Stephen Glover on Bringing "Black Experience" to Second Season of 'Atlanta'
"We just talked about what are the little shared experiences that black people have, not just in the city, but in life in general, that brings us all together," the writer, producer and brother of creator-star Donald Glover says of driving the FX series forward.
For its first season, Atlanta star and creator Donald Glover took home two Emmys — one for his leading role as Earn on the show and another for directing an episode. Though the FX series itself lost to perennial favorite Veep, with the HBO stalwart out of the race this time around, Atlanta could be poised to take the top prize. As the writers prep for the third season, Stephen Glover (Donald's younger brother and a writer and producer on the show) says that the comedy will get "a bit bigger" and "weirder."
He spoke with THR about writers room debates, filming that "Teddy Perkins" episode and what it was like to sit next to Sean Spicer at last year's Emmys.
Congratulations on the nominations. How did you find out?
It was crazy actually. We were in Europe. Donald was doing a concert in London, but we had a show in Spain, so we were flying to Spain and everybody's phone was in airplane mode. So, we land and Donald's phone starts going crazy, and then my phone starts going crazy. He's like, "What's going on?" and I'm like, "Oh, we got nominated for 13 Emmys," and people are like, "No, 16 Emmys." We all found out at once.
What was it like to shoot the "Teddy Perkins" episode, which had somewhat of a horror vibe?
That episode was so weird because we were shooting in this mansion. It was so creepy and old. Video village was up in the attic of the house, and everybody's being very quiet on set too, because everything creaks and moves — so it was dead silent in there. It felt like we were just shooting live, like we were shooting documentary footage.
What would you say is one of your favorite lines of dialogue?
The whole opening scene of the barbershop episode where Bibby and Al are in the barbershop and he is trying to get his hair cut and Bibby won't even start. Alfred thinks he's talking to him but he's on the phone, then Bibby is talking to him — he can't tell because he has a bluetooth phone. Alfred is like, "I have somewhere to be," and Bibby's like, "What are you hanging around for, don't you have somewhere to be?" and Al's like, "Yes! I already told you that!" It's very Atlanta and very specific to my life.
Were there any interesting debates in the writers room?
This season, one of the things we felt was trying to get a taste of what it means to live in Atlanta. Also, what is the black experience really — not in the way of a tragedy or the ways that we see a lot on TV, but more so, what are the things that we all relate to? We end up with episodes like "FUBU" with talk about clothes in middle school and high school and how important clothes are in the black community. We just talked about what are the little shared experiences that black people have, not just in the city, but in life in general, that bring us all together. Not just the tragedy, but the little things that people don't focus on or talk about really.
Who are you most looking forward to seeing at the Emmys?
I want to see Pamela Adlon —she's a good friend of mine. We went to the Super Bowl together and she's always hilarious. Last year at the Emmys I sat next to Sean Spicer, which was really weird. Maybe he'll be there again!
Did you talk to him?
Yeah. I feel like everybody there hates him, so I'm thinking he just felt comfortable next to me. He was with his wife and he was just like, "Hey, everybody hates me, so I'm gonna be a nice guy and you don't look famous."
THIS IS MURAI AND GLOVER:
Hiro Murai and Donald Glover have become close collaborators on Atlanta, but the duo took their work outside the show this year with the music video for “This Is America.” The song from Childish Gambino (Glover’s stage name) became a critical and viral hit after it was released May 5, the day Glover hosted Saturday Night Live. The video gained nearly 1 million views in the first hour alone and hit 12.9 million in the first 24 hours. It went on to become one of the year’s biggest music video debuts and was the most watched video on YouTube for several days after its bow.
WHAT THR'S CRITIC SAID:
“There is nothing like Atlanta on television, so the Donald Glover-created FX series finds itself in this hyper-weird space as it returns from more than a year off after its freshman season. It’s now less a TV series than a conceptual work of art — a fractured feat of storytelling that works on mood more than momentum, featuring a collection of actors who could be off making big-budget movies but are instead making a really small, personal TV series.” – Tim Goodman (Feb. 28)
Let’s be real. This has got to be Atlanta’s year. Veep may have kept it from the podium in 2017, but the first run of Donald Glover’s FX experiment still saw its star and creator score key wins. Critical love for the show only grew during its second season — but, in contrast to so many other niche darlings, voters are among its biggest evangelists. With 16 noms, Atlanta ranks as the TV Academy’s most lauded comedy, and Veep’s absence seems to have left an open path to the top prize. The series also is favored in the writing (nominations for Glover and Stefani Robinson), directing (nominations for Glover and EP Hiro Murai) and lead actor categories (few question a repeat victory for Glover, whose profile has climbed astronomically in the last year). A series win would amount to a coronation for TV’s most avant-garde and impressive series. A loss, especially without an incumbent in the race, would be a slight. – Michael O'Connell
This story first appeared in an August stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.