Donald Glover Cites Comedic Legends Dave Chappelle And Bernie Mac As Inspiration For ‘Atlanta’

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Donald Glover had a lauded 2016 as an artist and visionary in multiple mediums. His FX series Atlanta was hailed as a refreshing and authentic depiction of black culture on television, and his funky album Awaken, My Love! was equally celebrated after its release in December. Somehow, after all of that success his 2017 and 2018 are setting up to be even bigger as he’s set to star in both Spider-Man: Homecoming and as Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo film.

The 33-year-old renaissance man spoke to Wired for a rare profile and touched on a multitude of topics, including his inspiration for Atlanta and how it became such an authentic depiction of blackness. Instilling brutal reality into a sitcom is no easy task, but when it was time to figure out how to do it, Glover turned to a perfect source for an example: The late, great Bernie Mac and Dave Chappelle.

That’s how the idea for Atlanta began to come together. It was Glover’s hometown region, of course, but he had more in mind than just depicting a city that has become a cultural center for African Americans — Glover also wanted to explore what it’s like to be young, talented, and black in the South. He had in mind two other African American — led TV programs, from the comedians Bernie Mac and Dave Chappelle. “Those shows were so honest and so true,” Glover says. “Bernie Mac had a sister who was a crack addict on the show. It wasn’t funny, but it was real.”

Inspiration is one thing, but to execute his concept and truly depict authentic black voices on the small screen, he turned to a seldom used but novel concept: An all black writing room.

Glover solved the problem in a way that is, in retrospect, obvious but practically unheard of in Hollywood: an all-black writing team, which included a few names that had never written a script for television before. “It wasn’t a conscious decision, really,” Glover says. “I knew I wanted people with similar experiences who understood the language and the mindset of the characters and their environment.”

Those are just a few of the many topics Glover speaks on in the lengthy profile that includes quotes from Chappelle himself, FX President John Landgraf and many more. Check out the entire Wired profile here.