Gaiman's "American Gods" novel is set in the present day and centers around the brewing battle between the crop of new, modern-day gods and the dwindling old gods. In Gaiman's world mythological deities are very real but as time passes, and the worship wanes, the old gods grow weaker. As new monuments of celebration and devotion arise (such as technology or celebrity), new gods grow in size and power.
Main character Shadow Moon is an ex-con, working as a bodyguard to one of the older gods, Mr. Wednesday (an incarnation of the Norse god Odin). Shadow Moon is a character of few words, but big on action.
Gaiman commented via press announcement on Whittle's casting: "I'm thrilled that Ricky has been cast as Shadow. His auditions were remarkable. The process of taking a world out of the pages of a book, and putting it onto the screen has begun. 'American Gods' is, at its heart, a book about immigrants, and it seems perfectly appropriate that Shadow will, like so much else, be Coming to America. I'm delighted Ricky will get to embody Shadow. Now the fun starts."
The driving forces behind the Starz series, Bryan Fuller ("Hannibal") and Michael Green ("Kings"), also released a joint statement addressing the fan base: "We searched every continent and country and all the islands in between for our Shadow Moon, and we are lucky to have found Ricky. Fans of the novel will find he has every bit of the heart of the character they fell in love with."