Donald Glover finding success from ‘Atlanta’ to outer space
Call him Childish Gambino. Call him Lando Calrissian. Call him Earnest Marks. Whatever you call Donald Glover, that name will be associated with the massive amount of success the actor/musician/producer is having.
Glover can be seen in the second season of his FX series “Atlanta,” airing on Thursdays. The cable comedy about two cousins trying to find success in the Atlanta music scene as a means to a better life has already earned Glover a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actor – Comedy or Musical plus a Primetime Emmy acting and directing award. The Television Critics Association gave “Atlanta” three awards including an individual honor for Glover.
“Atlanta” was the most award-winning and decorated comedy series in the history of FX for a first season to go along with being the highest rated comedy season of any comedy in FX history, with an average of 5.3 million total viewers.
Glover didn’t look back at what happened the first season but put his focus on making the second season as good on its own merits. He’s gone so far as to call the second season “Atlanta Robbin’ Season.” He turned to a unique source for inspiration.
“We definitely went into this season trying to figure out what we liked about the first season. We just looked at it as 30 minutes on television. We weren’t trying to think about it in terms of sitcoms or, like, tropes or what had come before,” Glover says. “We didn’t really look back at Season 1 for inspiration. I feel like, if you do that as a producer of television or any sort of art form, you tend to be risk-averse, which I really think is bad for art. We really just tried to beat ourselves.
“We just went into this being, like, ‘Why are we going to do Season 2? Everybody does Season 2.’ And I felt like the theme that we really wanted to go for was this. And I think, in the writers’ room, we talked a lot about ‘How I Spent My Summer Vacation’ by the ‘Tiny Toons.’”
The influence of “Tiny Toons” came from how all of the episodes of the “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” could be viewed and enjoyed individually. But if watched together, there is a connective thread.
This was going on while he was slipping into the role of the coolest man to ever fly through the galaxy, Lando Calrissian, for the “Star Wars” prequel “Solo: A Star Wars Story.” He’s stepping into one of the most iconic roles in science fiction who is part of one of the biggest franchises, but Glover never felt any extra pressure. The “Star Wars” movie was the first in a long time for Glover where all he had to do was act.
Along with the TV and film jobs, Glover has also found success in the music world under the name Childish Gambino, as he picked up a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Performance for his “Redbone.” The 11 episodes in the second season of “Atlanta” again will rely heavily on music.
“The music of the show is such a different part of it. It’s kind of the mouthpiece for Atlanta, the actual city, the way we use the music in the show,” Glover says.
To tell the story of Atlanta on “Atlanta,” Glover and the rest of the executive producers have been very supportive of the rap community. The inclusion of local artists has given the artist a large platform to be part of what “Atlanta” is trying to say. Their music helps Glover look at the bigger social, political and financial elements that define the people.
“We always talk about gray areas. Everything’s so fire and ice, and most of the world most of the time is in the middle, and most people are in the middle,” Glover says. “Specifically, with being black and making money, you start to realize how much of that is tied to being poor and how much of that identity is part of the things you can’t have and the things people won’t let you have, and you don’t know where the lines are anymore.
“It’s hard to be yourself because that definition is changed by what people are allowing you to do and what people are allowing you to say and who you are allowed to hang out with and stuff.”
That kind of deep thinking in connection to a TV show is part of Glover going by so many different names and doing so many different things. As far as he’s concerned, the best part of his life is he’s still close to his family (his brother, Stephen Glover is also an executive producer and writer on “Atlanta”) and he has continues to have a sense of humor about everything happening in his life and has kept his childlike view on life.
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