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The Real Reason Orlando Jones Was Fired From American Gods

It's no secret that American Gods has had a rocky journey from the start, as has production company Fremantle. The show is on its third showrunner in just three seasons. The second season didn't arrive until two years after the first, and then second showrunner Jesse Alexander was forcibly sidelined midway through the season. When the show was finally renewed for its third season, viewers looked forward to their favorite deities' returns. One big fan favorite was Orlando Jones as trickster god Anansi, aka Mr. Nancy.

His character delivered some of the most powerful monologues on race and equality in modern television, or, as one Reddit user described it, "some of the most honest dialog I've ever heard on TV. Ever." With critical acclaim, Mr. Nancy was all set to return in season 3 of the Starz series, but as information about the season began to surface, there was no sign of the actor. Fans were left wondering what happened to the West African spider god.

In interviews and on his own Twitter account, Jones addressed his absence from the upcoming season. While there may be two sides to every story, Jones has been vocal about his, while others behind the scenes deny his allegations.

Orlando Jones says he was fired for sending the wrong message

Orlando Jones told Variety in 2019 that as far as he knew, there was no reason for Mr. Nancy to not appear in season 3 of American Gods. By the time season 2 had ended, Jones was writing for Mr. Nancy and a few other characters and had earned a producer credit for his work on the show. He said he was completely blindsided when he found out none of that would be happening for season 3.

Jones claims that days before production of the third season began, he was unceremoniously fired. Dissatisfied with the network's lack of justification to him and fans of the show, Jones released a video on his Twitter account accusing the show of racial discrimination. He pointed to season 3 showrunner Chic Eglee as one of the main reasons, stating that "the new season 3 showrunner is Connecticut-born and Yale-educated, so he's very smart. And he thinks that Mr. Nancy's angry, get sh*t done is the wrong message for Black America." Jones went on to thank American Gods author Neil Gaiman for the opportunity, as well as the original creators of the show, Bryan Fuller and Michael Green.

In a separate interview about the controversy with Entertainment Weekly, Jones went into detail about the firing. He noted that a Starz rep contacted him, which he found strange since he was technically employed by Fremantle. He also shared that fellow crew members and mutual friends of his and Eglee's had heard the showrunner express his dislike for the message Mr. Nancy's character represented. He noted that Fremantle did not deny Eglee's words in their own statement.

American Gods says it just went in a different direction

When they addressed Orlando Jones' claims regarding season 3, American Gods put out a statement that explained their decision as a simple shift in creativity: "The storylines of American Gods have continually shifted and evolved to reflect the complex mythology of the source material. Mr. Jones' option was not picked up because Mr. Nancy, among other characters, is not featured in the portion of the book we are focusing on within season 3."

Statements from Fremantle and Starz president Jeffrey Hirsch echoed the sentiment, agreeing that there was simply no storyline for Mr. Nancy in season 3. Neil Gaiman also addressed the controversy on Twitter, backing claims that it was all about the part of the books the season focused on but stating that he was aware of an ongoing investigation by the Screen Actors Guild regarding the dissolution.

Interestingly, a spokesperson for showrunner Chic Eglee only addressed one point from Jones' video when speaking to Bustle. They cleared up that "Mr. Eglee was not born in Connecticut" but did not directly counter any of Jones' other insinuations regarding his firing.

There was still contention around the topic in 2020, with Jones releasing screenshots of a tense conversation between him and American Gods lead Ricky Whittle at the time of his firing. Jones later deleted the screenshots, but not before they were reported on. The conversation shows Whiddle defending the show's decision as a choice in creative direction and asserting that Jones' video put him and other castmates in a difficult position.

Sadly, it's looking less likely that fans will ever see the return of Mr. Nancy for any upcoming seasons of the show. There's talk of a spin-off based on the Anansi Boys books by Gaiman at Amazon, so let's hope that Jones joins the conversation.