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‘Atlanta’: Donald Glover Wants You To Feel What It’s Like to Be Black

TCA: The creator/star slammed Trump and praised TV show endings while previewing FX's extraordinarily unique comedy.

Donald Glover in "Atlanta."

Donald Glover in “Atlanta.”

Guy D'Alema/FX

Donald Glover knows exactly how he wants to make people feel with his upcoming FX comedy “Atlanta.”

“The thesis with this show was to show people what it’s like to be black, and you can’t write that down. You have to feel it,” he told critics Tuesday at FX’s portion of the Television Critics Association press tour.

READ MORE: ‘Atlanta’ Teasers: Donald Glover Had a Weird Dream in His New FX Series, and You May Too

“The tonal aspect was really important to me,” he added. The unique series, which follows Earn (Glover) as he attempts to make it in the Atlanta music scene, has a surreal quality as well as a strong undercurrent of darkness.

To the point of the show’s surrealism, Glover said, “There really isn’t a limit to how abstract you can get, as long as you believe it. There has to be a grounded nature to something — if you have something that is grounded on some level, you can go anywhere. You just have to have it so that they’re abiding by their own rules every step of the way.”

Donald Glover in "Atlanta."

Donald Glover in “Atlanta.”

Guy D'Alema/FX

While his fellow panelists included executive producer Paul Simms and director Hiro Murai, Glover dominated the conversation to some degree, if only because he’s so imminently quotable. Just a sampling:

  • [In response to a question about not returning to “Community”]: “I like endings. I think everything should have death clauses. I mean, thank God one day Donald Trump is gonna die. That’s awesome. It’s important that things end.”
  • “All you can ask for from a show these days is a specific point of view.”
  • “Really cool rappers have approached me, but I want to make sure we use them the right way. It’s a dangerous time to be doing that because I didn’t want people to catch the vibe of, oh, this is like ‘Empire.’
  • “People may watch and say ‘I don’t get this guy — I don’t understand him,’ and I think that’s good.”
  • “Life is more about questions than answers… Millennials think they know everything, but you can’t get the questions you really want out of life from Google.”
  • “We’re in Atlanta — let’s make the world feel big, so that when people see it they’ll feel like on a ride. Like when you go to Universal Studios,  it’s like, ‘I’m at Hogwarts’!”

Donald Glover, Paul Simms, Hiro Murai, Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Stanfield and Zazie Beetz


Murai spoke about finding that very specific tone, noting that “A lot of the show is about the grey areas, where you’re not sure if you’re supposed to laugh… We’re creating a tone where you are allowed to laugh at the hard jokes.” The trick becomes finding a balance where the comedy can mix with an environment where people can “get shot and die.”

“I want people to feel scared, because that’s what it feels like to be black,” Glover said. “Amazing things can happen, but it can be taken away in a moment.”

“Atlanta” premieres September 6 on FX. 

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