flip side on Wednesday’s coin.

So, Bilquis, she’s one of the few gods that really started to listen. When she got to Cairo and started to interact with Ruby Goodchild, played by the amazing Mouna Traoré, she sat and she listened. Then you see this evolution of understanding that she’s part of a circuit, I think all the gods understand but they hate to acknowledge it, that these Gods only exist by worship. They are therefore deeply dependent on these worshipers.

I feel like there are big life lessons to learn in American Gods. Listen to people!

We’re definitely learning. That’s one of the things that I enjoy about Bilquis is that she does evolve, she takes in new in information and she continues to grow with every piece of data that comes in.

I feel like everybody could learn from her because a lot of times, Wednesday’s not listening to the other side he just sees them as adversaries. I say Season 3 should be all about Bilquis and what she’s doing.

And seeing the world through Shadow’s eyes…Shadow is the audience in so many ways and so that’s why I’m so excited that the final episode is almost like a blinder has been removed. The audience gets to have that revelation, as well. It’s beautiful to behold.

Speaking of Shadow, let’s talk about that great scene with Bilquis and Shadow, towards the end of the episode. I personally did not read it as completely sexual. It would be almost too easy for it to be purely sexual but what do you think?

I did not see it purely as that. Sensuality is all with the part of Bilquis, it’s part of her, it’s part of her being which she does not shy away from at all. What I loved was that in that moment where many are preparing for conflict, she instead got absolutely vulnerable and she bought it down to her essence and she instead opened up as opposed to armoring up. There are so many layers and I would even…I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say…I would venture to hint at there being a longer history with Shadow. There are so many layers there that you’re absolutely right it’s not just a sexual moment. There is a revelation, there is a recognition, there is a connection in that moment and there is so much more that’s being hinted at.

It must be nice to know that you guys do have a Season 3 instead of having to wait, you know there will be more of these characters in the story.

It’s incredible to know that! And, I mean, let’s go through this incredible cast. You’ve got Omid Abtahi (Salim) who I absolutely adore, you’ve got Ricky Whittle, who’s amazing but we all know this. You’ve got Emily Browning (Laura Moon), Kahyun Kim (New Media), Sakina Jaffrey (Mama-Ji)… there are so many incredible characters that I know everybody wants to know so much more about. It’s a joy to know that we have a whole other season to do more deep dives into all these fascinating characters that we’ve grown to know and love.

At the Season 2 premiere in Los Angeles: (l-r) Omid Abtahi, Pablo Schreiber, Mousa Kraish, Sakina Jaffrey, Ian McShane, Demore Barnes, Emily Browning, Ricky Whittle, Peter Stormare, Crispin Glover, Bruce Langley, Yetide Badaki, Carmi Zlotnik and Jeffrey Hirsch.

Backing up to last week’s episode, Mad Sweeney’s big episode, I was so happy you and Pablo had a scene together…and a scene where you actually talked and things slowed down a bit.

Pablo Schreiber is one of my favorite artists of all time. So generous as a performer, so generous in general. It was a wonderful collaboration. There are corollaries between Mad Sweeney and Bilquis. For one, they are two Gods that have, in different mythologies, come from a mortal space, which not all of the other Gods share. They’ve also come from deeply wounded pasts and there is so much that they recognize and respect in each other and I just love that they go to sit down and talk to each other. It was so tender and it was so connected. It was one of my favorite experiences as an actor of all time.

American Gods will return for Season 3 on Starz. Catch up on the first two seasons on the Starz app and StarzPlay.