American Gods had a turbulent run, and now the show has been canceled after three seasons by Starz. The Neil Gaiman adaptation was launched under the guidance of writers and showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. However, reports indicate that Gaiman was unhappy with how Fuller and Green strayed from his source material (although some sources say Fuller and Green were pushed out because of budget reasons). Fuller and Green were replaced by Jesse Alexander, but Alexander ran into trouble almost immediately and was replaced by Charles “Chic” Eglee. During this musical chairs game of showrunners, several cast members left the show, and co-star Orlando Jones said he was fired because Eglee didn’t like his character. Now, after all of this, Starz has canceled the series after three seasons, with a chance for things to be wrapped up in a TV movie.
Starz announced the American Gods cancellation news with a statement (via THR): “American Gods will not return for a fourth season. Everyone at Starz is grateful to the dedicated cast and crew, and our partners at Fremantle who brought author and executive producer Neil Gaiman’s ever-relevant story to life that speaks to the cultural climate of our country.”
It’s an ignoble end to what started off as a promising series. Adapted from the novel by Neil Gaiman, American Gods was set in a world “where leprechauns are over six feet tall, Jinns drive cabs, Jesus comes in all shades, and a spider god makes a mean tailor. The gods walk among us and until they decide to show their true selves, look just like us. Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) finds himself at the center of this world that he doesn’t quite understand, with the guidance of Mr. Wednesday (Ian McShane) who has an agenda of his own.”
The first season of the show was pretty damn good, with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green running things. However, despite critical acclaim for the work Fuller and Green were doing, the duo was fired (or “pushed out,” as the official claim goes) by producers Fremantle. So far, there have been two different reasons cited for Fuller and Green’s removal. The first is that Fremantle was unhappy with how Fuller and Green’s approach was ballooning the budget. Fuller, in particular, is an uncompromising artist – he’s more likely to walk away from a show than alter his particular vision. So this reason does hold some water – you can believe that Fuller was asked to slash the budget and he said no, and thus was shown the exit.
However, there’s another rumor floating around that Fuller and Green were fired because American Gods author Neil Gaiman was unhappy with how the series was altering his source material. I personally believe this is the more likely scenario, and it’s a bummer, because as much as I love Gaiman’s work, I actually think the changes Fuller and Green made improved on the story.
Fuller and Green were replaced by Jesse Alexander, but that lead to a whole new set of problems. While season 2 was in production, a report surfaced that Alexander had also been fired, primarily due to on-set clashes. The story goes that the cast was more loyal to Fuller and Green’s vision for the series, and when Alexander came in and tried to change things, several actors were unhappy. Reports even claimed that “screaming matches” erupted between Alexander and American Gods star Ian McShane.
Alexander’s firing lead the series to go on hiatus before it returned for season 2. Meanwhile, cast members Kristin Chenoweth and Gillian Anderson, who had both worked with Fuller before, left the series entirely. Eventually, Charles “Chic” Eglee was brought in as showrunner – but the problems didn’t end there. By season 3, actors Orlando Jones and Mousa Kraish had left the series. Jones then took to social media to reveal that he wasn’t leaving the show on his own terms like Chenoweth and Anderson – he was fired.
“Don’t let these motherfuckers tell you they love [Jones’s character] Mr. Nancy,” Jones said. “They don’t. I’m not going to name names but the new season 3 showrunner [Eglee] 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 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?”
Starz tried to counter Jones’s claims by saying his character wasn’t returning because season 3 because “Mr. Nancy does not have a role in this story. And so, unfortunately, that’s the case of the book.”
And now, it’s all over. Deadline adds that there’s a chance that the story might be wrapped-up with a TV movie, but also says that the show has “seen double-digit ratings declines from season to season,” which might indicate that no one is in any hurry to spend more money on a movie. This entire thing feels like a huge mess, and I can’t help but think things would’ve worked out differently if Fremantle and Starz had just stuck with Fuller and Green.
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