Except for a few shows that are well within my wheelhouse, I don’t follow TV very closely, but it looks like I might have to pay attention to American Gods, the upcoming Starz series based on Neil Gaiman’s award-winning novel. Entertainment Weekly reports that Jeremy Davies, of Lost and Justified fame, has been cast as Jesus.
I haven’t read Gaiman’s book, which is set in the present day and concerns a clash of sorts between the gods of ancient mythologies and some new gods who represent media and technology, but the names “Jesus” and “Christ” don’t show up at all on the book’s Wikipedia page, and a search for those words at Amazon turns up very little apart from the characters swearing. So I have no idea what Jesus’ precise role in this story will be. Entertainment Weekly describes the character this way, though:
Jesus plays into the appearance of another character: Kristin Chenoweth’s Easter, a.k.a. Ostara. Jesus’ official character description: “Resurrected on Ostara’s feast day, Jesus has always been generous in sharing the Easter holiday with the ancient goddess. But the overly empathetic Son of God would be crushed to know that Ostara harbors some deeply buried resentment over the issue.”
A few quick points:
First, Chenoweth herself is openly Christian, so it could be interesting to see how she approaches playing a pagan goddess who is some sort of rival to Jesus.
Second, is the series perpetuating the idea that Easter is somehow based on pagan fertility rites, or is it simply acknowledging that the Resurrection coincided with those rites? Historically, the Resurrection has always been associated with the Jewish Passover, and most languages refer to the feast day celebrating the Resurrection by some variant of Pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover (Greek Pascha, Spanish Pascua, French Pâques, and so on). It is only in English and German that the holiday is called Easter or Ostern — words that some have argued go back to an ancient goddess whose festivals just happened to coincide with the Passover cycle.
Finally, Jeremy Davies turns 47 next month. He thus joins Ewan McGregor, Cliff Curtis, Joaquin Phoenix and other recent actors who have been cast as Jesus in their 40s. (The biblical Jesus was only in his early 30s when he did what he did.)
The cast of American Gods also includes Ian McShane as Mr Wednesday a.k.a. Odin (McShane played Judas Iscariot in Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth, Sejanus in A.D. Anno Domini, and the King Saul surrogate in the TV show Kings) and Corbin Bernsen as Vulcan (Bernsen has made a number of “faith-based” films lately).
The series is set to premiere sometime in 2017. Starz released this trailer in July:
— The image above shows Davies playing Charles Manson in Helter Skelter (2004).