Orlando Jones and Crispin Glover Discuss Race, Fashion, and Breaking Down Barriers in American Gods

Orlando Jones and Crispin Glover turned out to be an inspired pairing for the American Gods press event. Jones is a lively extrovert, laughing and joking with his interviewers, until he turns on a dime to give serious explanations about the true nature of Mr. Nancy. Crispin Glover, on the other hand, is quiet and reserved—until he turns on a dime to decry the increasing influence of corporate thinking on American life. The two men are also huge fans of each other, with Jones comparing Glover’s thoughtfulness to his friend, Laurence Fishburne, and Glover praising Jones for being a great spokesperson for their show.

Orlando Jones spoke about balancing Mr. Nancy’s humor, and the seriousness of his message. (Mr. Nancy only appeared in one scene in the screeners I received, and I absolutely do not want to spoil it for you, because it’s extraordinary. So I will tread very lightly here.) Jones related that while everyone wanted him to be funny, that wasn’t the center of the discussion of his character because “ultimately what he has to say is not light” and deals with America’s racial history in a striking and incendiary way. At the same time, however, Jones wanted to make sure that for all the character’s anger there was still an openness. “To deliver that, or to try to create that conversation around a voice that was yelling just seemed the wrong way to go. That doesn’t invite anyone to the conversation. I wanted him to be entertaining, but more than anything I wanted anybody to be able to come to the conversation and not feel that they were being yelled at.”

He also emphasized Mr. Nancy’s trickster nature:

It meant making him kind of agnostic in the sense that he’s a trickster. He might be saying something to help you out, he might be saying it to get something he wants…which one it is only he knows, and that changes based on what he wants. I think you’ll find Mr. Nancy changing a lot by virtue of the space that he’s in…because he’s a spider, and that’s how they build webs.

Jones and Glover agreed that costuming was important to both of the characters, with Glover saying, “That’s a really important part of understanding your character—you feel like what you are when you get into the clothing, ideally.” And Jones used Mr. Nancy’s wardrobe as a way to express his character’s history:

He is such an iconic African character and he came out of Ghanaian history, because he, through his stories, survived the Middle Passage, I really wanted him to be a king. And purple is a royal color. It’s one of those colors that we associate with nobility, and that was really my only request…and my only contribution was (1) African print. Something that speaks to the true heritage of it, and (2) bold. This is not Armani. This is not European.

Jones also emphasized Mr. Nancy’s heritage when it came to his language:

My initial thought was to incorporate different African languages into his speech, but then I thought, mostly we’re going to be speaking English. I didn’t want to be just tossing out a word every now and then like, ‘Here’s some Swahili for ya, heyy!’ so I tried to incorporate it into the way he really speaks, so the tones of his voice, and the sound of his speech, sometime will sound a bit Caribbean, or a bit African depending on what he’s saying to you. He doesn’t say “Fire” he goes “Fiyy-ah!” If we get an opportunity to do more dialects then I’ll take it.

During the conversation, Crispin Glover revealed that he had not yet seen his work as Mr. World. Orlando Jones had, and let us all know that Glover is “off the chain fantastic!” This lead to Glover explaining why he doesn’t like explaining things:

The piece works in metaphor, and metaphor is very good to interpret. If I start saying a whole bunch of stuff it…lessens it. I know what was written. I know what it’s supposed to be…there could have been a way to go that indicated very specific things, but I wanted to pull it back a little. I wanted to leave it a little bit more mysterious. I purposefully have not read the book. Because I know that if I do—I’ve done properties before that were literary properties, and I found that if I start reading the book I’d start getting ideas of how it should be done, externally to what I’m playing for the character. How I think it should be interpreted. And I don’t want to do that—I just want to see what’s presented to me, because also I trust the writing of Michael and Bryan. They do such a great job with the dramaturgy of Neil’s original work. It’s a mystery to me, as well, so I also feel funny saying too much.

Jones then added, “I am so excited for your live-tweet.”

Jones and Glover discussed their contrasting relationships to social media, with Glover reiterating his love of mystery, and Jones revealing that his life on social media, and his status as a fangirl for Mr. Nancy, led to connections with Neil Gaiman: “About a year and a half ago there was a conversation online about who should play Mr. Nancy. And in that conversation my name came up and that got sent to Neil, and then Neil and I became Twitter fans—just from fans telling him that I should play Mr. Nancy. So online there’s been a conversation about me being Mr. Nancy this entire time. It’s a nerd thing come true for me.” This was reiterated in a later joint interview with Bryan Fuller and Michael Green, who spoke of seeing this image of Orlando Jones as Mr. Nancy on Tumblr before they even spoke to their casting director.

Glover attempted to dig into the thematic concerns behind Mr. World (without giving away any mystery) by talking about another part of his life:

I’ve been touring with my films for about 14 years, and particularly my first film has very anti-corporate sentiments. I don’t want to talk about it so much, but in some ways there’s nothing comparable between my own filmmaking and this, but on another level, there is something…it’s important to me personally, the anti-corporate sentiment. There’s something really out of balance right now. And has been for quite a while—the corporate controls that are not good for people at large. I feel the writing [for Mr. World] has to do with that as well.

Jones agreed with the importance of the writing”

Michael and Bryan are beautiful writers, and truly believe that talking about immigration and human rights are important conversations to be in now. To speak to these types of issues at this particular time…to be silent right now feels like being a coward. I’m excited about the show. I find myself in the lucky position to be able to say I’m excited about this work…because it doesn’t have any barriers.

You’ll get to see Orlando Jones and Crispin Glover fight over the fate of the world in American Gods, beginning April 30th on Starz.

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