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Nerdist Special Reports

Orlando Jones Teases AMERICAN GODS Episode 2, ANANSI BOYS Spin-Off

Last weekend, Bryan Fuller (Hannibal, Pushing Daisies) and Michael Green’s (Logan, Blade Runner 2049) adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s beloved novel American Gods made its small screen debut, and to say that it’s met fan expectation so far is quite possibly the understatement of the year. The award-winning novel has many complex themes and stories to tell, from what it means to be an American to the power of belief. But the basic premise centers around a mysterious ex-con, Shadow Moon, who gets swept up in the brewing war between the Gods of America, those both new and old. Adapting such a novel is no small feat, and while the premiere episode set the stage for American Gods, trust us when we say you ain’t seen nothing yet.

In the second episode, we are introduced to one of the key characters in American Gods, Mr. Nancy, a.k.a. Anansi: a West African trickster god played by the incomparable Orlando Jones. On last week’s Alpha Book Club, we had a chance to sit down with Jones to discuss his experience on the show, preview next week’s episode, and tease the potential spin-off for his character, Anansi Boys.


Unlike in the book, the show introduces us to Mr. Nancy on a slave ship, a poignant message that’s in line with one of the main themes of American Gods. Real history is not the hopeful stories of “the American Dream” that you learn about in elementary school–it is bloody and horrific. Those atrocities happened to real people, with stories that need to be told.

For the full four-minute clip, head over to Alpha Book Club!

For Jones, introducing Mr. Nancy in that way meant that any preconceptions he had about the character were thrown out the window. “Meeting somebody on a slave ship is a strange place to meet them,” Jones admitted. “You really are suddenly working against what your confines are, and in this case, it’s a bunch of people who are frightened for their life, and don’t really have a clear understanding about where they’re going and what their future’s going to be, and they’re not particularly interested in a speech, so it became about… Who manifested him here, what’s his role here, and how do you connect these words to the audience that you’re talking to?”

He went on to share that though shades of the story have been changed, updated, or expanded, Mr. Nancy is still the character we know and love from Gaiman’s writing. In fact, Jones has known about the mythology that inspired Mr. Nancy since childhood, when his grandparents read him stories about Anansi and the Sky God. Anansi is still “characterized by his cunning, his trickery, his use of language and words in order to get what he wants,” Jones explained. “I was drawn to the parallels from how the children’s story had those elements and how Gaiman created him, but the core of him was [still] there–he was still spinning tales.”

Since Alpha Book Club had just finished reading American Gods at the time of the interview, Maude Garrett had one very important question: where the f*** were Mr. Nancy’s signature yellow gloves? Apparently, they considered using the yellow gloves, but Costume Designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb ultimately went with the colorful suits that you see in the promo materials. “It just doesn’t work,” Jones admitted. “Wearing bright yellow gloves just look strange, and it takes you out of it somehow.” Luckily, the costume designs in the STARZ series are as sumptuous as its visuals and storytelling. We know the core of the character is still intact, even if his gloves are a thing of the past.


Now, usually we spend interviews like this trying to get some sort of news tidbit from the interviewee, but when it came to the idea of an Anansi Boys spin-off, Jones was abundantly clear: he is IN. “Neil and Michael and Bryan, from the very first time I spoke to them, were like, ‘We’re doing Anansi Boys, right?’ And I was like, ‘I guess we’re doing Anansi Boys!'” For those unfamiliar with the book, Anansi Boys is not a sequel to American Gods, but it is set in the same universe. The book deals with Anansi’s family history and heritage, and is just one of many potential spin-offs that could spring from the American Gods well.

Our chat with Orlando wasn’t all analysis, though. We also found out who his favorite character is (Bilquis, duh) and what it was like to be on set with so many deities, and previewed Mr. Nancy’s incredible introduction.

What do you think of American Gods so far? Did you watch Mr. Nancy’s entrance scene? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t miss more literary interviews and discussion on Alpha Book Club, every Wednesday at 6:30pm PST on Alpha.

If you want to see the exclusive preview of Mr. Nancy’s introduction in episode two, head over to Alpha for the clip and our full interview with Orlando Jones!

Images: STARZ; William Morrow and Company

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