Is something rotten in the cotton at FremantleMedia?
The European-owned television production company is embroiled in more racially-tinged drama with another African American actor they let go from a plum gig.
Following Gabrielle Union’s much-publicized ouster from NBC’s America’s Got Talent, comes news that Orlando Jones was 86-ed from American Gods — the fierce Starz drama series, which is another FremantleMedia property.
But get this: Jones is claiming that the new showrunner, who is white, thought his character, Mr. Nancy, was not right for black America.
On Saturday, the former MAD TV comic had social media in a tizzy when he posted a video to his Twitter account announcing he was axed from the third season of the popular drama based on Neil Gaiman’s best-selling novel of the same name—centering on the convergence of theological, mythical and psychological deities waging a war in modern times.
Jones, who portrays the infamous trickster god Mr. Nancy (based on Anansi the Spider—the African folklore character), claimed that the series’ new showrunner Charles Eglee decided his character sends “the wrong message for black America.”
“I know y’all have LOTS of questions about the firing,” Jones started out. “As always I promise to tell you the truth and nothing but [love].”
The 51-year-old former 7Up soda pitchman—who reportedly offered significant writing and producing contributions to season 2 after the departure of original showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green—was fired on Sep. 10.
“There will be no more Mr. Nancy,” Jones declared in the clip. “Don’t let these motherf–ers tell you they love Mr. Nancy. They don’t.”
“I’m not going to name names but the new season 3 showrunner is Connecticut born and Yale-educated, so he’s very smart and he thinks that Mr. Nancy’s angry, get sh– done is the wrong message for black America.”
“That’s right,” he continued. “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?”
A spokesperson for American Gods responded with the following statement to Entertainment Weekly:
“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 three. 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.”
A rep for the Emmy Award-winning writer and producer of NYPD Blue, The Shield and Dexter also released a statement claiming, “Mr. Jones is wrong on multiple counts, the least of which is Mr. Eglee was not born in Connecticut.”
Eglee, who taught film history at Yale University, was born in Boston and has been on the writing staff of six of “The 101 Best Written TV Series of All Time,” chosen by the Writers Guild of America.
In other tweets, Jones called out FremantleMedia for being “a nightmare” that “treated you like a 2nd class citizen for doing your job [too] well.”
“They were exceptionally nasty and evil the way they did it,” he added.
Union, whom Jones tagged in his tweet about FremantleMedia, entered the fray about his ouster, offering:
“Ohhhhhhhhhhh,” she tweeted to Jones. “Let’s chat my friend #StrongerTogether.”
According to Variety, FremantleMedia is one of the biggest production and distribution groups outside of Hollywood with shows such as American Idol, X Factor, and The Young Pope among its roster.
Jones has previously thanked social media for its part in helping him land the gig.
“Somebody on social media said, ‘Orlando Jones would be a great Anansi’ when they were announcing that they were going to start developing this project. So, I sent a message to [Gaiman] like, ‘Yes, I would. That’s a great idea.’ So, he liked the tweet and re-tweeted it. So, fans, including myself, we all went crazy,” Jones told me during a 2017 interview for NBC News.
Mr. Nancy is a bespoke suit-clad provocateur who magically transforms into a spider to help people get out of dodgy situations with his chaotic gifts and trickery.
He is also the subject of his own compelling Gaiman book, Anansi Boys — which could be made into its own project.
Jones’ portrayal of the character struck a chord with television viewers during the second episode of the first season of American Gods, titled Coming To America.
The explosive scene takes place on a Dutch slave ship transporting Africans to America for sale, with one captive desperately praying to Anansi who suddenly appears before him and starts to educate him on what his unknown and very unfortunate future will hold in the land of “opportunity, milk and honey.”
“Angry is good. Angry gets shit done,” is what he says encouragingly as he finished telling the story of “black people in America.”
So maybe, the character did send the wrong message to black America after all.