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Starz Boss Defends Orlando Jones' Firing From American Gods

'We have one of the most diverse casts on television'

Mekeisha Madden Toby

The president and CEO of Starz stands by the decision to cut actor Orlando Jones from American GodsSeason 3, telling journalists that the show still boasts "one of the most diverse casts on television."

During Starz's Tuesday presentation for journalists at the Television Critics Association winter press tour, Jeffrey Hirsch said that Orlando Jones' firing from American Godswas due to the chronology and progression of executive producer and author Neil Gaiman's book, on which the show is based -- and not because Jones' character, Mr. Nancy, sends "the wrong message for black America," as the actor asserted on Twitter last month. (Season 3 will focus on the portion of the story that sees Shadow (Ricky Whittle) hiding out in Lakeside, a small town in Wisconsin.)

"Orlando is a tremendous talent, and even more, a really great person," Hirsch told reporters. "You know the book is a very rich and dense book and story, and unfortunately that's where we're going with Season 3. Mr. Nancy's story isn't a part of that. It's one of the most diverse casts on television ... and the focus is doing 800 pages of great story."

In a Twitter video last month, Jones claimed he was fired in September after new showrunner Charles Eglee came aboard.

"I was fired from American Gods," Jones said. "There will be no more Mr. Nancy. Don't let these motherf---ers tell you they love Mr. Nancy. They don't. I'm not going to name names, but the new Season 3 showrunner is Connecticut-born and Yale-educated, so he's very smart and he thinks that Mr. Nancy's angry, get s--- 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 advisers and made it clear to him that if they 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?"

Jones' departure announcement was soon followed by news that another cast member of color, Mousa Kraish, who portrayed the Jinn in the first two seasons, was not asked to return for Season 3."The door isn't closed for me," the actor wrote on Twitter. "If I'm ever asked to come back & portray the Jinn I will do it happily & proudly to be able to stand in front of my friend Omid Abtahi & shine with the two characters who go beyond the page."

American Gods has been mired in behind-the-scenes conflict. Original showrunners Michael Green and Bryan Fuller were fired in 2017, reportedly over clashes with studio Fremantle and executive producer Neil Gaiman, and then the new showrunner was also asked to step aside.

A premiere date for American Gods Season 3 has yet to be announced. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Starz.

Orlando Jones, American Gods

Orlando Jones, American Gods

Myles Aronowitz

(Disclosure: TV Guide is owned by CBS Interactive, a division of ViacomCBS.)