If you assumed that American Gods couldn’t get any more provocative than its “geektastic” sex scene in last week’s series premiere, think again. The second episode of Starz’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s bestselling novel commences with a fiery soliloquy that speaks directly to America’s tortured history with racism and slavery, and the physical and psychological scars it has left on African-American people. The speech is delivered by Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy — the human form of the African arachnid deity, Anansi. It’s a dramatic turn for a performer generally known for generating laughs on shows like MADtv and Everybody Hates Chris. “I was really excited to bring it to life, and do something with this anger, to make this anger power,” Jones tells Yahoo TV.
American Gods co-stars Emily Browning and Yetide Badaki were dazzled by Jones’s command performance. “It’s super-relevant right now and honest,” says Browning, while the Nigerian-born Badaki marveled at seeing a mythological figure from her childhood brought to life. “I’ve never seen a live action version of Anansi, so Mr. Nancy coming onto screen is a huge thing.” For his part, Jones hopes that the speech inspires discussion after the initial shock and awe wears off. “Maybe it helps inform a relationship that has been broken, and that relationship can potentially be mended and they can move forward in a more positive direction.”
American Gods airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Starz.
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