Brow Beat

Orlando Jones Says He Was Fired From American Gods Because His Character Sends “the Wrong Message for Black America”

Orlando Jones, wearing a suit jacket with a Pac-Man maze on it, sits at a panel table before a Comic-Con logo backtrop, smiling broadly.
Orlando Jones at Comic-Con in 2019. Amy Sussman/Getty Images

Actor Orlando Jones, who played the African trickster god Mr. Nancy on the STARZ series American Gods, posted a blistering video message to Twitter early Saturday morning alleging that he was fired from the show in September because the season three showrunner, Charles Eglee, “thinks that Mr. Nancy’s angry get-shit-done is the wrong message for black America.” Here’s Jones’ message:

American Gods, the TV adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel, has had an exceptionally high turnover rate behind the camera: Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who created the series and were its showrunners for the first season, were fired in 2017 after clashing over budgets. Jesse Alexander, who worked with Fuller on Hannibal and Star Trek: Discovery, was hired to replace him as showrunner for the second season, but was sidelined during production. His replacement for season three was Charles “Chic” Eglee, a veteran showrunner and TV writer whose credits go back to St. Elsewhere and Moonlighting. More recently, he’s worked on The Walking Dead and Dexter.

Eglee is not “Connecticut-born,” as Jones alleges—he was born in Boston—but he did grow up in New Haven and graduate from Yale. In a follow-up tweet, Jones said that Fremantle, the production company behind American Gods, was “a nightmare.” Actress Gabrielle Union, whose recent firing from Fremantle’s America’s Got Talent after complaining about a toxic working environment has sparked an investigation, replied to Jones’ tweet suggesting they discuss the issue further:

Meanwhile, former showrunners Michael Green, Bryan Fuller, and voiced his support for Jones:

Jones’ character on American Gods, Mr. Nancy, is a version of the African trickster god Anansi. He’s first introduced on a slave ship, inspiring a revolt by explaining the future awaiting black men in America:

Here are Jones’ comments on his departure from American Gods.

September tenth, 2018, I was fired from American Gods. There will be no more Mr. Nancy. Don’t let these motherfuckers tell you they love Mr. Nancy—they don’t. I’m not going to name names, but the new season three showrunner 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 they 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?

To the wonderful Neil Gaiman, thank you for allowing me to play this role, for writing this wonderful book, for opening the door for me to become a writer/producer on season two of American Gods, thank you, sir. To the magnificent Bryan Fuller and the incredible Michael Green, thank you for creating this series and for allowing me also to become Mr. Nancy. I hope the fans enjoyed it, because really this is about you. I hope you loved it as much as I loved doing it, and, you know, we’ll see each other again real…

Update, Dec. 14, 2019, 9:00 p.m.: In a statement to Deadline, a spokesperson from Fremantle said that Jones’ exit was based on plot considerations, not race:

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. Several new characters, many of which have already been announced, will be introduced into Shadow Moon’s world that will further contribute to the show’s legacy as one of the most diverse series on television.