Photo credit: Starz
The internet has been abuzz with the shocking Dec. 14 revelation that Orlando Jones had been fired from American Gods. Even though the news seemed to come out of nowhere, Jones’ firing is actually just the latest incident to happen to Jones while he worked in a toxic working environment during American Gods Season 2.
In his Instagram video, Jones (without naming names) stated that his firing came after Season 3 showrunner, Charles Elgee asserted that he himself knew what was best for Black American audiences. As you’ll hear in the video, Jones states that Elgee didn’t agree with Jones’ character, Mr. Nancy, whose statement of “Angry gets shit done” resonated powerfully with Black American viewers.
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Correction: I was fired from #americangods on September 10th 2019. Just like Gabrielle Union, Mel B, Nick Cannon, Heidi Klum have all said working with @fremantle is absolute nightmare. Stay tuned. I will tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. #AngryGetsShitDone ?? @ariannahuff @huffpost @tmz_tv @nbcnews @abcnews @todayshow @tamronhall @snoopdogg @b.cjmac.ross @hollywoodreporter @hollywoodinsider @wendyshow
Karama Horne, aka The Blerdgurl, quickly set up a podcast interview with Jones the day he released his Instagram video to ask him about his firing as well as the events that led up to Jones being let go.
Jones revealed that not only was he acting in the second season, but he was writing a good chunk of the scripts, particularly where the characters of color were concerned.
At the beginning of the second season (under the leadership of then-showrunner Jesse Alexander), Neil Gaiman asked him to write a character bible for Mr. Nancy since the character’s writing wasn’t up to par. After Gaiman loved Jones’ bible, Jones said that paved a path for his talents to be used with fleshing out the rest of the characters of color.
“[T]hat opened the door and I ended up [writing], frankly, because other Black characters were in the scenes with me and I wasn’t the only character that was being underwritten. It was all of the characters of color,” he said. “So it was Shadow Moon [who was] problematic. Bilquis was clearly problematic. Ibis was problematic…and the Jinn [was] problematic. I mean all of those characters were the ones that were just sort of floating in no man’s land, and I took over authorship of all of those characters.”
Jones said he wrote and consulted on several episodes, especially episodes with problematic material, such as a scene where the Black gods of the show are seen worshipping a white version of Jesus Christ. He said that because of all of the work he had done on the show, the Writers Guild of America “forced” the powers that be on American Gods to give him a consulting producer credit. But, according to what Jones told Horne, if there wasn’t pressure from the Guild, the powers that be probably wouldn’t have given him a credit.
“That’s too many hours and too many characters. And they tried not to,” he said. “I mean they absolutely tried to act like…What was weird was I’m like, ‘Guys, you asked me to do this. I didn’t force my way into your writing room. You hired me. You didn’t write anything for my character in Season 2. You asked me to help. I did. Because you guys refused to it for the other characters, I ended up getting more requests from other executive producers to do the same thing. I did the job…You sent me congratulations on Season 3 an thank you. Because without you, we never would have had a Season 3 and thanks for all your work and blah blah blah.”
Jones was led to believe that he would be able to go into Season 3 with an upfront producer and writer credit, as well as the monetary compensation that comes with that kind of a promotion, since Jones did the same amount of work as a producer and writer in Season 2 without the compensation of a writer and producer. Fast forward to September 10, months before he would tell us of his firing. It was this day that he was shocked to learn that he was fired from a show he helped usher into a third season.
He remained quiet because of the hope that the American Gods brass would address the situation to fans. Instead, the people behind the show continued to lead fans on to think that Jones would still be a part of the show, essentially using his image and words to help promote the show. At the same time, because Jones wasn’t informed of his firing until after the television off season was over and casts had already been filled up for new shows, Jones lost out on the chance to find new work.
“[L]et me be very clear,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m not mad at any of the writers or any of the cast or any of that, but what I’m saying to you is this, there was a system there that was rewarding somebody who was refusing to do work and that work had a dramatic effect on the people of color who needed to say those words.”
As insult to injury, Elgee claims he, a White male, is able to write from the perspective of a Black man.
“…[W]hat we did was he went around to everybody else and told them that angry, get shit done Mr. Nancy and his message was bad for Black America, and that he writes from a Black male perspective. These are his words,” said Jones. “Okay, so I’m like, ‘Wait a minute. Is the white guy saying that he’s blacker than me and that he’s the decision maker for what’s good and bad for Black America? What?”
Listen to the entire podcast episode at theblerdgurl.com in which Jones talks more about his experience as well as how his experience with Fremantle, the production company behind American Gods, connects with Gabrielle Union’s experience with fellow Fremantle show America’s Got Talent.
Days after the video, two big developments have taken place. First, there’s actors’ union SAG-AFTRA taking on Jones’ complaints against Fremantle, the production company behind both American Gods and America’s Got Talent. SAG-AFTRA already has an investigation probe going on with Fremantle for America’s Got Talent because of accusations of racism and sexism from Gabrielle Union, who was recently let go from the series.
I wrote a quick report on the new probe for Shadow And Act. Inside the article are also details on the second development–Jones’ possible legal case against American Gods brass.
It’s not made clear if his possible legal case could just include the showrunner or a combination of the showrunner and/or Fremantle and American Gods‘ home network Starz. But, Jones did hint to Deadline that he is considering taking legal action against those running American Gods because of how his firing impacted his family financially.
The possible legal case as well as the SAG-AFTRA probe are still developing, so we’ll see the results of both of these loose ends later on. But for now, both developments should serve as rays of hope for Jones’ fans, who have faithfully stuck by him during this time and have vowed not to watch American Gods anymore without Mr. Nancy. This ordeal should also serve as a warning and lesson to any production company watching this situation shake out. Don’t take talented people for granted; pay them what they’re owed and treat them with respect, because the consequences for doing otherwise are steep.