Holy moly, production on American Gods Season 2 sounds like a hot mess. The Starz show has lost its second showrunner in two seasons, but that is only the tip of the iceberg, according to a new report from THR.
What seems to be the problem? According to THR’s multiple sources: “ongoing friction between Starz and Fremantle, as well as efforts by author Gaiman to assert greater control over the drama [are] the core sources of tension.”
Jesse Alexander, who stepped in to take over after Season 1 showrunners Bryan Fuller and Michael Green were fired between Seasons 1 and 2, has been asked to step aside on Season 2 of the show. Though Starz, the network behind the show, and Fremantle, the studio behind the show, seem unwilling to use the term “fired,” Alexander has been reportedly sidelined.
What does “sidelined” mean? According to THR’s source, he “has been asked not to sit in on editing, be involved on set or participate in any other areas of production or postproduction.” Basically, he is fired, but Starz and Fremantle don’t want to officially fire another showrunner in less than two seasons. While another writer was reportedly promoted to the showrunner position on Season 2, they left “almost immediately.” For now, producing director Chris Byrne and line producer Lisa Kussner are apparently handling day-to-day operations.
You may recall that American Gods book author Neil Gaiman is a co-showrunner on this season. Though the writer has reportedly been given “a great deal of power” in Season 2, with Alexander seen as a co-showrunner more willing to go along with Gaiman’s own vision for the adaptation (i.e. one that is more in line with the book), Gaiman is also showrunning Fremantle’s adaptation of Good Omens for Amazon and therefore is not able to physically be on the American Gods Toronto set. Though Fuller and Green had already written six scripts for the season when fired, those scripts were apparently scrapped.
The showrunner news comes alongside reports in the same article that American Gods Season 2 is six weeks behind schedule, over budget, and on its seventh draft for the season finale. While cast and crew reportedly wait for a final script, production has been filming pickups and reshoots for earlier episodes, which are reportedly not to Starz’s liking, with executives worrying that they look “cheap.”
From day one, Alexander’s more conventional vision for the show reportedly clashed with many of the cast members, crew members, and executives’ hopes to sustain Season 1’s vision. Apparently, Season 2 scripts have been rewritten on set, with some writers coming to set with rewrites on hand-written notebook pages. Even actors like Ian McShane, who plays Mr. Wednesday, have reportedly worked on the dialogue to the point that, in order to avoid violating WGA rules, actor Orlando Jones, who plays Mr. Nancy, has been hired as a writer on the series.
We’ll get our first proper look at American Gods Season 2 in a few short weeks at New York Comic Con. For now, both Starz and Fremantle are sticking to a party line that they are happy with how Season 2 is turning out…
“American Gods has a deep and complex mythology and a unique visual style that makes this series one of the most ambitious productions on television, and one that we remain committed to delivering for our audience,” a spokesperson for Starz said to THR in a statement. “We are confident that when the fans get their first look at season two in just a few weeks at New York Comic-Con, they will agree it was worth the wait.”
Fremantle added in its own statement: “We stand by our network partner’s statement and share in their confidence that season two will exceed expectations. Our cast and crew are extremely passionate about the show and have delivered something that remains loyal to the source material and true to the creative vision of Neil Gaiman. We think fans will feel the same when we share a first look at New York Comic-Con in a few weeks.”