Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys to become Amazon series separate from canceled American Gods
A six-episode limited series will start filming in Scotland later this year and isn't considered a spin-off.
Anansi Boys, Neil Gaiman's literary spin-off to his acclaimed American Gods novel, is getting a TV adaptation after all these years — an interesting choice given everything that's happened with the American Gods show and the character known as Mr. Nancy.
Amazon Studios has greenlit a six-episode limited series based on the 2005 book with plans to start shooting in Scotland later this year. The streamer also released official key art to announce the show on Wednesday.
While the world of American Gods focuses on a war between the deities of classical mythologies (Odin, Thoth, Queen of Sheba, etc.) and the New Gods of modernity (technology, media, and the like), Anansi Boys centers on the family of Mr. Nancy, the African trickster god Anansi, who appears in both books. It's a story about Charlie Nancy, who learns that his recently deceased father is none other than Anansi. On top of that, he has a brother he never knew about who's entering his life and making it more dangerous.
Starz aired three seasons of its American Gods TV series before it was canceled unceremoniously with a cliffhanger ending. Gaiman and the producers at Fremantle are trying to keep the adaptation alive in some capacity, potentially with a movie to cap things off, but so far the project is still in limbo.
As for Anansi Boys, the show will be separate from American Gods. According to Gaiman in a post shared on his blog, the books are also symbiotic but also separate. "I borrowed Mr Nancy from the story I had not yet told and I put him, or a version of him, into American Gods," he wrote.
Mr. Nancy appeared on Starz's series for two seasons, but Orlando Jones, the actor who played him and helped write for the fantasy drama, said he was fired ahead of season 3 because American Gods' latest showrunner Chic Eglee felt "Mr. Nancy's angry, get sh– done is the wrong message for Black America."
"Don't let these motherf–ers tell you they love Mr. Nancy. They don't," Jones had said in a video message to fans. He later went into greater detail about the experience in an interview with EW, saying, "It was a blindside."
Representatives for Starz, Fremantle, and Eglee refuted Jones' claims at the time and stated characters, including Mr. Nancy, weren't a part of the chapters in the original book that were informing the season 3 arc.
All that is to say, it's not surprising that Anansi Boys isn't connected to American Gods.
"Anansi Boys as a TV series has been a long time coming — I first started working with [production companies] Endor and Red on making it over a decade ago," Gaiman said in a statement. "We needed Amazon Prime to come on board and embrace our vision, we needed a lead director with the craft and vision of Hanelle Culpepper, we needed the creative and technical wizardry of Douglas Mackinnon (who worked out how we could push the bounds of the possible to shoot a story set all over the world in a huge studio outside Edinburgh), and we needed the rest of the amazing talents that nobody knows about yet.
The idea for the original book stemmed from conversations between Gaiman and Sir Lenny Henry, who now returns as an executive producer on the adaptation.
"We are trying to make a new kind of show with Anansi Boys, and to break ground with it to make something that celebrates and rejoices in diversity both in front of and behind the camera," Gaiman added. "I'm so thrilled it's happening and that people will be meeting Mr. Nancy, Charlie, and Spider, the Bird Woman and the rest of them."
Gaiman will coshowrun the series with Mackinnon, and he's also writing the episodes with Henry, Arvind Ethan David, Kara Smith, and Racheal Ofori.
Culpepper (Star Trek: Picard, Memories of Ptolemy Grey) will direct the pilot, while Jermain Julien (Grantchester) and Azhur Saleem (Doctor Who) will helm other episodes.
This news comes after Amazon greenlit a second season of Gaiman's other big show, an adaptation of Good Omens.