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Interview: Mousa Kraish on American Gods season 2 and the Jinn and Salim’s relationship

We’re huge fans of the Neil Gaiman adaptation American Gods here at We Have a Hulk, and one of the more touching storylines of the show has to be the relationship between old god Jinn (Mousa Kraish) and the young Muslim man from Oman, Salim (Omid Abtahi).

The two shared a passionate night together back in the first season, and now in the second they’ve returned on a road trip to track down Mr Wednesday’s spear for the the upcoming war between the Old Gods and the New, with Jinn questioning Salim’s beliefs along the way…

I had the opportunity to speak to Mousa about season two of the series and just how they create such a visually amazing and diverse show, as well as the next Neil Gaman property to hit our screens, Good Omens

NA: So, I mean, things must be crazy right now – congratulations on the season three announcement! How are things in your life at the moment?

MK: How are things in my life? I’m walking down the street and people are just sometimes stopping me and giving me candy. I don’t know why… Ha, I wish it was like that! No, I know, it’s pretty cool, I love the interaction with the fans and it’s great going to all these cities and just meeting new people and just getting to know people who love Neil Gaiman and kind of an extension of that because you’re seeing his characters come to life, and you’re a part of that world. So I’m honored to be a part of it, but I feel like I’m just this small cog in this huge wheel of Neil Gaimon’s world because they’re all intersecting and yeah, I’m blessed!

NA: And you’ve been to comic con as well?

MK: Oh yeah, yeah. The last comic con I’ve been to was the New York Comic Con which just happened to be my first comic con ever! I had no idea what to expect. I grew up on the comic books and for some reason I just was one of those kids who just started reading. I got my hands on comics when I was around I think 13 and to maybe to early 20s, I was in it and then something happened where I think the real world happened and I was working.

NA: Life happened yeah!

MK: Yeah and I was like oh okay, I gotta pay for these books now! They were getting more expensive, I remember comics being like 1.95 – 2 dollars for an Image comic book and I still have a lot of my old books and then going back to comic con and this love of comics came rushing back and I started remembering all my old books, and the things that I loved and I would go back to them and then I started making friends who were into comic books and I was like okay, this used to be a secret world when I was growing up.

NA: Ha, right?!

MK: So yeah, that was my first comic con and I’m hooked again!

NA: So what can you tell us about season two? We’ve just had episode three and you’ve got Gin’s road trip with Salim, which is a really interesting story line.

MK: Yeah it’s pretty cool because we’re extending that story from the book, as everything else really plays to the book. But then we started introducing these new characters because I think Neil’s purpose is to have a life after the book of what’s gonna go on and what’s gonna happen. And to see the Gin and Salim grow into a real relationship, because in season one it was this one-night stand and now it’s like this is what happens when a one night comes back into your life.

NA: Yeah, a bit awkward…!

MK: Yeah, so that’s what we’re gonna be playing with, is these two people actually getting to know one another, and I mean really getting to know one another (outside of the season one episode of getting to know one another!) We’re using our words this time…And we’re on this road trip and we’re on this journey to retrieve something for Mr. Wednesday and Salim is getting more and more involved in this world of Gods and in his own belief has started to be tested. And that’s a really interesting perspective to see because I guess Salim is the only human in this show, it was Laura, but now she’s a zombie! So to see Salim kind of, and he’s a genuinely good version of what we want human to be, so to see him see this world and have his own beliefs challenged and then for him to challenge them back, you’re gonna see some really cool things between him and Mr Wednesday and him and Mad Sweeney. So yeah, stay tuned for episode five, that’s gonna be a good one and a fun one.

So yeah, I guess that’s a bit of what I can tell you what’s gonna happen, and I don’t want to ruin episode eight, but something really tragic is going to happen in that one which is gonna extend and definitely challenge their relationships. So we have a lot to see when it comes to that – but I don’t wanna say any more and spoil it…

NA: So just stay tuned! So when we have the season opening you had that amazing shot with the house on the rock, I went to kind of like a press conference with some of the cast and they were saying some really weird things happened, so can you tell us a bit about filming at the House on the Rock?

MK: Yeah, so you know we shot there, we went to Wisconsin, and actually shot at the house on the rock. I mean for me and Omid Abtahi who plays Salim, we were just roaming around when we weren’t shooting, and there’s a lot of freaky things in that house of mysticism and to see somebody build weird upon weird upon weird, and it keeps going – you going to have a little bit of mystic! I could swear there was a doll who kept looking at me funny, and I was in one of those rooms with Omid, and he was actually laughing and saying, no it’s playing on your mind and I was like, I’m telling you this room of dolls is not the safest place we should be in right now…

NA: That’s terrifying…

MK: It’s a terrifying place, but it is a funny place and everybody should go and see it because I don’t think there’s anything like it in the world.

NA: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely just completely out there, isn’t it? And it was just a perfect setting I think for the TV show.

MK: Yeah, yeah, and there’s that great line that Orlando’s character Mr. Nancy says – there’s a Frank Lloyd Wright designed house in this area and this is his evil twin brother Frank Lloyd Wrong because there is a Frank Lloyd House surrounded by the House on the Rock. So it’s kind of weird to see this beautiful house designed by this great architect, and then this guy – it just stands out!

NA: So I’ve just got to say that American Gods is one of the most visually amazing shows on TV at the moment. How do you go about filming those amazing effects for the old Gods?

