American Gods: Orlando Jones Discusses Firing, S02 Table Read Incident
In Maureen Ryan's book Burn It Down, Orlando Jones discusses being fired from STARZ's American Gods and shared a story about an incident during the first table read for Season 2.
Back in January 2021, Orlando Jones and author/EP Neil Gaiman had a brief Twitter encounter over the facts surrounding Jones's departure from STARZ's American Gods ahead of the third season. Though you can check out the backstory in further detail here, here, here, and here, in late 2019, Jones took to social media to announce he wasn't being asked to return for the third season and that the reason was that showrunner Charles Eglee and others had an issue with his character addressing race-related issues in the manner that many viewers and critics alike praised during the second season. Gaiman and others responded that Jones's character wasn't returning for the new season because his character would play very little to no role in the part of Gaiman's novel the series would be covering, just as other characters from the previous two seasons wouldn't have a role to play in what would end up becoming its final season. Now, we're learning more from Jones regarding his thoughts on the culture & climate in play during his time on the series, including an incident during a Season 2 table read that he says demonstrates the respect disparity that exists.
Released today by HarperCollins' Mariner Books, veteran reporter Maureen Ryan's (Vanity Fair) Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood pulls back the curtain and throws upon the entertainment industry's sordid history books to expose the patterns of harassment, bias, and disrespect that have existed for decades. In addition, Ryan addresses the efforts that individuals and groups are taking to force reform on an industry that isn't known for embracing reform – and how recent headlines have inspired these movements. Jones spoke with Ryan on a number of topics (especially the controversy surrounding FOX's Sleepy Hollow), and that included offering some additional perspectives on what went down during his time on the Gaiman adaptation.
In "Chapter 3: The Myth of Value," Jone shared with Ryan that his option on American Gods had not been picked up – essentially ending his run on the STARZ series adaptation. But to demonstrate his point about how creative talent is only "valued" on the most basic surface level, he adds that he wasn't given a heads-up about not returning until eight days before he was set to begin work on the new season. In addition, Jones shares with Ryan that he wasn't paid or officially released from his American Gods contract, forcing him to file a complaint with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) so that he would be able to be free to pursue other projects. As Jones explains it to Ryan, it was another example of how the major powerbrokers in the entertainment industry (in fact, most industries) look to "create an environment of instability among actors, and they like it that way because that means they can control you."
In the following chapter ("Chapter 4: Some Myths of Freedom and Nonconformity"), Jones shares an example ("one of many," Ryan writes) of a "fraught moment" that feeds into the rumblings of growing problems behind the scenes after the first season. During the first table read for the second season, and with Gaiman and others from the creative team present, the cast read through the script – with a white cast member reportedly not holding back when it came to their thoughts on where the season was heading. "I love this guy. He proceeded to let them know that this was not the fare he had signed up for. He had signed up for something with depth and meaning, and this was not that," Jones shared. And while Jones didn't necessarily disagree with his castmate's points ("nor did many of his colleagues, he added," Ryan writes), what the incident also spoke to was the double standard that exists that gives white male creators much more freedom to speak their minds than female creators & creators of color are given. "I'm telling you right now, Mo [Author Maureen Ryan], if I ever spoke like this white man spoke in that meeting, they would have carried me out in handcuffs."