Driven By Love – Ricky Whittle

Without a shadow of a doubt, Ricky Whittle is winning over hearts across the world.

“If you don’t like Mondays, you don’t like your job. I love Mondays – I get to play make-believe with my friends and idols for a living,” Ricky Whittle offered up for advice.
Fans of American Gods also know that the actor appreciates Wednesdays. Well, one Wednesday in particular. In the series, Whittle’s character is tasked with looking out for, “Mr. Wednesday” (played by Ian McShane).

As the lead in the Starz hit show, Whittle takes on the role of “Shadow Moon.” “Shadow Moon” is an innately powerful being, shrouded in mystery, and driven by love. While the actor has received widespread acclaim for his part in American Gods, he has a long list of credits behind him, earning him his current celestial status.

Whittle’s journey has been anything but conventional. Born in the UK, he excelled in sports, pursued a law degree, became a successful model, and then finally realized that his heart was in acting.
Audiences fell in love with Whittle thanks to shows such as VH1’s Single Ladies, the Netflix film Nappily Ever After, and playing Lincoln, in The CW’s The 100.
If anyone can star in a show about Gods, it’s Ricky Whittle. Luckily, he’s up for the challenge.

Sari: Growing up, you were an athlete, you studied law, you modeled; your path took you in many different directions before you got here. How do you think your past helped prepare you for your present?
Ricky Whittle: I’m not sure many of those occupations felt like a guiding beacon preparing me for life as I know it, but obviously, everything we do brings us to where we are and of that list I can say one thing that really helped is being an athlete. To succeed you needed discipline and you figure out very quickly that talent alone doesn’t cut it; you need hard work, sacrifice, and a little luck. We are a reflection of the work we have or have not put in, and if you don’t sacrifice for what you want early on, what you want will be your sacrifice.

Sari: You’ve been the fan favorite on so many shows. Looking back at Dream Team, Hollyoaks, Single Ladies, Mistresses, and The 100, if you could take aspects of every character, which traits of each do you relate to off-screen?
RW: I’ve been very fortunate to play fun-loving, morally good characters. Obviously, all had their flaws but never professed to be perfect. I like to think I’m a good person who constantly thinks of others before themselves as my current and former characters Lincoln, Shadow, and Calvin do, often making sacrifices for those they loved. I think every character has had their love interests, too. I’m very much a romantic and [I’m a] big softy. I love my sunsets, chick flicks, and happy endings, and feel I’m very much ruled by my heart, which I wear loud and proud on my sleeve.

Sari: Which character were you most attached to? Which one do you really miss playing?
RW: Lincoln from The 100 is a recent role I enjoyed in the sense that he had so much unfinished business; it was a missed opportunity on someone’s part. It was an incredible role that I was able to work with that really could’ve gone into so much detail about his past and had so much scope for future storytelling. My first role in Dream Team was also probably the most fun; in that, I played a successful soccer player who loved sports cars, fighting, jokes, and beautiful ladies. He was fun to play and a great education in many ways.

Sari: Jumping into American Gods, which happens to be my favorite show, tell me what has been the most thrilling part for you, working on the series, and playing a character like Shadow Moon?
RW: An honor that I will forever be grateful to Neil Gaiman, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green for. There are so many names that gave me this incredible opportunity to play such an iconic character in the book world: Chris Albrecht, Craig Cegielski, and Stefanie Berk. To bring this powerful lil cinnamon bun to the screen has been so much fun. Knowing how I want to build the character slowly each season, so he grows with the story. Allowing me to be patient and not giving the audience the finished article has been fun to play with and leaves me with so much room to evolve Shadow. I’m excited for fans of the book to see how I approach their favorite moments in the novel and stories we’ve expanded, and for fans of the show to realize the work I’ve put in, to give them a protagonist who is completely different at the end of their journey from the beginning. It’s nice to have a character that learns and evolves throughout a series. Shadow is a shadow of the man he was and hopefully a shadow of the man we want him to become.

Sari: Meat Loaf sang about love when he said, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That).” In season 1 of American Gods, we got to see how far your character, Shadow Moon, would go for love. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done for love in real life?
RW: [Laughs] So much. As I said, I’m a softy. I’ve flown to another country to surprise a girlfriend for literally a few hours before flying home as we missed each other. I’ve set up an elaborate “treasure hunt” that started with her getting a gift and clue in the morning at home, that sent her around the country, chasing different clues from locations we had been to during our time, ending up in a beautiful destination. Like I said, I’m too soft sometimes.

Sari: If you could be any God, New or Old, who would you be and why?
RW: An all-powerful Old God of chocolate. Candy has come and gone, treats have passing moments, but chocolate has always remained a favorite and for me is the most powerful of all snacks, treats, and desires. If I took chocolate away from this world watch it crumble, people would lose their minds.

Sari: [Laughs] What’s the biggest real-life lesson your character on American Gods has taught you?
RW: I guess to always ask more questions as you never know what you’re getting yourself into and keep moving forward. Shadow constantly gets beaten down physically, spiritually and mentally, but continues to get up and keep moving forward. That takes a lot of strength.

Sari: So, if you were a betting man, whom do you think will win the war; the New Gods or the Old Gods?
RW: But I’m not a betting man [smiles].

Sari: We know there’s a season 3 coming. Do you see yourself ever doing things behind the camera? Maybe producing or directing?
RW: Yes, very much so. I was working very hard behind the scenes throughout season 2, as I was very much involved in the creative direction and continuity. I was able to work with Chris Byrne, Ian McShane, and Orlando Jones, amongst directors and writers to help continue Shadow’s story and keep various characters arcs in line. I have an eye and interest in directing – but for now, beyond acting, I’m very much looking forward to producing.

Sari: Where do you see yourself going in the future?
RW: I feel this show has a good few seasons to run to get us through until the end of the book, and maybe beyond, so this will be fun to finish off Shadow’s story. Throughout that journey, I’d like to dip more into a variety of movies. Action, comedy, romance – it’s nice to keep the versatility and freshness of new projects coming and to keep that challenge coming as well.

Sari: What do you see in store for the future of Shadow Moon?
RW: Everything. I see some happiness but also a lot more pain and suffering. He is at the beginning of an incredible journey that will take him around the country, world and beyond. It truly is a roller coaster ride for Shadow. It’s going to be fun and sometimes intense to watch.

Sari Cohen