Ricky Whittle. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, June 24 : In times of a "heated political climate" in the US, a show like "American Gods" which touches upon issues like immigration, sexism, racism and homophobia -- all of which have come into spotlight under Donald Trump's presidency -- is relevant, says its lead star Ricky Whittle.

He hopes the show is able to make way for a positive dialogue around the issues.

"Trump's new immigration policies are ridiculous. We have a fantastic platform here to touch that subject. The reason that America is such a great country is because of all the immigrants coming in and blessing the country with so many different wonderful cultures, religions and beliefs," Whittle told IANS over phone from Los Angeles.

Whittle was talking about Trump's initial executive order barring people from seven predominantly Muslim countries -- Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen -- from entering the US for 90 days. However, a federal judge issued a stay on that executive order. On March 6, Trump signed a second executive order, where Iraq was excluded from the list. That too was stayed. The matter has now gone to the US Supreme Court.

The actor, who hails from Oldham, England, added: "I think the show is more current now than ever. The book was released in 2001.

"I feel blessed to be a part of the show that raises a lot of questions and awareness about this... The show is going to make people start conversations about these very important points."
The fantasy show, available in India on internet video-on-demand service Amazon Prime Video India, is based on a novel by Neil Gaiman, and presents a modern-day take on Greek mythology about the power struggle between the traditional gods of mythology from around the world.

Running high on violence and explicit sex scenes, the show boasts a racially diverse cast as it explores a story of how religion underwent change due to immigrants and their beliefs. Whittle stars as Shadow Moon.

Was it easy to relate to his character considering he is also an immigrant in the US?
"Yes, but I think it is very important that the whole audience is able to relate to Shadow not just myself... America is this huge melting pot of various cultures and it's very easy to relate to as an immigrant myself," said the 35-year-old.

After finding his foothold in the modelling industry, Whittle moved to acting, and rose to prominence in the new millennia with shows like "Hollyoaks" and "Dream Team". He also found fame with reality TV show "Strictly Come Dancing" in 2009.

He has featured in shows like "Single Ladies", "NCIS", "The 100" and "Mistresses".

Whittle points out that finding a breakthrough in the entertainment industry of a foreign country is not easy, but he was lucky to find the right people at the right place.

"There are problems everywhere, but fortunately there are fantastic productions like 'American Gods' with ethnically diverse cast... The fans were worried that the show will be completely white-washed, but creators Bryan Fuller and Michael Green remained true to the book."
He doesn't deny, though, the lack of diversity in the industry. Whittle said it's definitely a problem, but one that's changing.

"The wind is changing and as long as we keep talking and pushing our own stories, they will eventually be heard," he said.

(Sugandha Rawal can be contacted at sugandha.r@ians.in)

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