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Orlando Jones Has Reportedly Been Fired From American Gods [Updated]

Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy.
Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy.
Image: Starz

Orlando Jones gave one of the breakout performances in American Gods as Mr. Nancy, an African trickster god who sharply reflected and reacted to America’s history of slavery and racism. In the second season, his role on the show increased, as Jones took on production and writing tasks alongside his stunning performance. But now, according to Jones himself, he’s been fired from the show ahead of its third season.

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In a blistering video announcement on Twitter, Jones stated this morning that he was fired from the show on September 10, 2018 (later corrected to 2019). In his forty-five second statement, he calls out the film’s new showrunner, Charles Eglee, for firing him for reasons more closely related to racial and political anxieties than anything about his performance.

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“There will be no more Mr. Nancy. Don’t let these motherfuckers tell you they love Mr. Nancy. They don’t,” Jones says. “I’m not going to name names but the new season 3 showrunner [Eglee] is Connecticut born and Yale-educated, so he’s very smart and he thinks that Mr. Nancy’s angry, get shit done is the wrong message for black America. That’s right. This white man sits in that decision-making chair and I’m sure he has many black bffs who are his advisors and made it clear to him that if he did not get rid of that angry god Mr. Nancy he’d start a Denmark Vesey uprising in this country. I mean, what else could it be?”

(Denmark Vesey, by the way, was executed in South Carolina in the 1820s for allegedly helming the planning of a major slave revolt in Charleston.)

If accurate, Jones’ statement says rough things about a show that’s been having a difficult time behind the scenes roughly since it aired. With various changes in direction and tone, multiple changeovers in showrunner and lead staff, it’s clear that American Gods isn’t the show it was intended to be when it started, and the removal of a beloved character defined largely under the creative direction of Bryan Fuller and Michael Green only cements that. And it’s true: Mr. Nancy was sharply written and explicitly political as a character, full of righteous anger and trickster panache.

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In a later tweet, Jones goes on to call out Fremantle USA, the production company behind the show, calling them “a nightmare”, saying that they “treated you like a 2nd class citizen for doing your job [sic] to well.”

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For their part, Starz and Fremantle have yet to comment on the matter or officially announce Jones’s departure. In his statement, Jones went on to thank a number of parties involved in the show, including author Neil Gaiman and the original showrunners, Fuller and Green.

We’ll be keeping an eye on this and updating if any new information comes to light. American Gods is returning for a third season sometime on Starz, presumably without Mr. Nancy, which is a pretty devastating loss.

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Update 12/15: Both parties involved in the matter have gone on the record, Fremantle in a statement and Jones in an exclusive interview with Variety.

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Fremantle’s statement reads as follows:

“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 three.”

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Meanwhile, in Variety, Jones elaborates on his experiences, describing a drawn-out process of losing the job that involved Starz going “radio silent in August for about three or four weeks” before he received a phone call in September informing him about the show’s “new creative direction.”

He also goes on to describe how he ended up, in the second season of the show, taking on writing duties for a large section of the show’s characters of color, saying, “When I showed up to work in Season 2, they hadn’t written at all for Mr. Nancy... I ended up finding myself in the writing chair for all of the disenfranchised characters.”

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io9 Weekend Editor. Videogame writer at other places. Queer nerd girl.

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DISCUSSION

yankton
Yankton, née Spacemonkey Mafia

I can’t believe Great Hills Partners became the newest showrunner for American Gods.