MK: Oh wow, so that’s all Chris Burns, he directed episode one and he also directed our last episode and he’s one of our producers on the show. But that guy is kind of a mad genius, he’s always trying new things and the way he kind of explains it to you, is kind of like a kid in a candy store. They way he’ll come up to you and we’ll look at a scene and we’ll get the pages and then I’d look at Omid and be like, how are we gonna do this?! So then Chris will come in and just be like, “okay, so I have this idea, and I wanna do this” and then he’ll start using references to old movies of other kind of crazy weird stuff. But just like being in that process, you’re around people who know exactly what they’re doing and exactly what they want to do and how to create it, and that is as an actor, to be a part of that world, and to be part of a crew who knows exactly what they’re doing and they know how to do it well – you couldn’t ask for anything more because you feel safe. Sure, you could hang me from the rafters, around the green screen, because I know what you’re gonna create around me because it’s going to be amazing.

Just this morning, somebody stop me at a coffee shop and we were talking about the show and they said that the show is just so visually stunning – it feels like a graphic novel come to life and I think that’s the goal, to have something different on TV, something that kind of relates more to like people who are involved in that world. You know American Gods isn’t for everybody, but it does relate to people who love that fantasy world and the show really goes there to have those fans satisfied with what they’re seeing.

NA: Yeah, I mean it’s just so impressive – it’s just such a fantastic team behind the show.

MK: That is all our crew, we are nothing without them and Chris Burn is the leader on that, and he surrounds himself by people who I’m sure are even just as crazy and mad geniuses in that world! It definitely takes a village to make this show.

NA: Definitely! I’ve been on social media looking at the hashtag American Gods and I saw you do a little bit a fan fiction! Can you tell us a bit more about that?

MK: Funnily enough I just started that because somebody said something to me, they read my writing somewhere in other projects that I’ve done, and somebody was like I would read this kind of fan fiction and I was just like, you know what, let me see if I could play with this world. So this literally just started and I’m kind of doing it because I love talking and engaging with these fans and especially in this world because it’s you guys who support what we do. So if I could keep giving back, if I could shoot photos on set that you’re never gonna see before, if I’m gonna show you a different side of the characters and really have the actors engaged and show you that Ricky is just a joy to be with, but me and him have this beautiful rivalry in terms of just playing with one another and trying to one-up one another and getting to know all the actors through the actor’s eye – it’s a very honest way of seeing our world and letting you in. And yeah, if the fan fiction is what the fans want and I hope we can do it, well, then why the hell not?

NA: I mean if you could do that for Mad Sweeney and Dead Wife as well, that would be fantastic!

MK: Okay, I think I’m gonna start adding more of it – yeah why not! What’s great is that I get I just get to play in this world and use my imagination and add to it. So who knows, maybe the fan fiction will make it into season three and maybe me and Salim will be in a forest doing certain things for the fans, so here’s to hoping!

NA: So are you looking forward to Good Omens at all, because that looks just fantastic, does’t it?

MK: Yeah, oh my God, yes! And the cast is insane! I got to work with John Hamm before, so I’ve seen him in this and we were at a party where they kinda did an American Gods and Good Omens get together at South By South West, and just seeing those guys all together and I’m like, this is going to be a beat. Amazon is making a very good choice by promoting more Neil Gaiman stuff, so yes, I’m very excited to see that one.

NA: So, last question, are you working on anything else at the moment or is it just hyping up for season three?

MK: No, I’m actually working on a feature film that I wrote, and hopefully that’ll come together and I got a good crew of people around it. But it’s a very personal, intense story that deals with being Arab-American in America, so I grew up in New York City and I was just part of that world pre 9-11, and after 9-11 things just changed for a lot of people, so the film really dives into that. It dives into a young Arab American boy coming of age and trying to figure out his own life the day before and the day after 9-11 – so it’s definitely a left turn – see I can be intense when I want to be. So it’s not all the jokes, but I’m really excited about putting that out there and seeing how the world responds.

NA: Definitely, that’s one thing I really love about American Gods – just how diverse the cast is and how rich it is.

MK: Yeah, and it’s giving a voice to so many people and honestly I don’t think I could have made this film without being on American Gods. The show is probably one of the most diverse shows on television and is a runaway success and that, in terms of the Hollywood model, is what they wanna see if something is actually out there and is becoming the norm. We can’t see films about Arab Americans just being American and refugee stories, and people of color and the things that they’re going through and we can’t be in horror movies and action movies and dramas and comedies because that’s literally what’s happening in the past few years. Get out was a huge success and now Us is a huge success and breaking records again. And seeing Captain Marvel breaking records and having the first true Marvel female-led superhero breaking box office records. So if you can tell a good story and put people of colour and refugees and people of different faiths and really show what the world is like, I think that’s when that Hollywood model is gonna change and it is changing for the better.

NA: Yeah definitely, and it’s just so refreshing to see.

MK: It is, and yeah we love these stories, and we love movies of the past, but the world’s evolving and we wanna grow and we wanna see more people who look like us on the screen. And I’m glad that I could be a part of that because it took me a while to get to where I’m at, and so I wanna enjoy the ride and hopefully people of the younger generation can see the stuff that I’m doing and that they can grow on that the same way that people would see old Spike Lee movies, and now wanna make those kind of films. We have to evolve and this is the form of evolving.

NA: Wow, definitely! Well thank you so much for taking the time out to join us today.

Mousa Kraish stars as the Jinn in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods which continues on Starz on Sunday night and on Amazon Prime Video UK on Mondays.