Fans of the far-reaching Starz fantasy American Gods were shocked on Saturday to find out that one of the most popular actors on the series, Orlando Jones, had been fired and wouldn't be appearing in Season 3. The word came from Jones himself, as he posted a video on Twitter to let everyone know why he was told it happened and that he wouldn't be on the show going forward.
As things stood by the end of Orlando Jones' short video, it was already clear that things weren't great for him behind the scenes on American Gods. Now, though, he has spoken out even more about his time working on the beloved drama, and it sounds like the situation was even more tense than we could have expected. Here's what Jones says was the situation when he showed up to work on Season 2 of American Gods:
I showed up in Season 2 of American Gods, and they hadn’t written for my character at all. They certainly knew I was coming. That was literally the studio’s job. And they didn’t do that job. And I wasn’t the only person: They didn’t do it for all of the characters of color. So if you really care about these characters of color, then why don’t you write for them? So, I found myself in a very odd situation, because Neil Gaiman was the one who asked me to write a [character] Bible for Mr. Nancy [at the start of Season 2]. I didn’t jump into the writing process and throw my weight around. I was invited by Neil Gaiman. And when I wrote that character Bible and sent it to him, I got back a message I wasn’t expecting. As a fan of the human and, you know, as a writer myself, I was overjoyed. It was all caps the email, you know, “I F–KING LOVE IT. Spread it around.” …I spread around that character Bible. And I suddenly found myself writing, not just Mr. Nancy, but Ibis and Salim and the Jinn and Sam Black Crow and Shadow Moon and all of the characters of color who weren’t written.
Man. OK, there's already a lot to unpack from this portion of Orlando Jones' interview with TVLine about his dismissal from American Gods, but we can start with the fact that it sounds like this event was what led to his promotion between Seasons 2 and 3. Jones was poised to work on the new season of American Gods, not just as an actor, but also as a writer and producer. If he, as an actor, was really charged with doing the work of a writer / producer on Season 2 and creating stories for several of the characters, it does expose how messed up things are behind the scenes.
Obviously, though, the biggest takeaway is that Season 2 was ready to start filming, but, according to Orlando Jones, those behind the show had completely neglected the non-white characters. Apparently, this was even true for Shadow Moon, who is one of the leading characters on American Gods. But, Jones says he did more than his part, picked up the slack and stayed a true team member throughout Season 2 and heading into Season 3.
Part of the problem, aside from having Jones write for characters when he was simply supposed to be acting on American Gods, is the extended hiatus period for the series and what it meant for him in the off season.
[The show] could have told me after the Season 3 pick-up that I would not be a part of what you were focusing on. There’s no reason for them to stay in contact with my management, pretending I was going to be on the show in Season 3, and wait until the 11th hour of September 10, which literally stopped me from being able to work at all. I would have gone to do another show, but after 19 months of hiatus, I waited on this show and didn’t go do something else. I busted my hump and did my job and a lot of other people’s jobs who were sitting at home while I was doing that job...I 100 percent was on team and you strung me along, took me out of work? And tell me on September 10 that you’re taking another creative direction? If that’s the truth, why couldn’t you have told me that four months prior? Three months prior? …In 16 months production over three years, I worked 21 days.
American Gods was renewed for Season 3 on March 15 of this year, with production set to begin around September 20. When those behind the show failed to let Jones know sooner that he wouldn't be back, it cost him the time he'd need to find other projects to work on. And, because he says he only worked on the show for 21 days over the 16 months of production in three years, it sounds like Jones gave up a lot of other potential projects because he was so dedicated to American Gods.
Orlando Jones also noted that he wasn't told about his dismissal by anyone from the show, but instead they had someone from Starz call him and say that the show was "taking another creative direction" and he wouldn't be needed anymore. He's also upset by the fact that American Gods never made an announcement that he wouldn't be returning, especially since so much of his work as Mr. Nancy in Season 2 went viral, and fans were clearly waiting to see what he'd be up to when the show came back.
All in all, Orlando Jones admits that he's hurt by many aspects of his time on American Gods, and especially wishes his firing had been handled in a respectful way.
[Had I been let go] a week after the show was picked up for Season 3, I would have said I completely understand. Which is what I said when they told me on September 10. But by September 10, everything else that I was going to go to, I had to pass on. You knew that. And you took me out of work for 19 months in 2017 while you fired the two showrunners and then hired someone who was so inept that you didn’t even have him do it. And I ended up doing his job. So if I hadn’t done the work I did, he wouldn’t have a job to ruin Season 3. So I look at all of those scenarios and I go, how am I to respond to that? This was spiteful. It’s insanely hurtful.