Donald Glover has been a celebrity for around a decade now, and his public persona has shifted in wildly fascinating ways. While many first knew him as a founding member of the UCB troupe Derrick Comedy and a stand-up star, most probably discovered him as Troy Barnes on the scrappy and adored sitcom Community. But anyone who’s ventured beyond his roles has discovered that he’s someone who has far loftier goals with his work. His music as Childish Gambino has tip-toed into this territory, but his forthcoming FX series Atlanta aims to be his grandest statement yet on how he feels about America, race, class, and much more.
Speaking with Vulture, Glover went into detail on how his show will serve as a learning curve for those who think they’re already in the know:
“I wanted to show white people, you don’t know everything about black culture… I know it’s very easy to feel that way. Like, I get it, you can hear about the Nae Nae the day it comes out… You follow Hood Vines, and you have your one black friend and you think they teach you everything, I get it that Deshaun said that black people love … n*gga, I hate Deshaun.”
He also talked about running up against this exact issue while pitching Atlanta storylines to executives:
An original suggestion from the network was for [Glover’s rapper/drug dealer cousin on the show] Paper Boi to live in a home as run-down and “traplike” as possible. “We were like, ‘No, he’s a drug dealer, he makes enough money to live in a regular apartment,’ ” Glover said. “There were some things so subtle and black that people had no idea what we were talking about.” One actor purposefully delivered his line in a drawl that was nearly indecipherable if you didn’t grow up in Atlanta. “After three takes, Hiro [Murai, director] took me aside and was like, ‘I don’t know what he’s saying.’ To Hiro, this n*gga is speaking patois.” Glover laughed. “That character is an artifact. Culturally, we’re becoming very homogenized. That dude isn’t going to be around in seven years. You aren’t going to be able to find him. White people are moving into Bankhead,” one of the historically blackest neighborhoods in Atlanta. Glover paused. “It’s important that dude gets represented in this show.”
Using the city of Atlanta represents a unique opportunity for Glover, as it’s a town that hosts a real representation of how varied the black experience can be — something that has been referenced in a number of Childish Gambino songs. And while he is working on new music with his Pharos project, it’s clear Glover feels Atlanta is the most important thing he’s ever done.
We’ll all finally get to see for ourselves when the series premieres on September 6.