SAG-AFTRA Expands ‘America’s Got Talent’ Fremantle Probe After Orlando Jones’ Firing From ‘American Gods’

Two black actors are alleging problems with Fremantle and SAG-AFTRA wants to get to the bottom of it.
Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, aka Anansi, the spider trickster god in Starz's adaptation of "American Gods"
Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy, aka Anansi, in "American Gods"

SAG-AFTRA is expanding the scope of an investigation into the firing of “America’s Got Talent” host Gabrielle Union. It will now take a deeper look into producer Fremantle after Orlando Jones claimed he was fired from “American Gods,” another Fremantle series, for racist reasons.

The talent union, which represents 160,000 actors, journalists, performers, and other media professionals, announced the expanded investigation in a statement Friday.

“After initial meetings with Gabrielle Union and her representatives about her experiences on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ and after learning more about Orlando Jones’s experience on ‘American Gods,’ SAG-AFTRA is expanding its investigation of Fremantle Media. Our enforcement actions are handled confidentially to protect the members involved, and we typically do not publicize these matters unless the affected members request that we do so,” it reads. “We have nothing further to report at this time.”

Reached for comment, a Fremantle representative offered the following statement: “We welcome this investigation and intend to cooperate fully. Allegations without factual support should not go unchecked. We have already informed SAG-AFTRA that we are willing to meet to discuss the allegations.”

Variety earlier this month broke the news that Union had been let go from “America’s Got Talent” after she spoke to producers about alleged workplace toxicity she experienced as a judge on the latest season of the NBC talent competition, claims that prompted SAG-AFTRA to launch its probe. Among the incidents were that Union was allegedly told that her hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s audience.

Jones, who plays Mr. Nancy on “American Gods,” tweeted last week that he would not be returning for Season 3, claiming he was fired for “sending the wrong message to black America.”

Jones, who became a series regular in Season 2 and also wrote and produced during that season, published a video alleging that Charles Eglee, the new showrunner for Season 3, didn’t want his character’s “angry get shit done” attitude.

Speaking on SiriusXM’s “The Clay Cane Show” Thursday, Jones elaborated on his firing and his issues with Eglee, who is white, but is “one of those white guys who talks like a black guy,” Jones said.

“Culture vulture white guy is running around with a Black Panther t-shirt on talking like you black, acting like you black, thinking you blacker than black people,” Jones said. “You’re playing that whole game, which is the only reason you would run your ass around and say something is crazy as Mr. Nancy’s bad for black America and clearly there’s nobody around to correct you.”

Asked on the radio show if Jones planned to pursue legal action in response to the firing, the actor said “you’ll hear soon enough.”

Mousa Kraish’s Jinn will also be absent from the third season of “American Gods.”

A spokesperson for “American Gods” told Deadline that Jones’s understanding of his firing was incorrect.

“The storylines of ‘American Gods’ have continually shifted and evolved to reflect the complex mythology of the source material,” the spokesperson said. “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 3.”

IndieWire has reached out to representatives for Eglee.

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