Donald Glover has the world on pins and needles for multiple reasons. He’s debuting new music at his Pharos Festival in Joshua Tree, CA in a little over a week and is two weeks out from dropping his new FX series Atlanta, which lucky fans and media got the chance to screen at the Paley Center For Media in New York City last night (August 23).
The series follows Earnest “Earn” Marks (Glover), a would-be manager couch surfing his way through Atlanta. He stumbles across a music video by his cousin Alfred “Paper Boi” Miles (Brian Tyree Henry), and in an attempt to get in on the ground floor, tries to get in as his manager. Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz also star as Paper Boi’s drug dealer Darius and Earn’s best friend/baby mother Van, respectively.
Glover (who created, executive produces, writes, co-directs, and stars), Tyree Henry, and Beetz all sat down for a Q&A with Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club, and we grabbed some of the best quotes, which you can peep below.
Donald Glover and director Hiro Murai wanted to make a “punk” show.
“I wanted it to feel like you weren’t supposed to be watching it…If you’re on TV being like ‘No n-words,’ I don’t relate to that because it’s already fake to me.”
The show will explore the dichotomy of the n-word.
“I remember reading something that said ‘Donald Glover seems like the kind of dude who lets white people say n*gga in front of him’ and I said let’s do that (laughs). I know there are some Black people who have had to swallow it and say ‘This would be bad for my career.’ I don’t think there’s an easy answer…and there’s no n-word police keeping the peace, unfortunately. The people who have said it around me don’t say it around Gucci Mane and I think they know why and I wanted to explore that.”
Brian Tyree Henry loves Black Twitter
“I think we need Black Twitter. It’s the most creative thing I’ve ever seen; this makes me feel like I have a place to go. Twitter terrifies me because things are so accessible so quick, but it keeps it real (laughs).”
City of God inspired Donald Glover and the cinematography of the series
“I fuck with that movie because it’s beautiful and it’s full of Black and brown people and no one says ‘That’s a good Black movie.’ I just like how that movie made the world feel vibrant and beautiful. Even the parts that didn’t feel all that realistic would draw you in. It’s really easy to shoot things and have them be beautiful right now; from phones to cameras, everything looks good. We thought about how we could make this not look like television and more like an event. I wouldn’t wear makeup because I wanted my skin to shine.
Zazie Beetz on coming to Atlanta for the first time as a New Yorker
“I think calling it the Black Mecca is such a beautiful thing of so many different kinds of brown people exist there. And I feel like that’s not shown anywhere. I remember feeling like there’s all kinds of people of color that exist [in Atlanta] and not this one particular stereotype over and over again.”
The cast finds Atlanta stereotypes interesting
Donald Glover – “It wasn’t like Earn was the weird one out there. There’s a ton of Earns; my little brother is an Earn. But why would Lil’ Jon sell that? And that’s a costume. Atlanta has stereotypes and they’re interesting to people. People are still *interested* in the trap.”
Zazie Beetz – “People are always so shocked to meet Brian. I remember at the [Television Critics Association], people were like ‘Wait…you don’t actually talk like that?'”
Brian Tyree Henry – “There’s nothing better than having a journalist come up to you and say ‘oh my god, you speak so well.’ Like yes, I have a degree from Morehouse and Yale, you’re welcome. I’m an actor, I should be able to do that. It’s not that big of a deal.”
Donald – “And most of the time, they’re disappointed.” (laughs) I chose these characters because they represent every type of person. We based these characters off of our friends. I don’t think a lot of people understand how someone like Donald Glover is friends with a drug dealer and that’s what I’m trying to get at it. It just happens, it’s not crazy at all. I didn’t want him to be a Blipster archetype. He’s just a regular everyday dude. And this regular dude is kind of an asshole sometimes. Stereotypes are interesting and they’re easy to do and they’re easy to make Vice articles about. No body wants to make a Vice article about me because I’m boring most of the time.”
Paper Boi music will find its way online soon
Donald – “I was very leary of doing that because everybody does that and it feels like a way to sell stuff. People will just buy a soundtrack, and we made songs, but I just wanna release it in the coolest way and have it live up to it as opposed to it being a novelty.”