The story of Orlando Jones’ dismissal from American Gods took another turn today when SAG-AFTRA announced that they’ll be looking into the circumstances around the actor’s departure. For those not in the know, Jones has publicly criticized American Gods for letting him go due to apparent differences over the racial politics of the show. Since then, various figures have added their comments, while producers Fremantle have denied that their decision was based on race. Jones is now considering suing the company though and his case could get more serious now that SAG-AFTRA are involved.
The Screen Artists Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is a powerful force in the entertainment industry, and were already investigating Fremantle following talks with other members who claim unfair treatment. A spokesperson for SAG-AFTRA had this to say:
“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 [sic].”
Furthermore, SAG-AFTRA remarked that:
“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.”
Fremantle have quickly responded to the news, and are prepared to help clarify what has become a damaging week for the company. In a statement, they commented:
“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.”
Whether the SAG-AFTRA talks will lead to any punishment or compensation for Jones is another question, especially if there’s a lack of hard evidence about his alleged disputes with the American Gods season 3 showrunner Charles H. Eglee over the character of Mr. Nancy. Indeed, other performers on the show like Ricky Whittle have admitted to not being able to make a definitive statement over what happened with Jones and Eglee.
What does appear to be clear, though, is that Jones’ complaints now have the weight of an acting guild behind them, which could prove difficult for Fremantle if the investigation validates his claims. Even if it doesn’t, though, the public nature of the allegations will arguably damage the company’s standing in Hollywood, especially given the reaction of fans and supporters of Jones. In any event, this recent controversy does little to suggest that American Gods‘ third season will be more balanced than its second, where behind-the-scenes changes upset the rhythm of its strong first year.