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American Gods Just Fired Orlando Jones and We Need to Finally Admit the Show Is a Disaster

Alas

Orlando Jones as Mr Nancy in season 1 of American Gods

What the hell, American Gods?

This morning (Saturday, December 14) Orlando Jones announced via social media that in September he was fired from season three of Starz’s troubled American Gods. The termination was not amicable and came off pretty damn racist, according to the video posted by Jones on instagram and twitter, seen below:

 

American Gods has been notoriously tortured behind the scenes, with several showrunners being fired and many actors leaving the project. Things have been bad for a while now, but this is maybe the worst. Orlando Jones is an outspoken voice for fandom and for racial justice and firing him is a terrible look.

American Gods was announced to wild excitement, with the first clips showing to packed rooms at San Diego Comic Con in 2016. I was among those crowds and as a fan of the book, I was so excited for the series, which was created by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green of Hannibal. The show was produced by Starz and Fremantle Media a global company responsible mainly for reality television shows including the “Got Talent” franchise.

The ambitious first season of the show, which debuted in 2017 went wildly over budget and there were serious conflicts between Fuller and Green, the studio and network, and involving Neil Gaiman, author of the original novel as well. Fuller and Green, who built the show with a stylized, expansive vision, were very publicly fired in November 2017. Following that, season one stars Kristen Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson left the series as well.

Things did not get better in season two. Instead, they got exponentially worse, according to many sources as documented by The Hollywood Reporter in September of 2018. The new showrunner of season two,  Jesse Alexander was fired midway through season two’s production. Alexander was brought in to reign things in, and to, allegedly please Gaiman, who didn’t like how much season one changed the tone of his novel. But Alexander couldn’t control the set and show the way Fremantle wanted.

Things were so bad on season two when Alexander left that actors were writing their own lines, enough so that Orlando Jones had to be credited by the WGA. When the season finally dropped, more than two years after season one’s premiere…it was met with a shrug. This season, Crispin Glover has already departed and we have no idea when it will hit the airwaves.

I will admit, I didn’t watch season two of American Gods. After my initial excitement, I felt the show both wasn’t true enough to the book but it also didn’t let Bryan Fuller make the show he clearly wanted to make. Ricky Whittle was massively underwhelming as Shadow, and the behind the scenes drama made me leery of a season two that might be more focused on him. I didn’t want to get committed to a show on its third showrunner in as many seasons.

Now I feel vindicated, but also furious at the way Fremantle and this new showrunner are treating this property and their actors. The new showrunner, Charles Eglee, has many credits to his name including, Dark Angel and Murder One, but, if we are to believe Jones’ statements on this, he apparently also has some ideas about how Black character should represent Black America

It does seem to be that the problems with American Gods can’t be traced to one person, but instead the entire leadership team at Fremantle, and even possibly Neil Gaiman, who hasn’t been able to right the ship. Fremantle, which just came under fire for their failures to stomp out Racism on the set of America’s Got Talent and fired Gabrielle Union for speaking up, certainly comes off as a villain here, which Jones confirms.

Orlando Jones was the best thing left on American Gods and it’s telling and infuriating that he’s been fired with racially motivated reasoning. American Gods started out as an incredibly ambitious show that expanded on Neil Gaiman’s original novel to really dig into the violence and slavery that began America…but that apparently isn’t the story any of these producers are interested in.

It’s a tragedy that a show with such potential has devolved into such a disaster behind the scenes with nothing of merit to show on the screen. Firing Jones is the final nail in the coffin for any interest or hope for this series.

(image: Starz)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.