American Gods is only about to enter its second season, but it’s had almost as much turnover as the Trump administration. The newest shake-up involves showrunner Jesse Alexander, who himself replaced Michael Green and Bryan Fuller after they were pushed out. Now, it looks like he’s being pushed out too. As the Hollywood Reporter puts it, he’s been “fired but not fired.”
According to the report, Alexander has been moved to the sidelines in the wake of script problems and other issues. He hasn’t been canned—a representative for Alexander said calling him “fired” wouldn’t be accurate. However, sources told the Hollywood Reporter he’s been asked not to perform any of the duties involved with being a writer or showrunner, including having input on the editing process or participating on set. THR writes, “Sources note that Fremantle, the show’s studio, would rather exile Alexander than endure the negative attention that would come with dismissing a second showrunner in two seasons.”
It adds, “Multiple sources cited ongoing friction between Starz and Fremantle, as well as efforts by author [Neil] Gaiman to assert greater control over the drama, as the core sources of tension,” but also points out that Alexander came aboard as “Gaiman’s choice.” Apparently, another writer was subsequently promoted to showrunner to fill in the gaps, but then they quit almost immediately afterward. Now, producing director Chris Byrne and line producer Lisa Kussner are reportedly in charge. As a reminder, Gaiman has said he would not be the showrunner for American Gods because he has that role on another Fremantle series, the upcoming Good Omens. Though THR notes:
In the second season, a great deal of power belonged to Gaiman, according to sources who say that Fremantle is very keen to keep the author pleased, given that the studio has an overall deal with him. Gaiman, an executive producer, co-wrote the second-season premiere and weighed in on other creative decisions and directions, but he was not a regular presence around the Gods production offices or the Toronto set despite, after the season two shake-up, being billed as “co-showrunner.”
Overall, the article reads like the series is in total chaos, with the studio overspending its already bloated first season to try and pick up the pieces. Among the problems appears to be the fact that Alexander was brought on to be the showrunner because the studio wanted someone they could control, who would better honour the vision of Gaiman’s 2001 novel. The only problem: The episodes weren’t working.
THR says there were arguments over scripts from day one, with many of the episodes getting restructured on set: “After some actors, including star Ian McShane (Mr. Wednesday), began taking passes at improving dialogue, the production was forced to enlist co-star Orlando Jones (Mr. Nancy) as a writer on the series so a member of the WGA would be credited with writing instead of having actors violating guild rules.” And sources recalled “screaming matches” between McShane and Alexander, among other things. According to the article, there are a lot of issues with the season two finale script in particular. Alexander has reportedly turned in at least seven drafts for the eighth and final episode of the season, but executives from both Starz and the studio have rejected them all.
Even though Green and Fuller were reportedly fired over budgetary issues and the creative direction they took with the series, the article claims Starz is upset that Alexander has guided the series “in a more conventional direction.” It seems as if the network didn’t know what it had until it was gone, and now the folks in charge want it back. Green and Fuller’s exit prompted Gillian Anderson, who played the role of Media, to quit the show as well. Kristen Chenoweth, who played Easter, expressed doubts about her return to the series after the news. Gaiman indicated back in June that she was returning, but sources say scheduling conflicts prevented her from coming back.
American Gods is set to return sometime in 2019. What form it will take remains to be seen.