One is a tall leprechaun with a Napoleon complex and the other’s an audacious God obsessed with being up to date. Sounds like the start of a bad joke or romantic comedy. I assure it’s neither of these things. The tall leprechaun, played by Pablo Schreiber, and the Tech God, played by Bruce Langley, are creations of the brilliant mind behind American Gods, Neil Gaiman.
We got a chance to speak with Schreiber and Langley about the expanded storylines and characterizations of Mad Sweeney and Tech Boy. We explored what motivates them, what keeps them fighting, and what kind of roles they’re going to play in the war that Mr. Wednesday, one of the main protagonists of American Gods, is stoking. They both play key roles in what’s to come next and Fuller and Green took every opportunity to give us a peek behind the curtain and what they’re up when they’re not with Shadow, the other main protagonist of this visually twisted story of immigration and identity.
Despite their physical and God status differences, both men are angry jerks trying to lock down their place in a world that is ever changing and growing. They have things they fear despite the brazen attitude they carry like a badge of honor and the way they present themselves to the world and the Gods around. And there’s a constant struggle for identity they have to fight against and try to define for themselves.
According to Schreiber, Mad Sweeney is a leprechaun stuck in a world that doesn’t remember who he is and has stopped worshipping like he believes he deserves. He’s got money, he’s got tricks, but he honestly doesn’t give a shit. To him, none of it is important.
“We see a guy who has all the money in the world at his disposal, doesn’t give a shit. He looks like shit, his clothes are shit, he drinks like shit. He doesn’t give a fuck.” – Pablo Schreiber
What is important to Mad Sweeney, is earning a seat at the table of the Old Gods because he is in fact not one of them. He’s a worker bee, doing whatever Mr. Wednesday needs, just for the chance to be heard, respected, and worshipped like he used to be because the worship he’s receiving now is insulting and has led him to have the biggest chip on his shoulder.
I’m talking Lucky Charms. That delicious cereal with the little fighting leprechaun on the front is an insult to Mad Sweeney and the rich history of where he comes from. And every time he sees it, the chip on his shoulder just keeps growing.
“We all make due with what we’re given, but if you were given a little fighting guy on a cartoon box, you’d probably be pissed off too.” – Pablo Schreiber
It’s appropriation of his culture at it’s finest and as Schreiber explains, Mad Sweeney hates the misconceptions people have about leprechauns (aka pot of gold or his height.) And while Vulcan (God of Fire) is ok with his guns, Bilquis (God of Love) is ok with Tinder, and Easter (God of the Dawn) is making it work with sharing her holiday with 13 other Jesus’, Mad Sweeney can’t adapt to the marshmallow goodness of this cereal.
Lucky Charms is insulting to him and he’d rather fight, get all messed up as Mr. Wednesday’s enforcer, and go on unwanted road trips with Laura Moon (SPOILERS) any day of the week.
Tech Boy is on the complete opposite of the spectrum from Mad Sweeney. He is the personification of adaptability. Technology is changing, growing every second, and he feeds off of that, only getting more powerful as time goes on. He has a seat at the table with the New Gods and thinks of the Old ones as just dirt under his shoe. He’s practically the Joffrey of American Gods, to Langley’s delight, and he wants to make sure you know it from the moment you look at him.
“Everything’s new. It’s very audacious. Everything about the character kind of screams “fuck you.” So that should be the general vibe. And you’re looking at me kind of going, “Huh, I feel like that guy is flipping me off just by looking at me. That’s the general feel.” – Bruce Langley
Combine that with the fact that he’s highly adaptable and you’ve got a god who looks completely different every time you see him. This constant change is a core part of his character and is indicative of our relationship with social media, technology, and the internet. It’s also an indicator on why he’s so over the Old Gods and people like Mad Sweeney. He sees their struggle as fruitless because they, and the humans who worship them, are outdated.
“He’s literally thinking faster than a human mind is capable of processing and he’s forced to interact with these sacks of meat that are trying to make sense of the world and he’s having to try to dumb down his entire consciousness to try and communicate with them and they’re wasting his time, they’re very rudely still alive and they have the audacity to not do exactly what he wants.” – Bruce Langley
That begs the question, why does Tech Boy go after Shadow and try to warn him off his epic road trip with Mr. Wednesday if he’s so powerful? Because he’s afraid that someone will do to him what he did to others. His adaptability makes him keenly aware that his identity can be swiftly taken away from him by a God he can’t even fathom yet, something beyond technology.
This is where both characters fall perfectly in line. This upcoming war between the New Gods and the Old ones will either define or destroy their identity and need for validation, which we all are afflicted with. American Gods is going to take these multi-faceted characters who are not entirely good or evil, and pit them against each other in a fight for existence because that is all that matters at the end of the day.
Mad Sweeney and Tech Boy have all the money to live the lives they want to live, a hundred times over. What they don’t have, what money can’t buy, and what will always be a constant struggle, is the power to exist and enjoy that life without the worship of humans, like you and I, tethering them down.
From where I’m standing, lowly human that I am, we’ve got the better deal.
American Gods premieres Sunday, April 30th at 9/8c on Starz.