In creating his show “Atlanta,” Donald Glover aimed to send a message to 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.” In an exclusive interview, Glover spoke about the purpose of his new TV comedy “Atlanta,” which premiered Tuesday, September 6.
Glover— an actor, writer, comedian, and Grammy-nominated hip-hop artist under the stage name of Childish Gambino— acts in his new show as Earn, a Princeton dropout trying to build his old life back in his hometown of Atlanta. Earn’s cousin Alfred is an upcoming rapper known by the name of ‘Paper Boy,’ who is rapidly gaining popularity throughout Atlanta, yet is lacking professional guidance that could transform him into a top artist. Denied assistance by his parents after dropping out, and living at his girlfriend’s house with his young daughter, Earn is low on money and summarily feels lost. Similarly, Alfred, despite his recent success, also has an unstable life and sells drugs to make ends meet. One night, Earn sees his cousin’s potential and becomes his manager, hoping to better both of their lives.
Set in one of hip-hop’s most influential areas in the U.S., “Atlanta” captures a point of view rarely seen on TV. Glover and his team of all-black writers shine a light on the complexity of being black in America. Additionally, “Atlanta” touches on problems within the music industry, mental illnesses, police brutality and cultural appropriation all through a series of events that at times are surprisingly funny. One of the most popular gags on the show deals with a mockery of how much white America claims to be part of black culture. Midway through the episode, Earn meets up with one of his old white classmates at a radio station who begins to recount a story and suddenly drops the N-word, leaving Earn feeling very awkward and confused. Later, Earn is with his cousin and insists that his ex-classmate retell the story, but now, the classmate leaves off the N-word. Scenes like this are common throughout the whole show in order to highlight the discomfort of the white community surrounding the use of racial terms.
With a plot perfect for a Drama series, “Atlanta” successfully introduces a new perspective of popular assumptions and behaviors through the help of great actors and humorous dialogue that one cannot experience on other TV shows today.
Catch the first episode of “Atlanta” below and tune in on FX every Tuesday at 10 p.m. for new episodes.