Out of all the deities vying for cultural dominance on Starz’s American Gods, the Technical Boy is perhaps the character who went through the most drastic reimagining in his translation from Neil Gaiman’s original novel to the small screen. He’s the embodiment of the very change that keeps the cutting edge sharp, but according to actor Bruce Langley, he’s more human than he lets on.
In this week’s “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” American Gods begins to delve into the curious position that New Media’s arrival puts the Technical Boy in as someone who’s supposed to have a lock on the digital aspect of Mr. World’s plan for conquest. For all the Technical Boy’s power and might that’s come with the rise of the cell phone age, Langley explained, he’s just as vulnerable as any one of his believers.
io9: Over the last couple of episodes, the show’s begin to brush up against the idea of what happens when gods become redundant. The Technical Boy’s the god of technology, but tech has also become a part of Argus, and New Media’s a god who couldn’t exist outside of the digital age. With all that established, is the Technical Boy really as “new” as he’s made himself out to be?
Bruce Langley: In no uncertain terms, yes, I would say. Technology’s existed since we started using sticks to reach slighter higher distances. That’s us deploying tools to further our own reach. What is that if not technology? So, I think in terms of analysing when that may or may not manifest as a deity—that’s an interesting question.
I think gods like the Technical Boy are the representation of a critical mass point where enough of the people in the world were believing in/using a particular technology.
io9: In your mind, does he truly see himself as part of this new era of gods, or is he potentially something much older?
Langley: I’m going to be very...vague with my answer here. In my opinion, that ephemeral embodiment of, let’s just call him the god of technology? There’s a very good chance he’s much older than we think or he thinks of himself as being. I think it’s interesting to consider him as being the essence of a much older god whose whole existence has been about constantly updating, or if he’s meant to be a discrete manifestation of one particular kind of technology.
You can see some of that in New Media’s relationship to Media, where she says she still feels her inside of her and the Technical Boy says “No, she didn’t die; she changed into you.”
Implicit in that is this question of whether the new version is aware of the existence of the old. To that point, the Tech Boy knows that whether or not he’s the newest incarnation of technology as a whole, if he’s not the shiniest, most recently-updated version of himself, he’s not important.
io9: Talk to me about the rivalry with New Media. They’re both fighting to be in Mr. World’s good graces, but it’s so interesting that she’s taken on this new form that feels like an outgrowth of what the Technical Boy’s created.
Langley: They’re something close to a symbiosis. She couldn’t exist with him. But without her, a significant about of Tech Boy’s worship wouldn’t be there, or it would be significantly different. He’s somewhat more of a necessity for her, that she is for him, however; if she were to supplant him with another union with a deity that would render him inert, that’s a huge chunk of his worship potentially gone.
io9: Which explains his hesitation to give Argus everything he needs.
Langley: Argus’ powers are literally rooted in technology, and so the Technical Boy still has some degree of control over him. But again, if the Tech Boy isn’t the cutting edge, he might be forced into a position where someone old like Argus could very easily overtake him.
Part of his consciousness is human, he’s the condensation of human belief. He’s distilled humanity and humans are emotional in ways they don’t understand or want to admit. Imagine how lonely it would be to be constantly worshipped and to have to constantly be better. To be worshipped is to be separate from the people who’re doing the worship and to be so focused on having to become something new, you’re dealing with the externalisation of you not being enough as you are. He’s in a lot of pain, and he’s very, very lonely.
io9: Is there any part of the Technical Boy that sees New Media as something more like a friend instead of competition?
Langley: Yeah, New Media’s the closest thing to a friend he’s got. Their character dynamic’s so wonderful and I really love working with Kahyun Kim because she gets all of the context and the angling the two gods are doing around one another.
New Media’s willing to be perceived as naive because if she’s being underestimated, when she does make her move, you’d never see it coming, but she knows way more than she lets on. That’s something that you saw in Gillian Anderson’s performance as Media in season one.
There was always this implicit sense that she knows more than you do, that she’s this dangerous creature. But now she’s making this deliberate choice to downplay her powers as she’s coming into a new position of authority.
io9: I wanna go back to the Technical Boy’s friendships for a second—who is the CEO of Xie Comm (Andrew Koji) to him?
Langley: I think that line “I was your only friend, you lonely fuck,” it goes both ways because this guy is the closest thing to a fraternal relationship with someone the Tech Boy’s ever had. The Tech Boy is Xie’s inspiration, but without Xie, the Technical Boy would be something different, as well, you know? He would be fine, but he wouldn’t be the person he is now, and he understands that about himself.
For lack of a more precise analogy, they grew up together from childhood. The timelines and lifespans of humans and deities are different, obviously, but they’re brothers. They’ve always been there for one another at various points in their lives and come hell or high water, they’re the people who come back to one another.
American Gods is currently airing on Amazon Prime.