Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys Is Becoming an Amazon Series (Without Orlando Jones)

Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys Is Becoming an Amazon Series (Without Orlando Jones)
Anansi appearing before his worshippers. (Screenshot: Starz)

Despite sputtering out in the two seasons before its cancellation after season three, Starz’s live-action American Gods adaptation was one of the network’s first impressive feats of genre storytelling that, at least initially, had the promise of paving the way for more stories in a world where gods and monsters walked among mortals and, occasionally, went to war. That series may be over, but one of its key characters is about to experience a second kind of life by way of a new Amazon show.

Amazon Studios has announced that an Anansi Boys series is currently in development as part of Neil Gaiman’s overall deal at the studio. Like the novel, Anansi Boys will tell the story of Charlie and his brother Spider, the sons of Anansi whose lives are deeply interconnected in ways that neither of them fully grasp. Though Amazon’s press release about the series mentions Gaiman’s American Gods novel, it very conspicuously left out any reference to Starz’s adaptation. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Orlando Jones, who portrayed Anansi on American Gods’ first two seasons, will not be reprising the role.

A poster for Anansi Boys. (Image: Amazon Studios) A poster for Anansi Boys. (Image: Amazon Studios)

In a blog post about the new series, Gaiman recalled how the idea that would eventually become Mr. Nancy first came to him while working on Neverwhere with co-creator Lenny Henry, who also founded the production company behind the series. Though Gaiman initially set out to write a horror film telling the story about two Black brothers whose father was a deity, his ideas were eventually incorporated into American Gods’ Mr. Nancy, the novel’s spin on Anansi, the trickster deity featured in many Ghanaian and other Akan folktales.

Gaiman explained how, after penning Anansi Boys — a standalone novel with connections to American Gods that explored the lives of Anansi and his sons Fat Charlie and Spider — there was some interest from an unnamed director who wanted to secure the rights for an adaptation. However, the director wanted to make all of the lead characters white so nothing came of that potential project, and development on any Anansi Boys adaptation stalled. But that changed when Gaiman met producer Hilary Bevan Jones and RED’s Richard Fee, who were both keen on working to tell the Anansi Boys Gaiman had envisioned.

“Somewhere around 2016 I agreed to work on it to help it get made, but we all knew that we would have to be patient as I was writing and making Good Omens,” Gaiman said. “Amazon had loved making Good Omens, and were blown away by the viewing figures and reaction to it, and wanted to make more things with me, so Endor [Productons] and RED now had a place to make it for.”

In addition to co-showrunning with Douglas Mackinnon, Gaiman will write the first and last of Anansi Boys’ six episodes. Lenny Henry will both executive produce and write on the series, along with Kara Smith, Racheal Ofori, and Arvind Ethan David. There’s no word on when Anansi Boys will air, but shooting for the series is set to start in Scotland this year, and it will also do some filming in South Africa.

Though it would have been great to see Starz’s live-action Anansi live on in American Gods’ spiritual successor, a clean break from the other series could give the new series a chance to properly reintroduce itself to audiences — presenting the story it’s based on as its own tale worth diving into when the show eventually hits Amazon Prime.