In just under two months, American Gods premieres on Starz. The eight-part adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s acclaimed 2001 novel by Bryan Fuller and Michael Green has generated buzz ever since the project was first announced but there’s still a lot of unknowns surrounding the show. Speaking with Vanity Fair, Orlando Jones has shed some light on one relative unknown, giving a new inside look at the African trickster god Mr. Nancy/Anansi, whom Jones will be portraying.
Before even being cast in the part or reading Gaiman’s American Gods, Jones was already familiar with Anansi folklore.
I was born in Mobile, Alabama—the real home of the Mardi Gras. Anansi is one of those characters that survived the Middle Passage, began in western Africa, and made his way here and really proliferated throughout the southern United States. The Spider God, the Trickster God was part of stories that my great-grandfather would tell me when I used to sneak him cigarettes.
Not in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever get to play one of them—but Anansi’s a huge character in African folklore, and African-American folklore as well.
Having had this introduction to tales of Anansi at an early age, Jones got to see the character appear in not only American Gods but also in a 2005 spin-off novel called Anansi Boys. It was through a friend Jones first learned of the books and, when he got into them, he was hooked.
A friend of mine had recommended it, because they know I’m a comic-book/graphic-novel nerd. First, they introduced me to Anansi Boys, and I was like, I wonder what happened before this. I did the total nerd thing where I read it, then I went back and I listened to the book-on-tape version of it. Then I started sharing it with various people. I completely went full fangirl and followed Neil Gaiman on Twitter and sent him a message. Then he responded, and that kind of set my fangirl action into overdrive.
Though the role his early contact with Gaiman and fans’ pushing for him to play Anansi had in helping him get the part isn’t wholly clear, Jones was beyond excited when he first got to read Mr. Nancy’s “Coming to America” scene.
No, it’s a wonderfully written, incredible scene clearly in keeping with the way Neil Gaiman saw the character. Like you, I’m a massive fan of American Gods, so I was really just excited. At first, I kept flipping the pages, and I thought, This is like eight pages long. This is going to be fun. But are they going to run out of tape? What is this, an eight-minute take? I’m so excited to play Mr. Nancy—one of my favorite characters ever—this is really like a pinch-yourself moment the entire way. I’m just giddy about it.
Although the premiere is on the horizon and there’s still audience reaction to measure, there are already rumblings about a possible Anansi Boys TV spin-off featuring Jones as Mr. Nancy/Anansi.
All I know for sure is that when Michael and Bryan had called me and asked me about playing the character and walked me through what they were thinking, part of the discussion at that time was Anansi Boys, and that they wanted to spin it off and pursue that character. As you know, the first season is really about setting up the world of American Gods and introducing you to all the wonderful characters. If there is a spin-off of any kind, I’d love to do it. I love this character. I love these writers. I’ve been fortunate that this is one of the most exciting and incredible experiences I’ve been able to do as an actor, and I’ll continue for as long as I possibly can.
You can read Orlando Jones’ full interview over at Vanity Fair.
In the meantime, are you excited to see American Gods come to TV? Is there a particular god you’re looking forward to seeing most? Let us know below.
American Gods posits a different kind of war brewing—one between Old Gods and New. The traditional Old Gods, with mythological roots from around the world, fear irrelevance as their believers die off or are seduced by the money, technology, and celebrity offered by the New Gods. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is an ex-con who, left adrift by the recent death of his wife, becomes bodyguard and traveling partner to conman Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane). But in truth, Mr. Wednesday is a powerful old deity, on a cross-country mission to build an army and reclaim his lost glory.
American Gods stars Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Emily Browning, Pablo Schreiber, Yetide Badaki, Bruce Langley, Jonathan Tucker, Crispin Glover, Cloris Leachman, Peter Stormare, Chris Obi, Mousa Kraish, Gillian Anderson, Omid Abtahi, Orlando Jones, Demore Barnes, Dane Cook, Kristin Chenoweth, Corbin Bernsen, Jeremy Davies, and Beth Grant.
American Gods premieres on Starz Sunday, April 30 at 9pm ET/PT.
Source: Vanity Fair