Series three of American Gods sees Shadow Moon try to settle down in a town called Lakeside. Star Ricky Whittle tells us more.

Ricky Whittle has come a long way since Hollyoaks.

After leaving the UK to forge a career for himself in America, the former soap star - who was born in Oldham - landed a role in Amazon Prime series, American Gods.

And the fantasy drama (which is based on the book of the same name by Good Omens writer Neil Gaiman) is now about to return for a third series, in which Gaiman says Shadow Moon - Whittle’s character - is “front and centre”.

Affable star Whittle, 39, has an almost child-like excitement as he describes getting to work with “incredible superstars” on the series.

“I grew up with Ian McShane, watching Lovejoy, and now he’s on my phone!” exclaims the star, who worked as a model for Reebok in the early 2000s, before joining Channel 4’s Hollyoaks as Calvin Valentine in 2006.

“He will text me and go, ‘What do you think about the Man United game, kid?’ And I’m like, ‘He knows my name?!’”

Fellow Brit McShane plays Mr Wednesday in American Gods, which tells the story of a war brewing between Old Gods - the traditional gods of mythological roots from around the world - and New Gods, an upstart pantheon of gods, reflecting society’s modern love of money, technology, media, celebrity and drugs, who are gaining followers.

In series two, which explored a strange new world where faith requires terrible sacrifice, the war moved towards crisis point.

Charles “Chic” Eglee - best known for his work on hits such as The Walking Dead and Dexter - joined as showrunner for the third series, while Gaiman worked as executive producer.

Discussing Shadow Moon’s upcoming storyline arc, Whittle says: “It’s a journey of self-discovery.

“He’s found out that his father was Mr Wednesday, which means he’s a demi-god. What does that mean for his life?

“But, we also know that he doesn’t want any part of the god world. They’ve brought him nothing but trouble. Wednesday even killed his wife, the only other thing that he loved in his life.

“So, he doesn’t want a part of this world, but there’s only so long you can run from your destiny before it eventually catches up with you, and Mr Wednesday will catch up with him and ruin this normal life that Shadow seeks.”

Shadow has never had a normal life before, Whittle adds, and has moved to a town called Lakeside to seek just that.

“When we find him, at the beginning of season 3, he’s grown his hair out, his beard out, he’s hiding from the police, the FBI, the gods... This is all Wednesday’s fault.”

American Gods is a fun, entertaining watch that mixes together every genre possible.

Plus, “Season 3 becomes like a murder mystery for Shadow in Lakeside; it’s my favourite part of Neil Gaiman’s book,” teases Whittle.

“It’s fantasy, sci fi, drama, romance,” he elaborates. “We’ve got comedy, the dark comedy, drama.

“But what it also does is provide a fantastic platform to raise awareness of the beauty of different races, sex and gender, sexual orientation, nationalities.

“We don’t pick sides. We don’t say, ‘One is a good guy, one is a bad guy’. We just shine a light and show the beauty of each and individual person.”

On the topic of diversity on American Gods, Whittle agrees it’s important to show how people of different cultures and skin colours have contributions to make.

“It’s important for people to see themselves on screen, in movies and on TV,” he notes.

“When I grew up, I saw Will Smith and I saw Denzel Washington and I said, ‘Oh, I could be an actor. Because that’s what they’re doing, why can’t I do that?’

“When I watch football and I see footballers who look like me, I’m like, ‘Maybe I could be a footballer’, and you see musicians, writers... Whatever they are, you need to see yourself in that position and so it’s important to inspire the youth of today by giving them a face to look at.”

The actor also passionately explains how the show has stories people can relate to, which show how “everyone just needs to be themselves and be proud of who they are and this show is a fantastic platform where we are able to push that story - push out the importance of self-belief and the strength that comes from within”.

“Shadow has this light inside of him, and we all do, and it’s about finding that light.

“And what we were able to do in that writing room was facilitate change behind that camera so that we can have true, authentic voices telling true authentic stories that are diverse, so everyone has a voice, everyone has a face that they can relate to and hopefully it can inspire people to find themselves.”

Whittle most certainly shines in this season, in which - he guarantees - we will see some happy moments for Shadow Moon.

He got to add a bit more humour and comedy into the character, saying: “You’re going to see a lot more of my cheekiness in season 3, for sure.”

Would he say he feels more confident with the role?

“I mean, it’s not about confidence, I’ve always had that - it’s why I left the UK in the first place, to find a career in America,” he responds deftly.

“It’s where I wanted to be, it’s where I believe I will be. But it’s more about being more comfortable, and more comfortable with this character.”

He continues, thoughtfully: “It was a big risk, for me, knowing where I wanted Shadow to be, to play such an empty, kind of placid character in season one. I mean, what if people didn’t like him or.... You know, people always wanna be loved as a character. You want to be loved or loathed or something, and Shadow, for me, it was about creating a character that you cared about and that you wanted to be OK.”

American Gods season three launches on Prime Video on Monday, January 11