Some really cool bits from Vanity Fair's Interview with Orlando Jones, re: American Gods and Anansi
In your “Coming to America” intro, you get to wander in between some accents and dialects as you’re giving all the different angles of this African and African-American experience. Can you talk about some of the vocal choices you made there?
For me, one of the interesting things about American Gods is the way the world is laid out: it’s the old gods versus the new gods. Because Anansi is a trickster god, for me, his speech definitely had to have some African element to it—some patois. It was key that at certain moments, particularly when communicating on a slave ship full of Africans who are soon to be sold at market, he communicate in a tone that is familiar to them. That’s just the nature of communication.
I was just mindful that the patois, Gullah, all those were a part of those different languages that morphed from African under the American influence. The gentleman that plays the slave that’s praying to and summons Anansi, he does so obviously speaking in an African dialect. To not lean towards that worship is really to divorce yourself from everything American Gods is about, because the problem of the old gods is they’ve lost their following, they’ve lost their worshipers. It was a way to do that. Without speaking African, in an African accent or an African language, that was a way to do it.
One of the very fun things about Mr. Nancy in that scene is that partway through, and all of a sudden, he’s got a spider for a head. I was told they went through many, many different spider designs before they landed on the one. Did you get to be a part of the process? What are your spider thoughts?
Bryan and Michael were awesome. A lot of show-runners don’t necessarily include the cast in those decisions, but they sent the design to me and were like, “We really want to know what you think about this spider.” The spider was three different colors—the red and the green—and it had these whiskers. These jowls.
That’s what I was hoping for, because I wanted him to have this hair on his face and this crazy hair on the top inspired by a lot of South African street fashion, which I think is the most interesting street fashion in the game right now. It’s very colorful. It’s very in-your-face, but at the same time, it’s super-elegant. I had been flipping through spiders, and I’d seen the yellow gloves that Anansi was supposed to have, and I couldn’t figure out how that was going to work because I felt like that would be so distracting. I was happy when Michael and Bryan were like, “No, let’s just do this.” But then I thought the visual-effects bill on this was going to be ridiculous.